Positively Healthy

Our life is made up of positive and negative habits and Buddha once said: “We are what we think.”

So, what do you think? Is your glass-half-empty or half-full? Your answer may reflect your outlook on life, your attitude toward yourself, and clearly whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. And here’s the thing, what you are could be having an influence on your health.

Studies have shown that personality characteristics like optimism and pessimism can affect your health and well-being. The positive thinking that is synonymous with optimism is a pivotal part of effective stress management and is associated with many health benefits. If you have a pessimistic outlook, don’t worry — positive thinking skills can be mastered.

Getting a handle on positive thinking and self-talk

Positive thinking doesn’t mean that you keep your head in the sand and ignore life’s less pleasant situations. It means you address unpleasantness in a more positive and fruitful way. In other words, you believe the best is going to happen, not the worst.

Whether you have a positive or negative outlook on life, it all starts with head chatter. We all do it, and, no, it doesn’t mean you are going crazy! Self-talk is the endless stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These automatic judgments can be positive or negative. Some of our head chatter arise from logic others comes to a head from a lack of information or an over-stimulated imagination that causes self-doubt to run wild.

If the thoughts that run through your head are mostly pessimistic your outlook on life is going to be more negative. If your thoughts are mostly positive, you’re likely an optimist.

The health benefits of positive thinking

The Mayo Clinic reports a number of health benefits associated with optimism, including:

  1. Increased life span
  2. Lower rates of depression
  3. Lower levels of distress
  4. Greater resistance to the common cold
  5. Better psychological and physical well-being
  6. Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  7. Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress

It remains a little unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these benefits. One theory is that having a confident outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations. 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.

It is important to note that positive thinking is not all “beer and skittles”. In fact, researchers have discovered that people who are excessively optimistic can easily overestimate their own abilities and take on more than they can handle, leading to an increase in pressure levels, which can lead to more stress and anxiety. It’s all about balance.

Psychologists suggest that positive thinking swivels on such things as a belief in your abilities an innate ability to make the most of bad situations. And let’s face it, bad things happen to all of us. At some stage, you will be disappointed or hurt by the actions of others. This does not mean that the world is out to get you. If that’s the direction your mind automatically heads in, take the time to study the circumstances in a realistic, non-judgemental fashion. Search for ways you can improve the situation, and try to learn from previous experiences. In other words, stop letting history repeat itself. Changing the habits or thoughts of a lifetime is not easy, but nor is it impossible.

Here are some helpful hints to keep you on the positive side of the street.

  • Watch your thoughts, they become words.
  • Watch your words, they become actions.
  • Watch your actions, they become habits.
  • Watch your habits, they become your character.
  • Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
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