Martin Seligman, Ph.D. has been studying this topic for over twenty-five years.
Pessimists generally believe that bad events will last a long time, will have a negative impact on everything they do, and are their own fault. Helplessness, the “giving-up reaction”, is also a trait found in pessimists because they belief that no matter what they do, the situation will remain the same.
Optimists respond differently as they generally believe that defeat is a temporary setback, that the situation is a one-time event, and that it is not their fault. Also, when confronted with an unpleasant situation, optimists view it as a challenge and try harder. Many studies have concluded that pessimists give up more easily and get depressed more often than optimists. How we explain events to ourselves determines how helpless (pessimistic) or energized (optimistic) we become.
Regarding physical health, optimists are sick less than pessimists, have better health habits and stronger immune systems. Evidence also suggests that optimists live longer too. Pessimism promotes depression, anxiety and worry. Even so, there is good news for pessimists. Various studies performed and validated by leading psychologists and psychiatrists conclude that pessimists can transform into optimists by learning new cognitive skills.
“Changing the destructive things you say to yourself when you experience the setbacks that life deals all of us is the central skill of optimism.” – Martin Seligman, Ph.D.