Positive thinking is often linked with good
health outcomes, with an optimistic outlook known to improve stress management, enhance mental health, limit memory decline, and even reduce heart disease. While thinking of unicorns and rainbows probably won't cure all your ills, there is definitive scientific evidence highlighting the power of positive thought. While the exact mechanisms behind this phenomenon remain unknown, an optimistic outlook seems to influence the mind-body connection and reduce the harmful effects of stress on the body.
The type of positive thinking associated
with everyday optimism is a key element of effective stress management, strong
mental health, and reliable memory formation and retrieval. According to a new
study published in the Association for Psychological Science, people who feel
enthusiastic and cheerful more often are less likely to experience memory
decline as they age. Psychologists call this the 'positive affect', and
amazingly, it could impact your ability to retain information throughout your
In the study, a team of researchers
analysed data from middle-aged and older adults at three separate time periods.
In each assessment, participants reported on a range of positive emotions, with
tests of memory performance also completed during the final stage. According to
Claudia Haase, an associate professor at Northwestern University and senior
author of the paper, "Our findings showed that memory declined with age...
However, individuals with higher levels of positive affect had a less steep
memory decline over the course of almost a decade."
A number of other studies have linked
positive thought with good health outcomes, including a study from Johns Hopkins
and another study from the University of Kansas. According to findings from
Johns Hopkins expert Lisa R. Yanek, M.P.H., positive thinking can have a
profound effect on the health of our hearts. In the study, people with a family
history of heart disease who had a positive outlook were one-third less likely
to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event compared to those with a
negative outlook. In the other study by the University of Kansas, smiling was
found to reduce heart rate and blood pressure during stressful situations, and
surprisingly, even fake smiling was found to be beneficial.
While thinking positively comes easier to
some people than others, there are many ways to learn positive thinking skills
and improve health outcomes. Mindfulness is an important skill on the road
towards positivity, with people needing to identify negative thoughts before
they can reduce them. Filtering negative thoughts can be a great life skill, as
can the recognition and avoidance of catastrophising and polarising thoughts.
Sometimes, optimism comes simply by focusing on positive things and giving
yourself permission to feel good about everyday events. Following a healthy
lifestyle can also have a profound effect on positivity, so eat well, exercise
regularly, and get the rest you need to relax and approach life with clarity