Evidence That It Works
Participants who completed a set of optimism exercises (this exercise and the Goal Visualization task) daily for three weeks reported greater engagement in life and less dysfunctional thinking (e.g., believing that small failures make one a failure as a person) at the end of the study than they had at the start of it. Participants who had a tendency to be pessimistic especially benefited from the exercise and showed fewer depressive symptoms afterward. However, these effects seemed to wear off two months later, suggesting the need to repeat this practice periodically. Majority of participants in this study were between 20-45 years of age and identified as Caucasian (44%) or Asian (35%).
Why Does It Matter?
Looking on the bright side of life in general, or of a bad situation in particular, can increase happiness by boosting students’ sense of self-worth, motivating them to go after their goals, and enhancing their enjoyment of life. Regularly completing the silver linings exercise can help students get in the habit of recognizing positive aspects of their life and seeing the upside to challenging situations rather than fixating on the downsides. With repeated practice, students may find that it comes more naturally to look on the bright side, even when faced with difficulties in their life.
Given that students are often faced with various challenging experiences—learning difficult subjects, navigating peer relationships, coping with personal family problems—this practice might help buffer against student burnout and disengagement. The benefits of taking a more positive outlook on life are not just psychological, but some evidence suggests that optimism is related to better physical health.