Are you a “glass half full” or “glass half empty” sort of person? Your answer could predict your future health, including your bones’…Scientific research shows “you are how you feel”. That is, depending on your attitude towards life, you could be helping or hurting your wellbeing. Google “optimism” and you’ll find: “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something.”Google “pessimism” and find: “a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future.”Which one better describes how you feel right now, and for the future? If you answered “pessimism”, here’s some data that I hope will change your mind…
309 middle-aged patients were to undergo coronary artery bypass surgery. Before the procedure, each patient took a psychological evaluation to measure optimism, depression, neuroticism, and self-esteem. Researchers tracked each patient for 6 months after surgery. At that point, the researchers discovered those who were more optimistic from the initial evaluation were only half as likely to end up back in the hospital compared to the pessimists! It was the same thing for angioplasty patients. 298 angioplasty patients were followed over a 6-month period, post-surgery. As it turned out, the pessimists ended up back in the hospital at a 3 times greater rate than the optimists.But pessimism doesn’t only affect cardiovascular health.
Optimism and Infection
In 2006, scientists conducted a “sneaky” test. They wanted to see how personality styles (positive or negative) impacted viral symptoms. After concluding personality tests on 193 healthy volunteers, the scientists gave each volunteer a common respiratory virus. The results? Those displaying a “positive” personality style had less viral symptoms than the “negative” personalities!All else being equal, it sure seems pessimism can affect overall health. What’s more eye-opening is how it affects longevity too…
Optimism, Longevity and Overall Health
Back in the mid-1960s, 6,959 students at the University of North Carolina took a comprehensive personality test. Over the next 40 years, 476 died. Of the deceased, the most pessimistic- according to the 1960s test- had a 42% higher death rate than the most optimistic. But it’s not just an American phenomenon either…A Dutch study followed 941 men and women, 65 to 85 years old. Those who were more optimistic at the beginning of the study had a 45% lower risk of death over the 9 year follow-up period.The University of Rochester Medical Center concurs with these studies. They cite how researchers reviewed over 80 studies to see how much of a factor pessimism was to physical health. In fact, the review’s findings from the 80 studies showed that those who were more positive in life had better “… overall longevity, survival from a disease, heart health, immunity, cancer outcomes, pregnancy outcomes, pain tolerance, and other health topics.” Pessimism clearly affects our physical health. More and more studies show the more pessimistic, the worse our physical state. This holds true for folks who are already suffering from health ailments too.Researchers found breast cancer patients demonstrating higher pessimism (through a standardized test) “significantly predicted” premature death. The same standardized optimism test predicted the outcomes of French patients with head and neck cancer too. Those who scored more optimistically had far higher survival rates one-year post-diagnosis, compared with the more pessimistic patients.
What’s the explanation?
How Your Mindset Influences Your Health Risks
Well, a lot of it has to do with the physiological impact that negativity puts on your body. In short, stress from the negativity can wreak havoc on your cells. And that stress produces the negative outcomes we’ve discussed.When you’re stressed, your body has to put up with more inflammation. That’s because the stress hormone- cortisol- courses through your veins and can wear down cells through inflammation. And that inflammation creates a chain reaction of negative events in your body. I’m talking about heart, skin, liver, joint and pretty much all other physical problems. In fact, it’s that inflammation that can even wear down your bones and reduce their mineral density– leading to fracture. (Inflammation promotes high levels of osteoclasts, your body’s bone-resorbing cells.)The reverse is also true. Women with a more positive life outlook had lower levels of inflammation (measured by C-reactive protein and interleukin-6 levels) in their bodies. Those two inflammation measures predict the likelihood of heart attack and stroke!And, both men and women had lower cortisol levels when they showed more optimism on a 2008 standardized test. These results also took into consideration possible influential variables like age, employment, income, ethnicity, obesity, smoking, and depression. So like I said earlier, you truly can “think yourself” into poor health even if you do make otherwise healthy lifestyle choices.
5 Ways to Practice Optimism in Your Daily Life
How can you be more optimistic?
There are several free, and I’d like to say “easy” ways to do so. Of course, that depends on your mindset and the sort of thoughts you’re already predisposed to. Nonetheless, when you try these tips to be more positive, I know you’ll see (and even feel) the difference in your life:
Be Conscious Of Your Thoughts. It’s hard to fix something if you don’t even know it’s an issue. That’s why you should stop now and then, and take stock of how you react to certain events (particularly those that don’t seem to go your way). If you tend to have a negative reaction to these events, you know you have the opportunity to be more optimistic going forward. This will help you get on the path to better health!
Try Thinking Positive. While it could feel odd to start, it doesn’t hurt to actively try thinking more positive about things. If someone had to cancel an appointment on you, just think, it frees you up to do something else you may want to do… or had put off doing. If your grandson doesn’t end up winning in the science fair, just think, he became more knowledgeable for participating, and you can feel proud of his efforts!
Stop Making Comparisons. If you ever feel the natural human emotions of jealousy or anger when you compare yourself to others, stop. We all have different stories, different strengths, and different roles in this world. Though the feelings are natural, they’re not productive and won’t help you at all. In fact, as we’ve seen, they’ll only make you feel worse on the inside and out. Appreciate what you have… remember, you can always be far worse off than you are now!
Surround Yourself With Positivity. Do you have at least one of those friends who’s always cheerful, positive and fun to be around? If so, make efforts to spend even more time with them. Their positivity can be infectious and rub off on you more than you realize. Besides, they’ll either consciously or subconsciously make you feel happier in life just by talking with them. Plus, it’s good for your health to laugh more too! Here in the office, our videographer Antony is that person… I always feel positive and energized any time after talking with him.
Practice Gratitude. Try this simple exercise every day: Sit down and grab a pen and piece of paper. Write 3 things you’re grateful for. And that’s it. Do this every day and over time you’ll feel better and more positive. Not only that, as your list grows over the days and weeks (and yes, you can repeat points now and then!) you’ll see just how many things you have to be grateful for.
An extension of this simple exercise is to jot down when you feel grateful for something that happens through the day. Feel free to add it to your growing list. After a while you’ll be amazed at how lucky you are to be you! So, how many of these optimism-boosters are you going to practice? Or, will you try using these tips even more than you do right now? As you’ve seen, they could very well add years of healthy, positive living to your life. And that’s something worth feeling optimistic about!
Are You Ready to Practice Optimism or Pessimism?
Please save this post and refer back to it. What you’ve learned here is so important to living your best life that you should read it every now and then. Since you now know how much your mind affects your body, practice the optimism tips I shared. Your whole body will thank you in the long run– by giving you more healthy years that you otherwise may have lost.
Are you already practicing optimism techniques? I’d love to hear from you! Just let me know in the comments below.