Healthy Living

Looking up: Optimism boosts your health and career

Yes, we’re positive: It’s national Optimism Month.

Now, we’re not talking about walking around with a goofy grin on your face or spouting Pollyanna-ish sayings all day. Optimism is about looking for the positive in situations — you know, that glass-half-full thing.

There are plenty of good reasons to focus on the bright spots:

  • Better health. Optimists tend to have healthier hearts, making them less prone to attacks and strokes. Research shows being optimistic about a stressful situation can raise your immune response, increasing your ability to fight infection and disease. And patients who stay positive often bounce back from illness and injury faster than those who are less hopeful.
  • Higher achievement. Researcher Martin Seligman found athletes and teams that are more optimistic perform better than pessimistic ones — and were less likely to perform poorly in the future. Findings like these have led some companies to seek out optimists as job candidates.
  • Longer life. This makes sense if optimism and good health go hand-in-hand. Research shows links between optimism and lower incidence of early death from heart disease, cancer, infection and other diseases.

Ready to move over to the sunny side of the street? Here are some ways to cultivate a more optimistic mindset:

  • Examine your habitual thought patterns. Do you often describe things with words like “always” and “never,” jump to conclusions or pay more attention to complaints than compliments? These are all signs of negative thinking. Techniques such as cognitive restructuring can help you become more optimistic by consciously challenging negative thinking and replacing it with more optimistic thought patterns.
  • Develop optimism-enhancing habits. Try keeping a gratitude journal (Oprah does), a coincidence journal or a vision board.
  • Look at your past with more optimistic eyes. Relive fond memories and share them with family and friends. If you’re holding onto an old hurt, consider forgiveness tips to let go and move on.
  • Laugh at yourself. The ability to see the humor in a situation can go a long way toward dissolving stress, disappointment or embarrassment. Add more laughter to your life with a funny page-a-day calendar or watching silly movies.

 

 

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