10 September 2019

TED Talk - Optimism Bias - Tali Sharot

Watch Tali’s TED Talk below.

Who can resist following up with a whistle when you hear the famous Monty Python lyrics, ‘Always look on the bright side of life’?

Well, it turns out that it’s more than just a catchy song. Research has shown that looking on the bright side can actually help you to live longer. A study revealed that people who believe good things will happen in the future are more likely to enjoy a life beyond 85. In fact, the most optimistic people in the research group had a lifespan of 11-15% longer than the others, and had up to 70% more chance of living  beyond 85 years old compared to those who were the least optimistic.

In the article on Sky News, researchers added: “Other research suggests that more optimistic people may be able to regulate emotions and behaviour as well as bounce back from stressors and difficulties more effectively.”

Optimism = A longer, happier life

I remember watching a TedTalk not too long ago about optimism. In her TED Talk, neuroscientist Tali Sharot describes research looking at ‘the optimism bias’.

To sum it up, the optimism bias is to overestimate the likelihood of good events. And to underestimate the likelihood of bad things happening.

Sharot explains, when you are more optimistic in this way, you are ultimately happier. When you have high expectations of positivity, you find a different reason for negative events. For example, if you fail an exam, it was because the questions were unfair or another mitigating factor. With low expectations, you blame yourself, you’re not good enough, etc.

When you find that balance, avoiding blind optimism but seeing the potential positives, ultimately, you’re training yourself to be more grateful and optimistic. In doing so, you improve your happiness overall, as well as your opportunities for success in life.

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