Are Pessimists Actually Happier Than Optimists?


By Heather Callaghan

There’s an old Prairie Home Companion bit that involves Garrison Keiler and others singing a parody to the tune of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” The darkly humorous last line goes, “when nothing’s all that you expect – then nothing’s not that bad…you know.”

But having low expectations is only part of what makes embracing your pessimism a good thing. If you’re a pessimistic leopard who has struggled to change its spots – take comfort in the testimony of Anita Moorjani (look her up on YouTube too). She had a near-death-experience and came back with the most expansive wisdom that flies in the face of the modern pressure to always be happy. She wrote Dying to Be Me and encouraged listeners on her speaking tour to embrace themselves whether an optimist or a pessimist; positive or negative. She believed that fear, the lack of self-acceptance and self-love led to her getting cancer and initially dying.

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If near-death experiences are too anecdotal and not your thing – then take comfort in the knowledge of science. In 2013, researchers were surprised to discover that pessimists outlived their optimist counterparts and lead healthier, longer lives. While it isn’t healthy to worry your life away as an illusory form of control, “pessimism about the future may encourage people to live more carefully, taking health and safety precautions,” the researchers concluded.  But the filmmakers called School of Life find that pessimism taps into a deeper, happier wisdom than that.

Pessimism is generally equated with a grumpy and immature kind of mood. It is even often considered by calculating experts to be a mark of low emotional IQ. But it is in fact at the origin of wisdom – and can even leave us feeling surprisingly cheerful. 

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Heather Callaghan is a natural health blogger and food freedom activist. You can see her work at Like at Facebook.

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