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Optimism is a cognitive construct (expectancies regarding future outcomes) that also relates to motivation: optimistic people exert effort, whereas pessimistic people disengage from effort. Study of optimism began largely in health contexts, finding positive associations between optimism and markers of better psychological and physical health. Physical health effects likely occur through differences in both health-promoting behaviors and physiological concomitants of coping. Recently, the scientific study of optimism has extended to the realm of social relations: new evidence indicates that optimists have better social connections, partly because they work harder at them. In this review, we examine the myriad ways this trait can benefit an individual, and our current understanding of the biological basis of optimism.