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with Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Benefits of Optimism (and its Relevance to ABA)

Optimism has been studied throughout research for many years. Optimism is known to impact a person’s mental health, physical health, and quality of life.

How a person views their current and future experiences plays a role in whether they develop mental health disorders or even physical illness.

People who are more optimistic are more likely to see the positive side of a challenging or stressful situation. So, for more optimistic people, conflicts and stress in life can be more navigated because they can identify the positive side of the experience rather than being stuck focused on the negative side.

Research also suggests that people who are more optimistic, as compared to people who are more pessimistic, have a better overall quality of life.

Although the research isn’t completely clear as to why optimism improves mental and physical health, there are some hypotheses.

  • For instance, optimism seems to be associated with people who engage more often in healthy behaviors.
  • People who are more optimistic also show more adaptive behaviors to help them get through stressful events.
  • Optimistic people also use more effective cognitive skills including showing greater psychological flexibility, better problem-solving abilities, and and better abilities to accurately analyze negative experiences (Conversano, et. al., 2010).

Optimism is related to a person’s tendency to experience hope as well as a person’s tendency to believe that we live in a good – rather than miserable – world.

People who are more optimistic tend to be more positive in their day to day life. They have a general disposition that consists of being positive rather than negative about their daily experiences. Their attitudes about things help them to live a better quality of life and help them to be more resilient to stress. They also use their optimism to help them identify and use effective coping strategies.

People who are more optimistic than pessimistic tend to have a few ways of thinking or viewing things in common including:

  • they believe that negative experiences are not constant, that it is not necessarily the case that the unpleasant event will continue to repeat itself
  • they believe that negative experiences are outside of themselves
  • they believe that negative experiences don’t necessarily have to impact other areas of their lives; they can separate one incident from other experiences
  • they believe that positive experiences are sustainable
  • they believe that positive events happen more often than negative ones
  • they believe that they have the ability to help prevent and get rid of at least some negative experiences

So, what does this have to do with applied behavior analysis?

Since one of the main goals of ABA (applied behavior analysis) is to increase a person’s quality of life, encouraging optimism is an excellent tool to help work toward this outcome. Research supports the idea that optimism, which is a particular way of experiencing private events, can improve a person’s quality of life.

Another reason this is related to ABA is that, in ABA, many clinicians work on helping their clients develop self-management skills such as developing behaviors that will help them deal with certain situations. They also often work on teaching clients to look at the potential outcomes of their behaviors.

By encouraging an optimistic perspective, such as identifying positive experiences and problem-solving through negative experiences, clinicians can help their clients to develop self-management skills that can be helpful in the client’s daily life.


Conversano, C., Rotondo, A., Lensi, E., Della Vista, O., Arpone, F., & Reda, M. A. (2010). Optimism and its impact on mental and physical well-being. Clinical practice and epidemiology in mental health : CP & EMH, 6, 25–29. doi:10.2174/1745017901006010025

Benefits of Optimism (and its Relevance to ABA)

Heather Gilmore, MSW, BCBA

Heather is a freelance writer, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and social worker. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, applied behavior analysis, as well as Autism, ADHD, Depression and Anxiety. Contact Heather if you would like to inquire about obtaining her freelance writing services. You can view more articles and resources from Heather at and email her at You can also advertise your autism services at one of Heather's websites: Heather is the developer of the "One-Year ABA Parent Training Curriculum."


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APA Reference
Gilmore, H. (2020). Benefits of Optimism (and its Relevance to ABA). Psych Central. Retrieved on October 29, 2020, from