Psychologists Michael Scheier and Charles Carver have devoted their careers to understanding how different people can have such different outlooks on life, and how those outlooks affect their wellbeing. In one of their early experiments, the researchers found that depressed individuals tended to see more clearly how humans fundamentally lack control over their destiny. “Not only were depressed individuals more realistic in their judgments, they argued, but the very illusion of being in control held by those who weren’t depressed was likely protecting them from depression in the first place.”
What’s the Big Idea?
Harvard University psychologist Daniel Gilbert says that each of us have a “psychological immune system”, in addition to our biological one, that links how we see the world with how we feel. The more optimistic we are, the better we feel. And the better we feel, the more optimistically we tend view the world around us. Optimism works like a shield, protecting our physical and mental health. On the other hand, “[t]he negative view is self-fulfilling: you set lower expectations, do less, achieve less, and experience a worse outcome, which in turn conforms to your initial negative views.”