Is Happiness About Attitude?

From the WebMD Archives

By Erinn Bucklan

The Rumor: A positive outlook helps create positive experiences

Bad stuff happens. But is it possible that simply approaching life with a glass-half-full attitude can actually cause better things to occur?

The Verdict: Happiness is born of both positivity and negativity

Turns out a healthy dose of pessimism can, at times, be a good thing. A study published by the American Psychological Association says that two-thirds of pessimists lived longer and had healthier lives than more upbeat people.

This may be because pessimists are willing to take on negative possibilities. Edward Diener, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Illinois and author of Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, says, "All of the lab evidence shows that sometimes people in a negative mood are more analytical and logical. We do not want people so locked onto positive thought that they do not become a bit negative when needed."

Having a sour-grapes attitude at times can also make you less gullible, lead to more satisfying relationships and help you stick to your diet, too.

Plus, trying too hard to have a good time is likely to backfire. One paper showed, for example, that the higher the expectations of New Year’s Eve revelers, the more likely it was that they’d be singing "Auld Lang Syne" through gritted teeth.

So what to do (or feel)? Diener says that happiness is, indeed, something to be happy about -- in moderation. "When we talk about being too happy, we must remind readers that it is much better for health, longevity and social relationships to be [somewhat] happy," he says. But to be perfectly honest, being too happy isn't something we'd spend too much time worrying about. (But maybe just a little.)

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