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What makes you Optimistic about Valentine's Day?

by Victor Perton (Feb 2021)

In my workshops on the "How and Why of Optimism?" I always get a laugh when we talk about romance and optimists.

My line? "The evidence shows if you have an optimistic spouse, you've hit the jackpot. Mazel Tov. If you don't, you have two options, and I hope you choose to use some of our techniques to inspire optimism. If you're single, on that first date, ask the question "What makes you Optimistic?" and if there's no answer make that the last date."

Optimism and romance go hand in hand on Valentine's Day.

For the single, will that future love pop up at the Valentine's Day party or online? For many people under lockdown in 2021, it will need to be online!

For those dating, will he/she pop the question? With the lockdowns. that might need to be at home and, in Melbourne where I live, the Victorian Government has made an exception to the ban on visitors delicately worded as "Intimate partner visits are allowed."

For the married, there's that promise of the special dinner, the rose and special gifts.

Science says optimism and romance should go hand in hand.

The best research comes out of Michigan State University. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, which found an optimistic partner is associated with a reduced likelihood of cognitive decline.

Psychology Professor William Chopik summed up his research team's findings "We spend a lot of time with our partners. They might encourage us to exercise, eat healthier or remind us to take our medicine. When your partner is optimistic and healthy, it can translate to similar outcomes in your own life. You actually do experience a rosier future by living longer and staving off cognitive illnesses."

The research shows that when couples reminisce and recall shared experiences, richer details from the memories emerge.

An optimistic spirit can bring significant benefits, including happiness, joy, active longevity, better health including lower risks of cardiovascular disease, better sleep, greater resilience, stronger relationships and increased self-mastery.

A recent OECD Study on Social and Emotional Skills in schools found, "Emotional stability skills are found to be the most predictive of mental health. Optimism has the highest relation to life satisfaction scores."

Optimism may help you live longer. As Dr Carol Graham of the Brookings Institution said, "The link between optimism and longevity is strong."

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), National Center for PTSD at VA Boston Healthcare System and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, have found that individuals with greater optimism are more likely to live longer and to achieve "exceptional longevity," that is, living to age 85 or older.

So too The American Heart Association's 2021 Scientific Statement found: "Optimism is characterized by having a sense of hopefulness and confidence that things will work out well in the future and anticipating the best possible outcomes. Multiple studies have found that optimism is associated with healthier behaviors such as more physical activity, not smoking, healthy diet score, better sleep quality, and higher composite cardiovascular health scores. An optimistic frame of mind has been shown to be associated with healthy aging and a lower risk of CVD, including stroke and heart failure, and a lower risk of all-cause mortality."

So whether it is Valentine's Day or any day of the year, surround yourself with optimists and positive thoughts.

As "True North" Professor Bill George, Harvard Business School, said to me "I am optimistic because I believe in the inherent goodness of people, and I am surrounded with positive, optimistic people. What a blessing!"

And as the fairy-tale Duchess Meghan said: "It's so important to surround yourself with people who are grounded and really optimistic."

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