by Kimberly Allen, RN
Are you a “the glass is half empty” or “half full” type of person? While it’s not realistic to believe you can avoid all negative thoughts and feelings in life more and more research is showing that positive thinking can have as significant an impact on your health as negative thinking does. Most people know that stress can destroy your body inside and out but did you know that a positive attitude can prevent problems and improve your health?
While the exact mechanism of how and why having a positive attitude helps you to not only heal faster but stay healthier is not clearly understood, there is increasing evidence that it has to do with your immune system. In recent years, researchers have discovered that your attitude and thoughts can have a powerful influence on your immune system. In one study, researchers found that people that had a positive attitude about a particular part of their lives demonstrated a stronger immune response than people that had a negative attitude of their particular situation.
Researchers have found that the immune systems of people that feel sad and hopeless are unable to fight off diseases, where as people that have hope and a positive attitude develop stronger immune systems and a stronger, healthier immune system that can much more effectively fight off disease and infection.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are several health benefits associated with a positive attitude including better stress management and a reduction in stress and depression as well as reducing your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. In fact, in a study by a Dutch medical team that involved a group of 545 men between 64 and 84 years of age, they found that “optimism and just an overall great positive attitude reduced the health risk by half.”
Another large study recently done in the US found that “optimists were less likely than pessimists to develop coronary heart disease and less likely to die of any cause over the course of the 8 year trial”. Researchers studied 97,253 postmenopausal women. None of them had any cardiovascular disease or cancer at the start of the study when they took personality tests. When they compared the most optimistic women they discovered that “out of every 10,000 optimists, 43 developed coronary heart disease and overall 46 died, while for every 10,000 pessimists there were 60 cases of coronary heart disease and 63 deaths overall.”
In a 2006 study of 6,958 students that had taken a psychological test upon enrolling at the University of North Carolina during the 1960’s, researchers found that “among the most pessimistic third of the students the death rate over the next 40 years was 42% higher than among the most optimistic third.”
Researchers have also found that in many cases people with a positive attitude tend to lead a healthier lifestyle. They tend to cope better with stressful situations and avoid unhealthy behaviors. People that have a more positive attitude also tend to exercise regularly and maintain a healthy body weight as well as live longer.
You may not always be able to change the things that affect your life, however, you can change how they affect you and your life. Developing a positive attitude can help you approach life and all it’s challenges in a healthier and happier manor. While there is no “magic fix” for every situation having a positive attitude can improve the way you see as well as handle all the challenges life can throw your way and the benefits of that are immeasurable.
Kimberly Allen is a registered nurse with an AND in nursing. She has worked in ACF, LCF and psychiatric facilities, although she spent most of her career as a home health expert. She is now a regular contributor to HealthAndFitnessTalk.com, dispensing advice and knowledge about medical issues and questions. You can reach her with any comments or questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.