Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
Increased life span
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Greater resistance to the common cold
Better psychological and physical well-being
Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
The theory behind these health benefits is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.
It is also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and do not smoke or drink alcohol in excess.
FOCUSING ON POSITIVE THINKING
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice — you are creating a new habit, after all. Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:
Identify areas to change: Identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about (work, relationships, etc.). You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
Check yourself: Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you are thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
Be open to humour: Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
Follow a healthy lifestyle: Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week (even broken into 10-minute chunks). Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress.
Surround yourself with positive people: Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.
Practice positive self-talk: Start by following one simple rule - do not say anything to yourself that you would not say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. Think about things you are thankful for in your life.
PRACTICING POSITIVE THINKING EVERY DAY
If you tend to have a negative outlook, don not expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.
When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you are better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.