We’ve written before about how exercise impacts both your body and your mind. But can the mind impact the body? Many experts agree that there are multiple benefits of a positive attitude, on both your mental health and your physical health.
Positivity and Your Health
Your physical health benefits from a positive attitude. While we know that positive people generally experience fewer mental health issues, it turns out looking on the bright side does amazing things for your body, too.
Positivity Protects Your Heart
Optimists tend to react to difficult situations better than their pessimist counterparts. Positive-thinkers experience less stress when life throws them a curveball. And less stress is associated with a lower risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
Why? Those who react negatively to difficult situations have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and they experience high blood pressure as a result. Those with a “glass half full” approach, however, typically don’t experience a sharp rise in cortisol levels.
A Positive Attitude Impacts Your Immunity
A 2010 study found a startling link between your outlook and your ability to fight off infection. The study followed first-year law students, tracking their “cell-mediated immunity,” or their ability to fight off illness and disease.
The students who had a more positive outlook had stronger cell-mediated immunity, while those who were more pessimistic showed weaker immune systems.
Even more surprising? When looking at the same person, researchers found that the individual’s immunity dropped and raised in response to their mood. So if you’re struggling with getting sick, a positive attitude might be just what the doctor ordered.
Optimism Increases Pain Tolerance
The health benefits of a positive attitude apply to pain management, too. Studies show that positive thinking can alleviate pain for chronic pain sufferers, those with injuries, and even women in labor. Changing your mindset can be just as effective as medication in some cases.
So if you have pain from an injury, an illness, or suffer from chronic pain, positive thinking strategies could help.
Positive People Live Longer
Along with the other health benefits of a positive attitude, here’s the most important: optimistic people live longer than those with negative attitudes. A recent study found that those with positive attitudes live, on average, 11-15% longer than others.
While it’s unclear exactly why positive people live longer, it’s probably a combination of everything we’ve talked about here: lower rates of stress, less risk for heart disease and stroke, higher immunity to illness, and less pain.
How You Can Practice Positivity
Now that you know what a positive attitude can do for you, it’s time to put it into practice. Here are five things you can do this week to boost your positive outlook.
Until next time, take care of yourself and one another.