Who are you? Susie Sunshine or Daddy Downer?

When the chips are down, we have a tendency to lean one way or the other. Our personality, based on our mental and emotional makeup, usually determines which side we fall on. Studies have shown how either side can affect our overall health — for better or worse.

Researchers Michael Scheier and Charles Carver in 1985 tested the effect of a personality variable on a person’s physical biology. After their study was published, scientists began using their method for countless studies on mind-body interactions.

They developed an optimism scale, which was easy to use and score. It was a hit with the scientific community and has been used in research which examines the relationship of optimism and well-being.

Optimists often have lower levels of anxiety and general distress when faced with difficult life circumstances. Their positive energy and outlook on life have been known to “decrease the likelihood of rehospitalization following surgery and the risk of developing heart disease,” Scheier says.

The determining factor as to which side you fall on can be decided by your coping strategies. Optimists usually engage in behaviors that help protect against disease and promote recovery.

Optimists are less likely to have negative habits such as smoking, drinking and eating poorly. They usually exercise, sleep well and recover quickly from illness.

Pessimists tend to dwell on negative feelings. Plus, they’re more likely to be into avoidance and denial when confronted with problems.

There are two character traits that help optimists be more than the simple “happy-go-lucky” creatures they often appear to be. They are problem solvers who try to improve the situation they find themselves in. Secondly, if they find it can’t be altered, they willingly accept it and move on.

If you fall in the pessimist column, cheer up. You don’t have to stay there. Life is fluid, so choose a different boat to sail on. The quote “Change your mind, change your life” is not just another clever saying. It’s a valid one.

And whether we lean toward optimism or pessimism, most of us jump from one side to the other at times. So when you find yourself caught in a web of negativity, try a few of the strategies below to detangle:

» Forgive yourself and others.

» Make a gratitude list.

» Observe your thoughts — keep them peaceful.

» Extract the good from every experience.

» Tap into your core values.

» Help someone, be of service, volunteer.

» Walk a dog. Animals and exercise help raise your serotonin level — the feel-good hormone.

These are just a few ways to land on the sunny side of the street. My all-time favorite is be authentic and do what you love.

Do you have any idea how much negativity falls away when you’re true to yourself? Goodbye victim mentality. Hello honest communication expressed without guilt.

There’s only one unique you — latch on to the positive and make it a sweet life.

Susan Ann Darley is a creativity coach and writer of marketing material for businesses, entrepreneurs and artists. Click here for more information, or contact her at susan@mindsetmanagement.net or 805.845.3036. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.