Guest Blogger: The Pollyanna Principle: An Optimistic Outlook

The Pollyanna Principle: An Optimistic Outlook

by Anita Rothwell Lindsay
The Pollyanna principle or “Pollyannaism”, describes a positivity bias. The mind focus is on the optimistic at the unconscious level, but at the conscious level the mind focus is on the negative. “The concept as described by Matlin and Stang in 1978 used the archetype of Pollyanna, a young girl with infectious optimism.” (

“Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game”, an optimistic attitude she learned from her father. The game consists of finding something to be glad about in every situation. It originated in an incident one Christmas when Pollyanna, who was hoping for a doll in the missionary barrel, found only a pair of crutches inside. Making the game up on the spot, Pollyanna’s father taught her to look at the good side of things—in this case, to be glad about the crutches because “we didn’t need to use them!”(Wikipedia)

“Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about — no matter what ’twas,” rejoined Pollyanna, earnestly. “And we began right then — on the crutches.” (Wikipedia)

“The BBC website published a report Optimistic Women Live Longer. This was based on research carried out by a group of US scientists who studied 100,000 women to deduce pessimists had higher blood pressure and cholesterol; optimistic women had a 9% lower risk of developing heart disease and a 14% lower risk of dying from any cause after more than eight years of follow-up.” (

The concept of this post isn’t targeted at women only; I believe the subject of optimism affects every individual going and living through life’s struggles each day. There have been various studies carried out on optimism and while I have a few reservations on extreme optimism, one can’t deny the role optimism plays in enhancing your personal growth.

Rick Snyder states “hope is a process of goal-directed thoughts that reflects both the belief that one can find pathways to the goal and has motivation based on one’s perceived capabilities or thinking”. (“45 Benefits of Optimism”).

Synder’s list of “45 Benefits of Optimism” include the following:

  1. It gives you a reason for living.

  2. It reduces the level of stress experienced.

  3. Research shows that it increases longevity.

  4. It enables you to handle and put your emotions in check.

  5. It promotes happiness.

To view the complete list of 45 benefits, visit:

The University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Seligman, Ph.D., and Gregory Buchanan, Ph.D. study and workshop for incoming freshmen, revealed participants who learned to question negative thoughts were able to avert depression. They also reported fewer health problems.

“People who learn to maintain an optimistic attitude may not only avoid depression, they may actually improve their physical health, according to a controlled study by the University of Pennsylvania’s Martin Seligman, Ph.D., and Gregory Buchanan, Ph.D.” (

The study shows that university freshmen who participated in a workshop who worked on cognitive coping skills reported fewer adverse physical problems and took a more active role in maintaining their health. Numerous resources are freely available on the Internet to help you develop a more positive and optimistic outlook. A good place to start may be the workbook, “Choosing Optimism as a Philosophy of Life.”

With a bit of practice, you can learn to maintain an optimistic attitude and reap the benefits.


Anita Rothwell Lindsay, Information Specialist, Educator, and Workshop Facilitator, currently employed as a librarian at a local technical institute. Creative design consultant to ShoutOUT® Enterprises, Inc., Chimera Investigative Group, Inc. and Next30 Productions Inc. Contact Anita directly via email:

Internet References and Resources:

 “Learned Optimism Yields Health Benefits.” 1997.

Listenberger, Michel D., OD. “Choosing Optimism as a Philosophy of Life: Participant’s Workbook.” 1994. Optimist International.

Olaniyan, Ayo. “45 Benefits of Optimism.” 2010.

“Pollyanna.” 2012 Apr 15. Wikipedia.

Porter, Eleanor H. “Pollyanna: Chapter V. The Game.”

“What does the Pollyanna Principle or Pollyannaism describe?” 2010.

Campbell, Roger. Staying Positive in a Negative World: Attitudes That Enhance the Joy of Living.

Coates, Jan. Attitude-inize: 10 Secrets to a Positive You.

Morris, Gary. 7 Days To A Positive Attitude: A one-week game plan for beginning the journey toward brighter days.

Porter, Eleanor H. Pollyanna, 1913. Available free online at Project Gutenberg

Google Search Terms: Pollyanna, Pollyanna Principle, positive outlook, optimism, benefits of optimism

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4 Responses to Guest Blogger: The Pollyanna Principle: An Optimistic Outlook

  1. Canada says:

    This book right away reminded me of Anne from Anne of Green Gables. Pollyanna too is inventing new games and she loves to talk too. Pollyanna comes up with a wonderful game to find someting wonderful in everything. She’s always cheerful and find life a big game. It’s a great book and you just have to read it. This book captures you right away and sweeps you into the world of Pollyanna. You are left, too, with the feeling of wanting to find something good in everything in life…

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