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How does optimism affect physical health?
Discover the profound impact of optimism on physical and mental health, and how to cultivate optimism in your life
You might think that in order to be physically healthy you need to eat right, sleep well, and exercise. Well, you’re absolutely … right. Those things are definitely important.
But they aren’t the full story of how to maintain good health. In fact, optimism affects physical health, too.
There are a number of benefits of being optimistic. People with an optimistic outlook tend to ward off depression and manage stress more effectively than people who skew toward negativity. Scientific research now suggests that there is a link between an optimistic outlook on life and improved stress levels, a better immune system, and even lower rates of cardiovascular diseases.
But while that’s all easy to say, how do you actually become more optimistic? Keep reading to find out.
In this article:
The mind-body connection
Your thoughts, feelings, and attitudes have the power to affect your body. Think about how you feel after eating a big, heavy meal. Tired, right?
What if you ate that food because you wanted comfort when you were worried about something? Now, if you’re facing a potentially stressful task or something that requires a lot of energy, you might not have the best mindset for it.
This connection is a two-way street. Poor choices for your physical body will have consequences for your mental well-being. A negative state of mind trains you to look for the problem in a situation and doubt your abilities. This leads to greater stress in the body and the physiological repercussions that can create.
But by changing your outlook, you can positively influence your mental health and physical health.
Mind-body medicine (MBM) makes use of a person’s thoughts and emotions to bring about improvements in physical health. MBM includes a wide variety of therapies ranging from meditation and yoga to support groups and hypnosis.
Researchers have studied the effects of stress on the body for a long time. Current studies into many different MBM techniques show how these techniques effectively reduce stress, thereby lowering the chances for stress-induced medical problems. A study by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine highlights how the parts of the brain that control thought are linked to functions as wide-ranging as motor function and blood pressure.
The interplay between optimism and health is complex, and understanding this connection can give you valuable insights into how optimism can improve your quality of life.
How can you cultivate an optimistic outlook?
Achieving a high level of optimism might sound challenging, especially if you’re naturally predisposed to a more cautious or even pessimistic outlook. However, cultivating optimism isn’t about denying reality or putting on a brave face; it’s about approaching life’s challenges with a “can-do” attitude and anticipating positive outcomes.
Through simple exercises like journaling positive events, engaging in regular physical activity, and learning how to sleep better, you can gradually foster a more optimistic disposition.
The different levels of optimism
Not all optimism is created equal, however. This psychological trait exists on a spectrum. At one end, you have “dispositional optimism,” a generally upbeat outlook on life that remains relatively stable over time. At the opposite end, you’ll find “unrealistic optimism,” a rosy outlook taken to such a degree that a person might ignore the reality of a situation.
The key is to aim for a balanced level of optimism that allows you to prepare for the best while being realistic about possible negative outcomes.
Negative events that can affect your optimism
Life is full of ups and downs, and encountering negative events is inevitable. Factors like job burnout, mental health issues, physical health problems, or socioeconomic status can dampen your optimistic spirit.
When things are tough, don’t get down on yourself if your optimistic outlook dims. Optimism isn’t a static quality. You have the ability to rejuvenate it, much like you would recharge your physical energy. Identify any negative influences hanging over your head and take proactive steps to minimize their impact, be it through seeking professional help or adopting healthy coping mechanisms.
Sometimes, when you’re in the thick of a stressful situation, it can be tough to understand how your mind and body are responding. Mindfulness meditation or other self-reflection techniques can help you recognize when something is dragging you down. Then, you can seek out the best way to deal with any negativity that’s creeping in.
6 ways optimism improves your physical health
A growing body of scientific research shows that optimism directly influences your physical well-being, from managing stress to fortifying your immune system. Here are six ways how optimism benefits your health.
Improves your stress levels
Your outlook can significantly influence how you cope with stressful situations. Optimistic individuals are better at regulating their emotions, which results in lower cortisol levels — the stress hormone. Lowering stress is beneficial in a myriad of ways, from enhancing your mental clarity to decreasing your risk of developing chronic diseases. Meditation and yoga are other practices that reinforce optimism’s calming effects.
Boosts your immune system
Your mindset can have a profound impact on your body’s ability to fight off illness. A positive outlook can boost your immune system, making you more resistant to infections and accelerating the healing process when you’re sick.
