Summary of Bright-Sided

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Bright-Sided book summary


8 Overall

6 Importance

8 Innovation

9 Style


What could be wrong with thinking positively? Nickel and Dimed best-selling author Barbara Ehrenreich explores the origins of American optimism and reveals the cracks beneath its happy façade. The problem, she explains, is that staying positive regardless of your situation turns into self-delusion. Unchecked optimism can be dangerous, as illustrated by analysts who ignored the economic red flags preceding the financial meltdown of 2008. Ehrenreich’s caustic writing is entertaining, although the threads of her analysis can become frayed and tangled. Nonetheless, if a smiley face makes you frown, getAbstract recommends delving into the negative side of positive thinking.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How the positive thinking movement grew in America,
  • What positive thinking promises and
  • What the negative effects of positive thinking are.

About the Author

Barbara Ehrenreich, who wrote Nickel and Dimed and Bait and Switch, is a New York Times columnist and contributing essayist for Harper’s and The Nation.



America the Positive

“Positive thinking” has always been part of America’s ideology. Most Americans believe things will get better and that when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. Yet, US citizens place 23rd in happiness worldwide. More antidepressants are prescribed in the US than in any other country, a higher percentage of US citizens are in jail, and US children score lower in math and geography than kids in other developed nations. The US health care system is dysfunctional and its physical infrastructure deteriorating. The gap between US haves and have-nots continues to widen. Even in hard times, pop culture urges Americans to promote a positive attitude.

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    Wim Annerel 2 years ago
    Optimists have healthier hearts than pessimists, a study of over 51,000 adults has found.

    Professor Rosalba Hernandez, who led the study, said:
    “Individuals with the highest levels of optimism have twice the odds of being in ideal cardiovascular health compared to their more pessimistic counterparts.

    This association remains significant, even after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and poor mental health.”

    Optimists also had healthier body mass indexes, were more physically active and less likely to smoke.

    Researchers found that the more optimistic people were, the greater their overall physical health.

    The most optimistic people were 76% more likely to have health scores that were in the ideal range.

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