With regard to optimism, the good news is that it seems to be only about 25-30 percent heritable, which means that there’s a lot of room to improve it. There’s no one-size-fits-all intervention, but there are some things that people have found can help. For example, imagining your best possible future self and the things you can do to get there. Writing a gratitude letter can also be a useful exercise, because it reminds you that good things are possible. Some people might want to try counseling or meditation as a way to find some respite from focusing just on the things that may be going wrong.

But it’s also important to talk about whether people have equal opportunity to be optimistic. For example, we’ve found that optimism tracks a lot with education. I think it’s partly because people with higher levels of education tend to pick up more problem-solving skills. So, we want to create environments where people feel like they have the power to tackle problems and be efficacious.

Our findings in the current study suggest it would be beneficial if we could find ways to improve levels of optimism relatively early in life. That’s a very grand dream, but it seems like it might be worth spending a little bit more time thinking about how to manage that. Even if you can’t fix every health problem, it may be that you can identify assets that can be made available to more people that will help them stay healthier.