Researches are “proving” something that many of us intuitively knew all along… That people who are optimists tend to not just be happier, but to also live longer and healthier lives!
An article in the New York Times shares recent studies on how cultivating positive emotions can boost the immune system and counter depression. They found this is even true when you’re facing a health crisis such as HIV, cancer or diabetes.
And what about aging? A study published in the Journal of Gerontology, found that having a positive view of aging has an influence on longevity. Dr. Levy reported that both psychological and physiological mechanisms account for the findings. From a psychological perspective, if you’re more optimistic it enhances belief in your own abilities, decreases perceived stress and fosters healthful behaviors. From a physiological perspective, a upbeat viewpoint has been shown to reduce stress-related inflammation associated with heart disease and other illnesses.
But can you control your level of optimism? Many think they’re just born one way or the other. But that’s not true. You can change the way your brain works.
For one thing the goal isn’t to be positive all the time. That’s not very realistic. There are times and situations that result in negative feelings. The key is to intersperse positive moments in your life as much as possible.
I appreciate how Barbara Fredrickson, a psychologist at the University of North Carolina, encourages people to accumulate “micro-moments of positivity.” According to her research, repeated brief moments of positive feelings can provide a buffer against stress and foster better health.
Here are some simple ways you can accumulate positivity:
- Do something nice for someone. It can be something simple like opening a door for a stranger.
- Savor the moment. Slow down and appreciate the world around you.
- Start a gratitude journal. Write down what you’re grateful for every morning to start your day.
- Be creative. Learn something new – like a sport, language, or musical instrument – that will instill a sense of achievement.
- Practice resiliency. You can’t always avoid loss, stress, failure or health problems. But instead of letting them overwhelm you, try to learn from them.
If you’d like to learn how to “Optimize Your Resiliency” please join me for my upcoming class series at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Southern Oregon University. We’ll be exploring strategies for increasing your resiliency. Here’s the link to learn more and register: http://olli.sou.edu/olliatsou/Course/print.aspx?309
Your optimism challenge:
Choose one of the five suggestions I shared in this article to implement this week. Notice how your positivity increases.
As always, I appreciate your thoughts. Share your feedback, questions or comments at healthyoptimism.com/contact.