There is an article on the BBC News website this morning entitled "Optimistic women 'cut risk of deadly diseases'." (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38212615)
Frankly I'd be more optimistic if I was the male equivalent of the young woman pictured in the article. Beautiful. Bronzed. Body honed through gym and diet. She smiles out at you and I'm sure she's saying, through her perfectly aligned white teeth, "Look at me you fat loser!"
As a man in his mid-forties, who has twice recently been mistaken for a man in his mid-fifties, I think that I might feel a little more in "bondage to decay" than she does. (Note to self: Do I shave off the scraggly grey beard and look younger? But then I'll reveal the double chin and look fatter!? Life is complicated in my cosmetics department.) So with no chance of being asked to model for a swim wear catalogue, even with extreme photoshopping, I'm going to have to find another reason to be optimistic.
It's vital that I do because the article states, "In a study of more than 70,000 women, optimists were less likely to get fatal cancer, heart disease, lung conditions and stroke in their retirement years." I'm sure it must apply to men as well!
Even if you're naturally an Eeyore by disposition, the article gives hope, "Twin studies suggest up to 25% of optimism might be genetic or inherited which would mean up to 75% could be modifiable." You can learn to be sunnier. So buck up your ideas you old misery!
There are some helpful tips, such as being thankful for what you have and trying to do kind things for other people. Interestingly they're both things that the Bible would put at the top of the list of daily habits for Christians.
But there is still a fatal fall. However, cheery you are, you are going to die. And you don't know when. Many happy optimists have been killed in unexpected accidents. Many people looking forward to a bright future have seen their children die. The tragedy of grief is made more painful because of the lost dreams.
Even if you don't go for the killer blow to optimism of death, there are still innumerable factors totally out of our control, that mean that we can't think ourselves into a certainly happier future.
Unless your future is a gift of God.
The apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:6 ...we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 For we live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.
In other words we are confident that once this life is over we will go to be with the Lord Jesus. Heaven is where we'd really like to be. So that gives us hope to live through today.
This certainty about where our lives are heading transforms our ability to cope with our daily experiences. We don’t have to be naïve optimists. Ignoring people's struggles and assuming that it’s all going to get better.
But neither do we have to be miserable pessimists. Constantly complaining about the world we live in. Moping around in self-pity, because nothing is just the way we want it. Getting grumpy with people and grumpy with God.
We can be hopetimists. (It's a great word I read in a book - sadly I can't remember which.) Confident that we have a glorious future with our beautiful saviour Jesus. And so, in his strength, we are able to face whatever the world throws at us. Not looking forward to death. But knowing that the best is yet to come.
Hopetimism makes life worth living.