The world isn't coming to an end, contrary to what you may have heard, says Jurriaan Kamp. Certainly there's upheaval and economic, political, and social instability, but the media's near-exclusive focus on conflict and disaster means that the progress and everyday acts of brilliance taking place across the globe go unnoticed, which contributes to the sense that apocalypse is at hand.
And pessimism can be fatal: Kamp cites research showing that those who indulge in negative thinking are more likely to smoke, be overweight, and have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and an increased risk of Parkinson's disease than optimists. Meanwhile, evidence abounds that optimism—intelligent optimism, not a rose-colored-glasses brand of wishful thinking—is good not only for your mind but for your body, too.
Kamp demonstrates that, on the whole, we're living longer, becoming smarter, working less, and growing richer. Democracy is on the rise, and violence is declining. He explains how we can cultivate an outlook of informed optimism that will make our lives and the world better—because, as he quotes Helen Keller, “No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit.”