We’re always being encouraged to look on the bright side of life and cheer up. Although this can sometimes be harder than it sounds, an optimistic outlook could be the key to good health. A recent study has found that health and positivity might be closely connected, especially for women.
This study was conducted by researchers for the American Journal of Epidemiology and looked at more than 70,000 women, aged between 58 and 83, over a period of eight years. All of these women were former nurses and their medical conditions were all reported as part of the study. There were a total of 4,566 deaths.
The results showed that those women who considered themselves optimists were less likely to contract fatal conditions such as cancer, heart disease, lung disease and strokes.
In order to gauge just how positive the participants of the study were, they were asked to rate how optimistic they considered themselves on a scale of 0-24 before research began. Those who rated themselves higher had, on average, better overall health. As a result of this, the researchers believe that positivity may have a tangible affect on physical health.
How much of a difference can positivity make?
This is not the first time that links between positivity and health have been recognised. Other studies in the past have also suggested that an optimistic outlook could lead to better heart health and lower levels of inflammation.
In previous studies, researchers have found that optimistic attitudes are associated with healthier lifestyle choices. Those with sunny dispositions and positive personality traits are more likely to exercise, eat well, socialise with friends and not drink excessive amounts of alcohol. This suggests that positivity can help to maintain a good level of health by managing stress levels and reducing the risk of stress-related cardiovascular conditions.
Another suggestion is that depression has been found to affect the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infection. It is believed that this is because of the way depression interferes with sleep and healthy eating choices. Dealing with depression or anxiety also causes an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can negatively affect physical health.
Health and Positivity – Learning to look on the bright side of life
Although the connections between positivity and health cannot be definitively identified, there certainly is evidence to suggest that living life with an optimistic attitude can lead to better overall wellbeing.
Dr Eric Kim, of the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, has offered several strategies that could help to boost positivity levels, including imagining your best possible self and working out a way to achieve those goals. Dr Kim also says that those looking to improve their outlook on life and become a more positive person should write down three things every day that they are grateful for. This could be related to family, friends, relationships, work or anything that makes you feel good about this. Another way to become more happy, hopeful and confident, according to Dr Kim, is to keep a log of all the kind things you do for other people and read it back if you ever start to feel negative.
These are all great ways to improve your positivity levels and, perhaps help your physical health on a long-term basis. However, it is also important to speak to your doctor if you feel that you are suffering from any sort of depression or anxiety as they may believe that medication or talking therapy is the best course of action for you.