A Positive Outlook Can Make Stress Your Friend

Right up until he passed away, Dr John Hinwood was a prolific blogger (an award-winning blogger in fact!). John’s blog’s shared musing from a rich history of experience, learnings, travel and wisdom.

The Hinwood Institute is named in honour of Dr John and to continue his legacy, we’re republishing his blogs to keep his wisdom, wit and wise words alive for the world to enjoy.

You can learn more about the legacy of Dr John Hinwood HERE.

I’m often asked the question… why are positive people generally not nearly as stressed as negative people?

Positive psychology researcher Michelle Gielan has studied optimism and success for more than a decade, and she has found that those with an optimistic outlook are better equipped to deal with stress.

She writes…

“There are nights I’m sure I’m asleep before my head hits the pillow. As a working mother, I remember writing my book with my first baby crawling around the floor of our home office. These days, I co-manage both our business and home with my husband, while continually striving to be present with our young son and daughter each day. I’m sure many of you relate all too well to the feeling of never having enough time.”

“I think there’s no such thing as work-life balance. However, there is an incredibly advantageous mindset we can foster—whether you’re facing a major deadline at work or enjoying a middle-of-the-night, unexpected hangout with your 1-year-old. When you develop an optimistic mindset, you’ll be in a better headspace to manage burnout and depression. You’ll also increase your productive energy and will probably see more success throughout your career.”

positive woman

“Optimism is a great tool for decreasing stress and can even give you back as much as five stress-free months a year.”

Gielan partnered in a study with Frost Bank and found individuals with more optimism experience 145 fewer days of financial stress each year than pessimists.

They surveyed 2,000 adults nationwide and found that optimists are seven times more likely to experience high levels of financial well-being.

Gielan said… “They feel better about their money, no matter how much they make or have, and they’re significantly more likely to make positive choices about it.”

She said… “they also found that optimists have met more of their goals—both personally and professionally. Those who are less optimistic, on the other hand, tend to believe that their goals are unachievable. Optimists are nearly twice as likely to meet their primary life goals, on average, and I’m not just talking about financial goals: 96% of optimists have changed careers to follow a passion”.

In another study Gielan partnered with Harvard-trained researcher Shawn Achor she reported they found that you’re 40% are more likely to receive a promotion over the next year if you’re practicing optimism.

optimist follows passion


If you’re reading this and you don’t consider yourself to be an optimist, fear not. The most hopeful aspect of this research is that optimism can be learned. In just a few minutes a day, you can train your brain to see the world from a more positive lens.

Here are simple habits that anyone can adapt to become more optimistic:

1. Take a ‘now’ step

The Frost survey showed that optimists don’t wait for the perfect, detailed plan. Instead, they try to accomplish their goals, even with a rough one. Research shows making and celebrating progress in small increments can make you more successful at meeting goals, whether financial or otherwise.

A now step is the smallest meaningful action you can take in the face of a challenge. It reminds the brain that your behaviour matters as you experience a win from completing it.

2. Focus on the good

Our minds focus on the things that we’re stressed about. But we often need a little help to see the positive parts of our life that are worth celebrating. This is the fuel that keeps us going. Each day take two minutes to write down three new, specific things you’re grateful for.

This simple practice can change how you see the rest of your day as you get better at scanning for things to add to the list.

3. Expect the unexpected

Even optimists experience setbacks. But they are more likely than pessimists to have recovered and learned from those setbacks. Optimists in our survey say learning from their mistakes fuels their optimism.

So, make a list of three of the most stressful events of your life, how you overcame them, and what you learned. Your resilient past can help boost your optimism.

When my 1-year-old has me up in the middle of the night for three hours when I have work deadlines looming, I don’t worry about how tired I’ll be the next day. Instead, I put this research into practice. I spend time reflecting on all the simple things, like the way her hair smells of baby shampoo. That small gesture helps me approach challenges later that day with a more optimistic outlook.


P.S. If you’d like how you’re managing you’re stress right now, try answering our Stress Test below.

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About the Author

Dr. John Hinwood

Dr. John Hinwood is a Global Leader in Stress Management. He is a very experienced and respected executive coach, mentor, consultant, sought after international speaker and author. He specialises in facilitation that leads clients out of the stress and into the calm. He has a reputation for innovative and transformational work in stress-life balance and mindset change for front line employees, to managers and business leaders.

Dr John Hinwood has shared the stage with Dr John Demartini, Dr Deepak Chopra, Dr Wayne Dyer, Dr Joe Dispenzia, Mark Victor Hansen and Jack Canfield (Chicken Soup for the Soul fame), Dr Bruce Lipton, Dr Masaru Emoto and others who are at the cutting edge of human behaviour and mindset change.

He has written 14 books with 4 being Amazon international best sellers. He has had papers published in academic journals and was once Captain/Coach of the Danish National Rugby Team. Dr. John’s experience as a health professional by training, successful businessman by effort and an inspiration by inclination has given him an awesome array of practical tools for success.