It’s been said smiling can brighten the darkest day. In fact, research shows having a positive outlook helps manage stress and may provide the following health benefits:
• Increases life span
• Lowers rates of depression
• Lowers levels of distress
• Builds greater resistance to the common cold
• Improves psychological and physical well-being
• Reduces risk of death from cardiovascular disease
It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory however, is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.
If you’re not an optimist you can learn to think positively.
It’s easy but it does take time and practice – you’re creating a new habit after all. The Mayo Clinic offers these suggestions:
• Identify areas to change. Start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.
• Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
• Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times.
• Follow a healthy lifestyle. Exercise at least three times a week to positively affect mood and reduce stress.
• Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are supportive and people you can depend on to give you helpful advice.
• Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else.
“Few things in the world are more powerful than a positive push: a smile; a world of optimism and hope; a ‘you can do it’ when things are tough.”
-Richard M. DeVos