Friday, November 9, 2007

A glass three-quarters full

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22, NIV)

On B1 of today's WSJ: the "Science Journal" column (by Robert Lee Hotz) details a recent study about optimism. It appears that, even though optimism makes us act stupidly if we have excess of it, it does have its benefits. Duh. Lawyers are exempt from this happiness, however--Dr. Martin Seligman, surveying U of VA law students, found that "pessimists got better grades, were more likely to make law review and, upon graduation, received better job offers." Why? Science? No--"In law...pessimism is considered prudence." Oh well.

Reasons not to overindulge in optimism (like "two bottles a day" of red wine, says Manju Puri, a co-author of the study in question): behaving like a "day trader" and doing things like not paying bills on time will quench your sunny mood in a short hourglass.

However, there is good news for those who like it in moderation. It helps you survive. Breakdown of the part of your brain responsible for the rose-colored glasses (called the rostral anterior cingulate cortex) will likely get you clinically depressed. An excellent paragraph summing it up:

Medical evidence is suggestive. Optimistic people at risk for skin cancer are more likely to use sunscreen. Optimistic coronary artery bypass patients are more likely than pessimists to be taking vitamins, eating low-fat foods and joining a cardiac-rehab program five years after surgery--and living longer, studies show.

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