New study discovers the trajectory of optimism throughout life

When are you most optimistic? A study found how optimism varies throughout life.

  • Researchers studied more than 1,000 people during the course of 7 years.
  • They found that levels of optimism change throughout life.
  • Optimism grows through the 30s and 40s and peaks in mid-50s.
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Surprising Science

How does LSD induce short-term psychosis but long-term optimism?

Researchers look into the drug's association with pronounced optimism.

Psychedelic LSD trip by Jonathan Zegarra via Flickr.

When most people think of LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­the image that comes to mind is hallucinating hippies at Woodstock, but the drug's original use was psychotherapeutic. As early as the 1960s, researchers showed that LSD reduces depression, anxiety and pain in patients with advanced cancer, and recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in the drug's beneficial effects. In 2014, Swiss psychiatrist Peter Gasser published the results of a study showing that LSD could alleviate the symptoms of severe anxiety disorder. And a 2016 study from Imperial College London showed that LSD could increase levels of optimism and openness for extended periods of time.

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Mind & Brain

Why Negative Thinking Has Cognitive and Emotional Benefits

Envisioning all possible outcomes is far healthier than only praying for the best. 

Grandmaster chess player Garry Kasparov contemplates a move in a match against grandmaster Fabiano Caruana during the final day of the Grand Chess Tour at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center in St. Louis on August 18, 2017. (Photo: Bill Greenblatt/AFP/G

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Personal Growth

How Theater & Philosophy Rehabilitate Prisoners Better Than Harsh Sentences

Here's what Israel Guillen learned about life by studying 8 hours a day during his 22-year prison sentence.

Being "tough on crime" doesn't work. Former inmate Israel Guillen is proof that what does work is nurturing people's sense of humanity through philosophy, theatre, and teamwork. Ten years ago, actor Sabra Williams had an experimental idea: she wanted to bring The Actors' Gang Theatre Company into prisons to work with non-actors, and offer them training to understand and manager their emotions. With an incredibly low recidivism rate of just 10% among her students, Williams' experimental idea has proven its worth and now operates in ten prisons across California, which is where Sabra Williams met former inmate and Actors' Gang student Israel Guillen. Israel recently shared his personal story of what he learned throughout his 22-year prison sentence at the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism. The Actors’ Gang conducts weekly and seven-day intensive programs inside the California prison system, a weekly re-entry program in the community, as well as a program in juvenile facilities, and soon to be a program designed for correctional officers. Head here for more information on The Actors' Gang Prison Project.

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Hope Together: How One Partner's Belief in Good Outcomes Affects the Relationship

Pregnancy is proving to be a crucial time to study the effects of hope and optimism within a relationship.

"The smallest indivisible human unit is two people, not one," wrote Pulitzer Prize-winner Tony Kushner, and Professor Eshkol Rafaeli and his team at the Affect and Relationships Lab at Bar-Ilan University have taken that to heart. Funded by the Hope & Optimism initiative, they have been investigating how hope functions in a couple—or a 'dyad', the most romantic term of all—especially as a dyad becomes a triad. Their research focuses on the emotional and mental health of couples having their first child, as it's a major life transition. So does hope fluctuate? Is it contagious? Must both be hopeful, or is one optimist enough to carry everyone through? Here, Rafaeli discusses his team's findings, and future work. This video was filmed as part of the Los Angeles Hope Festival, a collaboration between Big Think and Hope & Optimism.

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