Having an optimistic attitude can seem like a daunting task for many of us right now. Yet, like a well made vaccine, optimists will identify issues and persevere. Interestingly enough, optimistic thinking can help strengthen your immune system and help us age better. I have learned an optimist isn’t someone who lives life blind to trauma, but is a person with a grateful and growth oriented mindset. Disclaimer, the causal relationship between someone’s mindset and their health needs more concrete evidence, but current findings show potential health benefits for harnessing a positive mindset.
Here are three potential benefits of adopting an optimistic mindset.
- Improves blood pressure
Researchers at Harvard medical believe that one of the major reasons optimists live longer is they tend to have lower blood pressure. Blood pressure is a good indication of heart health and having positive thoughts can help lower someone’s blood pressure. Think- what will make your blood pressure rise, gratefulness for your family, or constant focus on negative externalities? I love the saying control the controllables, which is especially pertinent in today’s world. See my meditation post for ways to reduce stress and come to terms with current situations.
- Better coping mechanisms
The ability of positive thinking people to look at the issue and tackle it with a growth mindset is one of the actionable traits we can all work towards. Researchers believe this is one of the main reasons optimists have better health outcomes in general. That is, optimists tend to have better stress coping mechanisms. When one has an optimistic mindset they believe that a negative outcome, say cancer or sickness, has the ability to be overcome. Some examples of coping mechanisms are meditation, exercise, and leaning on support systems.
- Increases longevity
If you want to live longer and more importantly, live well, then maybe it’s time to adopt an optimistic mindset. “Interestingly, centenarians who have maintained exceptional longevity have been reported to have higher levels of positive attitudes and life satisfaction as compared to young-older adults” (Dello Buono, Urciuoli, & De Leo, 1998). Whether this is coincidence or not being positive can’t hurt?
I recently read the book How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body by David R. Hamilton. In this information laden text, Hamiltion states “Optimists live longer than pessimists!” (Hamilton, 3). This statement is a blanket statement that needs to be dissected further, but definitely is intriguing. From researching the benefits of optimism I have found a recurring theme- optimists are more likely to attack a problem at its core. This may be the root of why optimists tend to have better health outcomes. A quotation that stuck with me and explains what I’m portraying is “If we stop complaining then we can get to work on creating a better world.” (Hamilton, 10). This applies to our everyday life and health too. For example, if we are struggling with low energy we can attack that problem with a positive mindset. We can control our habits like improving our sleep, nutrition, exercise, and emotional health. Pessimistic attitudes will play the blame game and feel stuck in a negative situation- we have all been there. If you still aren’t sold on how your mindset can affect your health then let me play my final card… the placebo.
A placebo is a substance or treatment which is designed to have no therapeutic value. It is used in science as a control to help strengthen trials for new medical procedures/drugs. The placebo success rate ranges from 15 percent to 72 percent. As a simple guy I will give simple explanations. A placebo is not supposed to work so that the drug scientists are creating can be tested against it. Yet it does. Our minds are so powerful that we can take a placebo thinking it will help us and our body will create the proper reactions to heal ourselves.
From experience I know that I can overcome anything when I’m in the right mindset. When I’m being realistic yet optimistic I will attack issues at their core and focus on getting better. This year has been challenging for all of us, but we have the tools and the wherewithal to persevere.
How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body- David Hamilton PhD