Are you more of a pessimist or an optimist? You may tell yourself that optimists are just deluded, but studies show that optimists tend to live longer and be healthier.

To some extent at least, pessimism (and optimism) can be a self fulfilling prophecy. We tend to create our lives in the image we expect. If this sounds woo woo to you, consider that optimists tend to do better in exams…because they also tend to work harder. The pessimists have already decided they will do badly, and then make sure of it by doing less work. 

But if you are naturally pessimistic, can you change? 

You may not be able to, or even want to, become a completely different person, but you can certainly redress the balance away from pessimism. This way of thinking is often just a habit. You may have picked it up from the kinds of things you heard your parents saying all the time. 

Pessimistic thoughts.

Remember that we generally have very little idea whether things will actually go badly or well, so why constantly tell yourself that they are bound to go wrong? Try and catch yourself saying or thinking pessimistic thoughts and question how true they really are. 

Instead of constantly repeating negative mantras (everything always goes wrong for me), try some more positive affirmations. I’m not talking about ‘I will be a millionaire by the time I’m forty’, but more balanced optimism. How about ‘ I’ve succeeded before and I can do it again.’ Or ‘you have to fail in order to succeed’ ?


Being grateful for what you have is also important. A pessimistic world view tends to devalue the present as well as the future. This is unlikely to make you feel good, or to make those around you feel valued. 

There is a lot of research evidence that consciously being grateful-e.g. regularly writing down good things that happened that day- can help to permanently rewire the brain and rebalance any natural tendency towards being overly pessimistic.

Balanced optimism isn’t about believing that nothing will ever go wrong. Of course it will sometimes. Instead it’s about not ‘paying interest on trouble you haven’t borrowed yet’ and having faith in yourself to be able to cope when the worst actually does happen.