A study published by the American Psychological Association showed that optimistic individuals had a better immune response compared to their more pessimistic counterparts. So by choosing to be optimistic, you’re equipping your body with an extra layer of defense against illness.
Improves cardiovascular health
Heart health is a crucial component of overall well-being, and optimism has been shown to have a direct and positive impact. A study published in Psychosom Med revealed an association between optimism and reduced risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, including lower rates of hypertension and less cardiovascular mortality. According to the research, optimists have a 35% lower chance of a cardiovascular event.
Optimistic people also tend to adopt healthier lifestyle choices, like regular exercise and a balanced diet, which contribute to better heart health.
Promotes healthy lifestyle choices
When you maintain an optimistic perspective, you’re more inclined to engage in behaviors that foster good health. For instance, optimists are more likely to exercise regularly, eat a balanced diet, and abstain from smoking. Such lifestyle choices have a domino effect and can amplify your well-being in multiple dimensions.
Benefits your mental health
The relationship between optimism and mental health is symbiotic. A positive outlook not only boosts your physical health but also has tremendous benefits for your mental well-being. Optimistic individuals often experience lower rates of depression and anxiety. They’re better equipped to cope with emotional turmoil and challenges, which in turn makes them more resilient physically.
Mental and physical health are interconnected, and optimism serves as a bridge linking the two.
Uplifts your motivation and resilience
Optimism isn’t just about expecting good things to happen; it’s about equipping yourself with the mindset and resilience to make good things happen and better withstand stress when things don’t go as you would hope. Optimistic individuals are more motivated to overcome obstacles and adapt to change, attributes that have a profound impact on physical health. Whether it’s recovering from surgery or adhering to a challenging exercise regimen, optimism fuels your determination and willpower, helping you improve mental health and physical health.
Begin your journey towards a healthier lifestyle today
It’s clear that optimism can affect your physical health. Considering how it affects happiness as well, it’s easy to see how optimism is really the keystone that supports your well-being. Implementing small changes like focusing on positive thoughts or celebrating minor achievements can go a long way in enhancing your life quality.
Embarking on a journey towards a healthier lifestyle means more than just counting calories or steps; it also includes fostering a positive mindset. At Haven Life, we’re committed to providing you with the tools and resources you need to improve your overall health.
That starts with a term life insurance policy, which can provide peace of mind because you know your loved ones are financially protected even if the worst should happen to you. And for eligible Haven Term policyholders, that also continues with Haven Life Plus, a suite of no- and low-cost services designed to make life less hard — including a subscription to a fitness app, a jet lag-fighting app that can help you sleep easier, and more.
Begin by getting a free online life insurance quote today.
About Chris PearsonRead more by Chris Pearson
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer-centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our editorial policy
Haven Life is a customer centric life insurance agency that’s backed and wholly owned by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual). We believe navigating decisions about life insurance, your personal finances and overall wellness can be refreshingly simple.
Our content is created for educational purposes only. Haven Life does not endorse the companies, products, services or strategies discussed here, but we hope they can make your life a little less hard if they are a fit for your situation.
Haven Life is not authorized to give tax, legal or investment advice. This material is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, or investment advice. Individuals are encouraged to seed advice from their own tax or legal counsel.
Haven Term is a Term Life Insurance Policy (DTC and ICC17DTC in certain states, including NC) issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual), Springfield, MA 01111-0001 and offered exclusively through Haven Life Insurance Agency, LLC. In NY, Haven Term is DTC-NY 1017. In CA, Haven Term is DTC-CA 042017. Haven Term Simplified is a Simplified Issue Term Life Insurance Policy (ICC19PCM-SI 0819 in certain states, including NC) issued by the C.M. Life Insurance Company, Enfield, CT 06082. Policy and rider form numbers and features may vary by state and may not be available in all states. Our Agency license number in California is OK71922 and in Arkansas 100139527.
MassMutual is rated by A.M. Best Company as A++ (Superior; Top category of 15). The rating is as of Aril 1, 2020 and is subject to change. MassMutual has received different ratings from other rating agencies.
Haven Life Plus (Plus) is the marketing name for the Plus rider, which is included as part of the Haven Term policy and offers access to additional services and benefits at no cost or at a discount. The rider is not available in every state and is subject to change at any time. Neither Haven Life nor MassMutual are responsible for the provision of the benefits and services made accessible under the Plus Rider, which are provided by third party vendors (partners). For more information about Haven Life Plus, please visit: https://havenlife.com/plus
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