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Caree Brown L.C.S.W. Psychotherapy

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The Power of Positive Thinking


The late, great UCLA basketball coach John Wooden once said, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” Truer words were never spoken. The power of a positive outlook not only can help improve our mental moods, but there is some research to suggest that it also improves our physical health as well. So, let’s take a look at the power of positive thinking and why a positive attitude might just be the best ticket to happiness and longevity.

As we navigate the challenges of everyday life, we tend to fall into one of two categories: those who view life through a lens of seeing the glass half full, and those who view the glass as perpetually half empty. If you find yourself in that latter category, you might want to change your view. There is some scientific evidence to suggest that those who hold a more optimistic or positive view of life actually live longer.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology and conducted by researchers at the Harvard School for Public Health, found that “women who held a more optimistic view of life had a significantly lower risk of dying from several major diseases”, including cancerheart diseasestroke, and respiratory disease, as compared to other women whose outlook on life was less positive.

The Study

For this study, researchers analyzed the data from 70,000 women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study, a long-term research project tracking women’s health via surveys conducted every two years from 2004 to 2012.

Researchers used a five-point scale to measure levels of optimism, asking participants to either agree or disagree with six statements. For example, statements such as, “In uncertain times, I usually expect the best.” The study results did in fact show that women who were the most optimistic (in the top 25%) had a nearly 30% lower risk of dying from the diseases analyzed in the study as compared to women in the lowest 25%.

For those top 25% optimistic women, results indicated they had a 16% lower risk of dying from cancer, a 38% lower risk of dying from heart disease, a 39% lower risk of dying from a stroke and a 38% lower risk of dying from respiratory disease. It’s also important to note that the researchers did control for a factors that could impact lifespan including socioeconomic factors, marital status and education level.

While the study is purely observational, researchers do have some theories as to the connection between positive thinking and a longer life. They view it as a combination of things since most people who think positively have healthy life behaviors like more nutritional diets, exercise regimens and a practice of getting better sleep.

Johns Hopkins Medicine has also found that a positive outlook is beneficial to your heart health and they offer a few suggestions on how to change your attitude. The first suggestion is to develop a habit of simply reminding yourself to smile more. Instead of dwelling on a stressful family or work situation, remember a funny joke or, if you need some help, take a moment to watch a few cat videos or other pranks on YouTube that will make you laugh or smile.

Johns Hopkins also suggests the practice of reframing your thoughts. Again, instead of focusing on a stressful or negative situation, listen to your favorite music for a few minutes or just remind yourself that you are not in control of the situation and worry about it isn’t going to change anything. You should also make sure you build resiliency in your life by making sure you’re maintaining good relationships with family and friends, not fighting change but accepting it as a part of life and taking action to deal with issues in your life rather than just hoping they resolve themselves or disappear.

So take a minute to determine whether you are a glass half full or a glass half empty. If you are the latter, make the change today to have a more positive outlook on life. And if you need some additional guidance, visit http://careebrown.com for tools and advice on the power of positive thinking.

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