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Most people can attest to the reality that they feel better mentally and physically when they have a good day or have positive experiences. Things like laughter and smiling can make you feel better long after the activity that first made us happy, which may make you wonder whether a positive attitude affects a person's overall health.
Impact on Medical Community
USAToday.com reports that the medical community is increasingly making the connection between positive attitudes and good health. Carol Ryff, a psychology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison says, "There is a science that is emerging that says a positive attitude isn't just a state of mind; it also has linkages to what's going on in the brain and in the body." Positive thinking has begun to be attributed to longer, healthier lives in people with chronic illnesses and a decline in stress, which overall reduces cardiovascular problems.
What Is Positive Thinking?
Positive-thinking individuals tend to be more optimistic than pessimistic. According to the Mayo Clinic, people who engage in positive thinking do not ignore or dismiss problems, but instead they approach problems from a more hopeful and optimistic viewpoint 3. People who seem to naturally tend toward a positive attitude usually engage in positive self-talk. Thus, positive thoughts overwhelmingly run through their minds. On the other hand, some people are constantly bombarded with negative thoughts, causing them to have a tendency toward pessimism.
Individuals who have a positive attitude will feel the impact on their health through lack of illness and overall increased positive well-being. The Mayo Clinic suggests that many health benefits have been influenced by a positive attitude, including increased life span, increased resistance to the common cold, lower rates of depression, increased cardiovascular health, reduced stress, and overall physical and mental vigor 3.
How Does It Work?
Currently, the understanding of how a positive attitude impacts health is unclear. One theory, brought to light by the Mayo Clinic, is that people with positive attitudes are better able to cope with stress and anxiety 3. Also, a correlation has been found between those who maintain a positive attitude and those who maintain a healthier lifestyle through diet, exercise and social interactions.
Improving State of Mind
Overall, the importance of a positive attitude on health is apparent, but how it works exactly is still unclear. The mind-body connection is strong and undeniable to those in the medical community. Improving your state of mind can have significant lasting effects on health. One of the ways to do this is to increase positive thoughts by making a conscience effort to refrain from criticism of yourself and others. Also, HelpGuide.org suggests that humor and laughter are one of the quickest ways to influence your health 2. The positive attitude humor and laughter bring with them can immediately ward off stress and anxiety thus returning you to a calm, positive state of mind.
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