By Juanita Benedict, DPT, CEAS II
I recently read an article about how optimists are both physically and psychologically healthier than their pessimistic counterparts. Apparently, there are a plethora of studies that support this claim. The science indicates that optimists have lower rates of depression and better immune systems, which lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease and increases life span. (Bradberry, 2015)
Even though this article was not the first of its kind, it is the type of article that I like to read every few months to inspire me to become more positive. If simply being optimistic can increase not only my physical health, but my enjoyment of life, why would I choose to be otherwise?
Positive thinking affects how you interpret and react to stressful situations.
Your body’s response to stressful situations that you deem as negative is to increase the production of adrenaline, which increases your heart rate and cortisol, and reduces the protection of your immune system. Negative thinking actually places your body in physical distress.
The good news is that this physical reaction doesn’t have to be detrimental. Positive thinking and optimism has been shown to have significantly good effects on health. Learning to think positively can help your body to release oxytocin, instead of the adrenaline and cortisol. Oxytocin has been called the “love” hormone as it increases your sense of well-being. Be warned, it also may increase your desire to hug! (McGonigal, 2015)
Unfortunately, changing your thinking pattern is not as simple as just turning on a switch. Positive thinking is a habit that takes time to form. Be patient with yourself and you will be able to cultivate an entirely new perspective.
Here are a few tips to help you learn how to think positive and be optimistic:
1. Minimize negative media. That may seem like a herculean tasks with current events, but you need to make your health a priority. Watching negative news increases your anxiety levels and can lead to the physical effects described earlier, as well as increase your risk of depression. (Health Central, 2011)
2. Start your day on a positive note. Write down three things you are grateful for.
3. Practice seeing the good. There is always a silver lining, although sometimes you may need to put in some effort to find it. Even in the wake of horrific events, there are always good people and inspirational stories.
4. Accept that you are not perfect, and that is perfectly fine! The imperfections in life are what make it interesting and fun. How boring would life be if everyone was perfect?
5. Laugh. Laugh loud and laugh often. Laugh at yourself and seemingly impossible circumstances. There is nothing that will change your attitude like finding the humor in stressful situations.
6. Exercise. The benefits of exercise are too numerous to name. A person once said that if all of the benefits of exercise could be put into a pill, it would be the most sought-after medicine in the world.
Enjoy this day and every day. Remember the reason you work so hard is to live a good life. Being optimistic not only helps you stay healthy enough to do the things you want, but also helps you really savor them.
Bradberry, T. (2015, May 4). Retrieved from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/how-positivity-makes-you-healthy-successful-dr-travis-bradberry?trk=v-feed
Health Central. (2011, August 29). Retrieved from http://www.healthcentral.com/anxiety/c/1443/143415/watching-increase
McGonigal, K. (2015). The Upside of Stress: Why Stress is Good for You and How to Get Good at It. New York: Penguin .
Juanita Benedict is a physical therapist in Florida who works specifically with dental professionals to reduce their pain while practicing as well as extend their careers. For more information, go to www.healthydentistrysolutions.com or contact her at 407.801.3324.