So firstly, why bother teaching a child optimism?

People with greater optimism…

  • Have healthier hearts

People in the highest quartile of optimism scores are the most likely to have ideal or near-ideal arterial health.

  • Live longer

Optimists are more likely to take care of their bodies, recover faster from operations and get health check-ups when they need them.

  • Are more successful at school and university

Realistic optimists know they need to study to achieve good grades, and are more likely to feel they will be rewarded for studying, therefore they work harder than unrealistic optimists and pessimists alike, and get better grades. Children who are praised for natural intelligence over effort are more likely to choose the easiest path for fear of losing their “intelligent” status, whereas children who are praised for effort are more likely to treat challenges as learning opportunities.

  • Have longer, happier marriages

Optimists are no more likely to marry another optimist than anyone else, but that doesn’t matter, as both partners are likely to report greater satisfaction in the relationship when one of them is an optimist.

  • Earn more money

Employees who are optimists are more likely to involve themselves in group activities, get along well with their coworkers and ask for a pay rise when the time is right, and so earn on average a yearly $4000 AUD more than pessimists.

  • Find re-employment more quickly than pessimists.

Optimists tend to give themselves more options than pessimists. This means that when something bad happens, for instance being made redundant, an optimist will treat it more like an opportunity and feel more motivated to start looking for work an average of 4-6 weeks sooner than a pessimist.

As if these reasons weren’t enough, there are many more studies that show optimists are happier, more popular and more satisfied with life in general than pessimists.

Is optimism an innate trait, or can it be taught?

Optimism can be taught, just like pessimism. Children who are raised by optimists are more likely to become optimists themselves, regardless of whether the role models are their biological parents.

How can I teach optimism to a child?

  • Ask them to tell you what they are grateful for today, every day
  • Get them to write down what they are grateful for before they go to sleep each night
  • Be an optimist yourself – put a positive spin on difficult situations ie when you get lost on a journey, call it an adventure and point out what you’ve seen that otherwise you would not have gone past.
  • Praise effort and not intelligence – realistic optimists achieve more because they subconsciously feel that they will be rewarded for working hard.

Related articles from The Happiness Wagon you may like:

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  3. How the way you were born still affects you as an adult
  4. 10 ways that sugar makes us ill, stupid and sad
  5. How to protect your child with a healthy gut microbiome