March is National Optimism Month, and research gives us plenty of reasons to try to create some positive energy for ourselves. Mounting evidence suggests that having a positive attitude can help people recover from surgery and conquer major illnesses such as heart disease. When people exercise optimism in the earliest stages of a disease, they may improve the healing process.
Experts are not sure why this process works, but some speculate that is has something to do with the brain’s power over the immune system. For example, one study of law students found that those who felt optimistic about their success in the coming school year had more immune cells than those with a less positive outlook.
At the same time, being pessimistic may lead to higher levels of stress by introducing high levels of cortisol and other hormones into the bloodstream. In general, it is a good idea to remain positive in the face of health challenges, as you are more likely to exercise good self-care, attract positive people into your life, and enjoy the mental health benefits of social support.
A Balanced Life Is A Healthier Life
Positive people are, in general, more likely to engage in healthy behaviors such as physical activity. Some studies suggest that optimism and exercise have a positive correlation. For example, a collection of data from university health clubs found that those who were highly active were more likely to experience high levels of self-efficacy and be less anxious than those who did not participate in regular activity. Exercising regularly tends to help produce higher levels of optimism and optimistic individuals are more likely to participate in important self-care rituals.
Is optimism an inborn trait, or something we can all work to improve? Evidence suggests the latter. Even pessimistically minded individuals can take simple steps to improve their outlook on life. Mental health experts recommend:
- Practice positive visualization. Take a few minutes out of each day to complete visualization exercises and create positive images in your mind’s eye of good events occurring, with you in the center of them. Evidence suggests this can improve your attitude in just a few minutes each day.
- Practice positive affirmations. Take a few minutes out of your day to write down positive things that have happened to you or things you are grateful for. Over time, this could improve your outlook.
- Surround yourself with positive people. When you develop a social support group that has optimistic people in it, you are more likely to experience the benefits for yourself.
- Banish negative self-talk. Learning the art of positive thinking often starts with self-talk. Our inner monologue can be difficult to control, but many are either positive or negative. If these thoughts are mostly negative, you are more likely to be pessimistic. Do not say anything to yourself that you would not say to another person.
Other Health Benefits Of Optimism
Positive thinking and optimism have several established health benefits:
- Lower rates of mental conditions such as depression and anxiety
- Longer life span
- Greater immune system response to illness
- Better cardiovascular health
- Lower levels of stress
- Better coping skills in times of stress
The Role Of Supplements In A Healthy Lifestyle
Healthy eating and regular exercise can all play a role in developing a more positive mindset. Bolstering your efforts with essential vitamins and supplements can also boost overall health and create a synergistic effect with positive thinking and lifestyle. Some essential micronutrients, such as vitamin D, are difficult to get in food or in the absence of sunshine (i.e., in the winter months). Supplementation can help improve overall levels of Vitamin D, as shortages can have ties to depression.
Research gives us plenty of reasons to work on developing our optimistic outlook. As part of an overall healthy lifestyle, optimistic people are more likely to live longer, experience better mental health, exercise regularly, and report higher levels of self-efficacy. This March aim to improve your optimism and experience its many health benefits.