The science of hope and optimism.

Source: The Foresters, 1892

“Hope smiles from the threshold of the year to come,
whispering, ‘It will be happier.’”

— Alfred Tennyson

As a New Year dawns, we think of fresh starts, second chances, and RENEWED HOPE. It’s good to look forward with OPTIMISM. Science agrees.

Research shows that optimistic people:

– live longer than pessimists
– take fewer sick days


– are more resilient to stress
– use better coping strategies


– experience less depression and anxiety
– are less likely to consider or commit suicide

Source 1, Source 2

– generally experience a higher quality of life


– are more likely to exercise regularly
– are healthier, mentally and physically
– are less likely to smoke
– are less likely to abuse alcohol


– are happier at their jobs
– get more job offers and promotions


BUT . . .

a little pessimism helps keep you grounded

“Nearly three-quarters of U.S. adults are pessimistic about the country’s future. This may not be all bad, though. Decades of research have found that positive thinking isn’t always so positive. In some cases, pessimists fare better than those with a sunnier disposition.”

The Power of Negative Thinking (The Atlantic)

Seeing the world only through rose-colored glasses — known as “optimism bias” — can have its drawbacks, such as:

– overestimating your capabilities
– taking unnecessary risks
– living in a bubble of naiveté
– overlooking very real dangers
– setting yourself up for disappointment

“Optimism involves expectation—the belief that things are at least likely to get better. Hope, on the other hand, involves merely believing that better outcomes are possible.”

— Andrew Chignell

Professor of Philosophy,
University of Pennsylvania

Where Does Faith Fit?

Researchers discuss the connection between faith and hope.

Just the data, please . . .

Global Optimism

Share of the population who think the world is getting better


Global Pessimism

Share of the population who think the world is getting worse


Optimism in the USA

How Americans identify themselves


    Optimism and Health

    How Americans identify themselves

    In an 8-year study, optimists had a
    50% less chance of dying
    in those eight years

    Optimistic adults are
    twice as likely
    as pessimists to
    have healthy hearts

    Source 1, Source 2

    Optimism and Academics

    Students who scored high in hope

      Students who scored low in hope

        Another study indicated that hope is a greater predictor of academic success than intelligence, personality, or previous academic achievement


        Too Optimistic?

        80% of us are delusionally optimistic

        The science term is “optimism bias,” the belief that things will always get better, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. But some degree of optimism bias is good.

        Tali Sharot, a neuroscientist at University College London, explains in this TED talk:

        Hope on Screen

        As part of a major research project funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the folks at Hope & Optimism held a short-film competition. Here’s the winner. Grab a tissue.

        12 Great Movies about Hope

        Babette’s Feast (1989) | Born into Brothels (2004) | The Bucket List (2007) | Children of Men (2006) | Erin Brockovich (2000) | In America (2002) | It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) | Life Is Beautiful (1997) | Ratatouille (2007) | Rocky (1976) | The Shawshank Redemption (1994) | Two Days, One Night (2014)