Danny Worrel paid in advance to have a load of firewood delivered. It was a
handshake deal, but as the guy drove off, Worrel, a 57-year-old building
engineer in Coupeville, Wash., said, "I just lost $150." He was sure
the woodsman would take off with the cash and never deliver. (Of course, the
firewood promptly arrived.)
This pessimistic outlook is typical of the 50% of Americans who assume
things are always getting worse.
By Marion WinikThey talk your ear off, oblivious to your busy schedule. You'd do anything
to shut them up, but how? These three easy steps will help you handle any
motormouth so that you can get on with your day.
Time is precious, as they say — which is why it's so incredibly
frustrating when someone comes along and nonchalantly siphons it out of your
day. We're talking about the way-too-chatty friend, relative, coworker,
or acquaintance who latches on to you when you bump into her at the
Pessimists habitually explain the events in their lives in a way that makes
them seem dire. They tend to blame themselves, while assuming that whatever
went wrong will stay wrong -- and bring everything else down with it.
Optimists, on the other hand, seem to approach life in a way that pays off.
They're more resilient in the face of disaster or tragedy and are happier with
their lives in general. But it's not all in their heads. They are generally
healthier, have stronger hearts, and tend to live longer. They're even more
resistant to colds.
One reason is because optimists learn to cope well and make connections with
others who help and support, says Barbara Fredrickson, head of the Positive
Emotions and Psychophysiology Lab at the University of North Carolina.
"You're better equipped to deal with the difficulties in life because, in
the good moments, you've accrued more skills and resources," she
How the brain functions seems to play a role, too. Enthusiastic people have
more activity in the left prefrontal lobes of their brains, while those with
more active right prefrontal lobes tend to get stuck in negative emotions. The
rostral anterior cingulate cortex may be significant: One brain imaging study
found that, when asked to think about future positive events, the more
optimistically inclined had higher activity in this region, which is located
along the midline of the brain and seems to play a role in moderating emotional
reactions. Malfunctions in this area can cause depression or anxiety.
Worrel now uses a technique called "cognitive restructuring."
Instead of sinking into pessimism, he asks himself whether any rational basis
exists for a negative thought. If not, he forgets about it. He says, "I've
realized we have control over whether that glass is half empty or half