Hope for the Best – It Might Just Improve Your Health
It’s the day before a big event—your grandkids’ visit, the charity event you helped plan, a speech you’ve carefully prepared. Do you see things going well? Or are you certain the world will fall apart?
How you answer may end up influencing your good health. A growing body of research suggests the more optimistic you are, the lower your risk of getting sick or hurt. But your fate isn’t sealed: Scientists have identified concrete steps that can help you change your view. And while this can’t ensure the grandkids’ flight lands on time or that you don’t stumble during your oration, it could provide a little extra protection against health problems.
Benefitting from Great Expectations
Doctors have known for years that mental illnesses—such as depression and anxiety—have negative effects on your body. But now, they’re asking a slightly different question: Can a positive mindset be even better for your physical health?
Increasingly, the answer seems to be yes. In the past few years, studies have compared optimists to pessimists. Those who saw the bright side had:
The Power of Positivity
Scientists have only just begun to understand exactly how optimism works. One theory holds that your viewpoint changes your behavior. In other words, if you believe your health can improve, you’re more likely to take steps to manage it—from exercising to not smoking to eating a more nutritious diet.
However, that’s not the full story. Optimism may directly impact our biological systems.
Build Your Optimism Muscles
Optimism isn’t just an inborn trait. You can learn to cultivate it by:
Using affirmations. Find a few words or phrases that fill you with hope. Regularly repeat them aloud or write them down in a visible place. Some examples: “I stay focused on my strengths.” Or, “I love myself enough to take good care of my health.”
Envisioning a better future. Spend some time imagining the best possible person you could become. Then, write it down.
Add Cheer to Your Daily Routine
To be sure, sunshine and rainbows aren’t enough to help you overcome every health challenge. But practicing optimism can go hand in hand with other health habits—like exercising and eating well—to reduce your risk factors for disease. Think of it as an extra insurance policy against illness and a way to make your days brighter, one positive thought at a time.