Positive emotions may provide good health

by Dr Rodney Beckwith

Recent research from Pennsylvania State University suggests that a positive attitude to life leads to better health.

Positive people are more likely to actively participate in activities which contributed to their wellbeing, such as exercise. The study specifically looked at people with heart disease. Patients who reported higher positive psychological states were more likely to be physically active, sleep better and take their heart medications and were also less likely to smoke, compared to patients with lower levels of positive states.

Researcher Nancy L. Sin, said: “We found that positive emotions are associated with a range of long-term health habits, which are important for reducing the risk of future heart problems and death.”

Positive people may be more motivated and persistent in engaging in healthy behaviours. They might have more confidence in their abilities to maintain routines such as physical activity and good sleep habits. Positive emotions may also enable people to better adjust their health goals and to pro-actively cope with stress and setbacks.

Another study has shown that the immune system improves about 20% when people’s optimism improves. This is very large in medical terms.

This means that mood disorders may benefit from training in positive thinking. Positive thinking also improves coping skills during stressful times, as described for the US Olympic Wrestling Team in 1988. This revealed that the wrestlers used several coping strategies including positive thinking. The results also suggested that the degree to which coping strategies are well learned or automatic is related to their perceived effectiveness.

One of the most prominent advocates of positive thinking is Professor Martin Seligman – an American psychologist. Seligman’s work emphasises that optimism is one of the most important factors to develop happiness. What matters, he argues, is the way that people interpret what happens to them and how they think about a positive or negative event in their lives. People can choose to let the negative emotions of an event impact them permanently, with negative attitudes towards that event, and future similar events, or they can challenge the negative assumptions and look for ways in which the negative effects can be shaken off.

How to practice positive thinking

Stay in the present. This is the key to positive thinking. If you are in the present you remain attentive and responsive, and this prevents your worries from shaping your thoughts and actions.

Focus on what you want to be, what you want to achieve and how you would like to see yourself in future.

Harness the power of positive belief to guide and direct your subconscious mind. To begin with start believing in the power of positive belief. Believe truly and strongly that what you want to accomplish will happen eventually.

Appreciate and enjoy fully what you already have.

Practice positive affirmations about yourself and those close to you. These need to be true about the person.

Forgive yourself and let go of your faults and blemishes.

Keep the company of positive minded people. This reinforces habits of positive thinking.

Accept problems, suffering, and rejection as learning opportunities.

Choose your words carefully. Practice using positive words and expressions in both verbal and oral communication. This influences your own attitude and conveys respect.

Reliance GP Super Clinic, West Gosford

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