Regardless of whether you’re a natural optimist or pessimist, looking on the bright side is not always easy. Yet research has shown that adopting a positive outlook is more important than you might realize – not just for your mental wellbeing, but for your physical health too.
From a boosted immune system to speedier recovery times, here’s why positive thinking matters – and how you can embrace it in your everyday life.
Why is Positive Thinking So Important?
Adopting a glass half-full outlook on life doesn’t just help you deal with stressful situations, it can transform your physical health too. According to positive psychology researcher Suzanne Segerstrom, "Setbacks are inherent to almost every worthwhile human activity, and a number of studies show that optimists are in general both psychologically and physiologically healthier."
So how exactly can positive thinking improve your physical and mental wellbeing?
Immune System Boost
Everyone knows that eating plenty of fruits and vegetables can boost the immune system, but you might not realize that positive thinking can have a similar effect too. In one 2002 study, elderly adults were given a flu vaccination and asked about their feelings towards the vaccine’s chance of success. The researchers then measured the participants’ immune outcomes two weeks later. They found that those who had the greatest optimism showed greater antibody production and better immune response.
Speed Up Recovery
Optimism doesn’t just make recovery from illness more bearable – it can speed it up too. Multiple studies have investigated the role of positive thinking in cancer recovery, with many suggesting that a ‘fighting spirit’ may well boost survival rates. One 2003 study found that optimism helped women undergoing painful treatment for breast cancer, especially as it protected against the urge to withdraw from social activities – an important element of healing.
Telling somebody suffering from depression to “look on the bright side” may seem futile. However, studies suggest that a conscious effort to think positively can help protect against and even relieve a number of mental health problems. According to researchers from the University of California, a treatment known as Positive Activity Interventions (PAIs), which involves meditation, performing acts of kindness and expressing gratitude, can help alleviate the symptoms of depression.
4 Steps to Positive Thinking
Looking on the bright side is often easier said than done – but trust us, the results are worth it. Here are four ways to embrace optimism for good.
1. Adopt a Positive Belief System
It isn’t always easy to stay positive when negativity surrounds you, but altering your outlook can make it easier to deal with whatever life throws at you.
The first thing to remember when embracing optimism is that while life may not be perfect, it is full of things worth smiling about. To fully appreciate them all, why not start a gratitude journal? Taking five minutes a day to write down the things that make you happy is a great first step to adopting a positive belief system.
2. Say “Yes”
Sometimes saying yes can feel like the hard option. But like most things in life, the difficult route can be the most rewarding. A simple word with incredible power, saying yes to life will open up a world of opportunities and allow you to live your life to its full potential.
3. Take Daily Actions Towards Your Goals
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. It’s a quote we’ve all heard hundreds of times before, but have you ever considered how it applies to your own life goals? Whether you dream of writing a novel or learning another language, the only way to make it happen is to start. So embrace a “can-do” attitude and set aside a few minutes a day to work on your dream. Before you know it you’ll be well on your way to achieving those goals.
4. Dream Big
Adulthood can often put a dampener on our childhood dreams, but that doesn’t mean we can’t still dream big. Having something to aim for – whether it’s a career goal or a personal achievement – is the best way to turn positive thinking into measurable action. The secret is pinning down your vision and then figuring out a game plan. Throw in some hard work and you can turn that dream into a reality.