My late grandfather’s favorite words to tell his grandchildren were: “Smile. You’ll live longer.” Having heard this my entire life, I was surprised by reading that optimism didn’t directly correlate to health or longevity. Optimism is a concept that is heavily encouraged in today’s world, specifically regarding illness and medical treatment. Many of us have heard accounts of people with cancer or other chronic illness that say the optimism of their loved ones, as well as their own good attitudes, helped them through their treatment, etc. After reading this chapter, I have a better understanding of the way that happiness and health are highly correlated but not necessarily predictable of one another. This relationship makes rational sense, but is almost unsettling, as it is so prevalent in society to make us believe that our own optimism can enact greater change in our lives, specifically our health.
Chapter 5 was specifically eye-opening for me in that I would consider myself a “catastrophizer.” Although not to the extent of some of the mentioned Terman participants, I am known by my friends and family to be extremely emotional and dramatic about events/circumstances that others would consider trivial, and I often worry about events long before/after they occur. The authors make a very rational and convincing argument that catastrophizing can be detrimental to one’s health and mortality, but I think this chapter lacks a very important aspect. The important relationships in my life (my boyfriend, my mom, my best friend, etc.) really help ground this catastrophizing aspect of my personality. Previous chapters have outlined the importance of sociability, but I think, especially relating to this topic, deep and emotional relationships are very important. Personally, having these relationships has helped me to understand my catastrophizing for what it is, and given me a reason to better understand and relate to the world around me.