How Optimism Affects the Brain

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Our brains are pretty interesting right? Humans have been entranced by the powers of the mind for years. From psychology to surgery – we have wanted to learn more and more about the brain. With all of the technological advancements of the current age, we know more about the brain than ever.

But we still don’t really know much!

Take “optimism” for example. Some people are natuyally optimistic even in the worst of times. Does that mean their brain is different?

It is like the classic “what came first, the chick or the egg?” question. Does a naturally optimistic outlook on life change our brain, or is there something in our brain that makes us optimistic?

Throughout time people have consistently demonstrated being optimistic even when facing adversity. All around the world you will find that even people in the worst circumstances can find something to be happy or optimistic about. The question then becomes how does optimism affect the brain?

Optimism and Science

Recently new insights from brain imaging have shown how just thinking positively or being optimistic about a situation can affect different areas of the brain. The images revealed when participants in the study daydreamed about future positive events there were two areas of the brain that were more strongly activated than when they were thinking about negative ones. The areas of the brain that were more strongly activated were the right amygdala and the RACC (rostral anterior cingulated cortex). People who had a more strongly activated RACC also scored higher on an optimism questionnaire.

Is Optimism Truly Beneficial?

Studies have shown that the RACC actually may help us imagine events that may occur in the future by using the reactions we had in past events. This can help us make better decisions by not repeating some of the mistakes we may have made in the past.

In addition, the RACC may work with the emotional center of the brain, the amygdala, to help downplay negative emotions. This could mean that optimism may not just make us happier in the long and short term, but it may also help us to achieve the goals we set for ourselves. While there could be some risks with being overly optimistic, accepting negative predictions can impair your life.

When it comes down to it a healthy dose of optimism can go a long way. The next time you are thinking about something, try to see it in a positive light and things just may take a turn for the better.

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