Optimism in America – Interesting Insights from Soledad O’Brien and Jane E. Brody

I write a lot about optimism in my blog, because I’ve found in my career that economic upheaval was usually downplayed when it started, then it was overblown when it hit full force.  Finally, amnesia set in as soon as things got better. Whether it was the recovery from the ’87 crash, or the aftermath of the dotcom bust, nobody seemed to believe it could happen again, and certainly not this bad.

As we head into the elections, a great portion of the American electorate is angry and ready to throw out the current legislators at the state and national level.  Yet an interesting thing about the anger is that while studies show blacks have been hit harder by the nation’s lingering economic conditions, they are more optimistic than others.

I recommend watching videos of CNN reporter Soledad O’Brien’s recent documentary Almighty Debt: A Black in America Special, if you want to understand the studies better The answer, she reports, has to do with strong faith and community support, often through churches like New Jersey’s First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, where Rev. Soaries preaches about Black financial literacy and responsibility and personally counsels parishioners in trouble

“The black church is different,” O’Brien says in an interview about the documentary. “It’s always offered something different to its churchgoers. It’s always offered leadership, it’s offered jobs, food and clothing. I think people go to church expecting a message that looks toward…bettering themselves.”  You can view clips on CNN at http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/in.america/black.in.america/

Another recent series also tackles a similar theme. This time, Jane E. Brody is writing about common traits in the increasing number of citizens who become Centenarians (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/health/19brody.html)

She asks, “Do optimists live longer than pessimists?” And her answer is “Yes, studies indicate.”  She cites Dr. Hilary A. Tindle of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center who found that among 97,000 women followed for eight years, those deemed optimistic were significantly less likely to die from heart disease and all causes than were pessimistic women, whom she described as “cynically hostile.”

The optimists, Brody reports, “were also less likely to have high blood pressure, diabetes or high cholesterol, suggesting they take better care of their health. Indeed, the pessimists were more likely to be overweight, smoke cigarettes and avoid exercise, indicating, Dr. Tindle says, that negative thinkers make poorer lifestyle choices than positive thinkers.

So whether it is for your long-term health or your current business success, you might want to consider emulating those people with optimism and solid social networks who handle hard economic times with resilience!   My guess is there will be plenty of fodder for pessimists for a long time to come.

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