optimism is good for your health

optimism is good for your health

When faced with a sickness or any other health-related challenges, we’ve all been at the receiving end of this universal advice: Don’t worry and stay positive. However, there are times when negativity gets the better of us and it’s just hard to muster up any motivation to focus on the positive. We think developing an optimistic demeanor is of no use and just discard it as nothing more than wishful thinking.

However, recent research studies have revealed that positivity can indeed influence our health. It has been reported that optimists are both physically and mentally healthier than pessimists. And it’s best to stay away from pessimism as it’s detrimental for our health. 

Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania has performed extensive work on this subject. He has found that people who are negative and attribute their failures to personal deficits have much higher rates of depression. Optimists, on the other hand, are in a better state of mind — they treat failures and setbacks as learning experiences and firmly believe they can do better in the future.

To study the effects of positivity on physical health, Seligman worked with investigators from Dartmouth and the University of Michigan on a joint study that followed men and women from age 25 to 65 to see how their levels of optimism or pessimism influenced or correlated with their overall health. The researchers concluded that among all the people, the health of those who were pessimistic worsened more dramatically with age.

While it’s not known how pessimism exactly deteriorates health, research conducted at Yale and the University of Colorado has revealed that pessimism is linked with a weakened immune response to tumors and infection. Investigators from the Universities of Kentucky and Louisville went one step further and injected optimistic and pessimistic subjects with a virus to measure their immune response. They found that optimists had a significantly stronger immune response as compared to pessimists.

A positive mindset has been proven to be associated with improved health and a lower chance of disease. A review of 15 studies with over 200,000 participants found a 35% lower chance of getting heart disease and a 14% lower chance of early death in people who were optimists. People with an optimistic attitude also have better results following surgery, including fewer complications requiring hospital readmission. This may again be related to the previously mentioned finding that optimistic people have better coping skills when dealing with stress and setbacks.

Being optimistic is associated with lower blood sugar and cholesterol, and lower levels of cardiovascular disease. Also, even after considering healthy behaviors, optimists had a 15% longer lifespan and 50% greater chance of living past 85 than people with a negative outlook. So, there’s definitely something more to this than meets the eye. 

While more research needs to be done to find out the exact mechanism through which optimism ensures good health, it’s safe to conclude that staying optimistic is the best way to move forward.

No matter how strong the pull of negativity might be, it’s wise to train yourself to have a positive outlook under all circumstances and work towards developing the glass-half-full mindset. It’ll definitely pay dividends in the long run.