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Thinking Positive is Positive for Your Health

What is Positive Thinking?

Positive thinking is the practice of focusing on the good of any given situation. This does not mean you ignore the bad things that happen in life; it's how you deal with them. One who practices positive thinking looks at everything that happens in life and expects that all will go well and work in their favor. They believe the best will happen, not the worst. Positive thinking starts with self-talk. Self-talk is the constant stream of unspoken thoughts that run through your head. These thoughts can be both positive or negative. If your self-talk is more optimistic, you're an optimist. If it's more negative, you're a pessimist.

Positive Thinking and Health

Positive thinking is connected to health and wellness. This accounts for both physical and mental health. Chronic and long-term stress can be a cause of many health problems.

When you have chronic stress, your body does not turn off the fight or flight mechanisms we engage in when under a stressful or threatening situation. This can disturb the immune, digestive, cardiovascular, sleep, and reproductive systems. Some people may experience headaches, sleeplessness, sadness, anger, or irritability.

Over time, continued strain on your body from stress may contribute to serious health problems like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other illnesses, including mental disorders such as depression or anxiety.

As mentioned, stress can lead to serious health problems. The culprit of this is inflammation. Inflammation is the body's response to a threat, such as a bacteria, virus, or cancer, a transplanted organ or even a psychological or emotional stressor. In response to the invader, the immune system sends out an army of chemicals, called pro-inflammatory cytokines, to attack the invaders.

Pro-inflammatory cytokines usually do their job and then disappear. However, when stress is chronic, they are "upregulated" in your system. This means the cycle of stress and inflammatory response gets habituated in the body.

Over time, these cytokines may perpetuate themselves. That's when inflammation starts to cause severe effects on the body. 

How Does Positivity Help?

How does positivity help with stress and the potential damage it could cause? One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations.

The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a vital part of effective stress management. Effective stress management is associated with many health benefits.

The benefit of positive thoughts about control appears to be consistent with other research on the challenge mindset. When we have a challenge mindset, we believe that we have the skills and ability to handle current stressors. Research shows that having a positive, optimistic outlook on life improves your health, relationships, and self-confidence, all of which lower your stress levels and increase happiness. And you guessed it: a negative attitude does the opposite. Less stress can help with less strain on the body and its systems and control inflammation that can occur. 

 Positive Thinking and a Better Life

In addition to reducing inflammation and the damage it may cause, positive thinking also can produce a better life outlook and better mental health. People who have the confidence in their abilities to succeed are more likely to succeed and achieve. When your brain is constantly filled with "cant's," you immediately set limits on your potential. That's because when you tell yourself you can't, your brain begins to believe that's the truth. It's like setting yourself up for failure. When you tell yourself you can or that you'll do your best to succeed, you give yourself the confidence to accomplish anything, reducing anybody's stress. Many things happen to your mental health when you use positive thinking. Here are some of the effects:

  • A sound mental state is maintained.
  • Better sleep.
  • lower risk of mood disorders.
  • improved focus and problem solving.
  • More living in the moment.

It's not hard to see that this can be connected to stress as well. 

In addition, people who have a more positive outlook on life make healthier food choices, stay active with exercise, and tend to smoke and drink less. They are also more likely to engage in short and long terms goals related to their wellness.

With positive thinking comes confidence that they can take risks or try things related to their wellness because if they know if they fail, they can always try again.

This is so important when making changes in health and wellness. If you don't have the confidence to change and create healthy habits, you just won't do it. This perpetuates unhealthy habits that can eventually lead to health issues and chronic disease. 

How to Think Positively

Some people are born naturally optimistic, but that doesn't mean a negative person cannot see the benefits of positive thinking. In addition to Our Tool Box Of Tips for positive thinking, here are some things you can do to work on your positive thinking.

Identify areas to change: Identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about. This could be work, family, or relationships. Start small by choosing to focus on and approach it more positively. 

Check in with yourself: Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.

Find the humor in things: Make sure you are smiling and laughing every day, even if times are difficult. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.

Follow a healthy lifestyle: Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. 

Surround yourself with positive people: Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.

Practice positive self-talk: Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you're thankful for in your life.

Learn more about how The Four Seasons program supports positive mindset, purpose and vision. 

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