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5 ways positive thinking improves your health

5 ways positive thinking improves your health

& 5 ways to be more optimistic

It’s the time of year for pumpkin spice, get-togethers, and reflecting on what we’re thankful for in our lives. But being grateful doesn’t have to be limited to a specific date. Going beyond the season to express gratitude every day not only benefits your physical health but makes you a happier person.

Because gratitude helps you celebrate what’s good in your life in the present moment, it helps create the habit of positive thinking. And positive thinking benefits you in many ways. Here are five ways choosing optimism – even if you consider yourself a pessimist – improves both your overall physical and mental health:

1. Makes you more stress-resistant.
Identifying the positives in an unpleasant or stressful situation or approaching it from a problem-solving perspective makes you less likely to release ‘fight-or-flight’ hormones and a physical stress response that, when chronic, can damage your health.

2. Improves your heart and cardiovascular system.
People who think more optimistically in stressful situations have a lower risk of heart attack and stroke by 38%, even if they have a family history of heart disease. A positive outlook even benefits people who already have cardiovascular disease.1

3. Wards off depression.
Optimistic thinking makes you more resilient and bounce back without becoming overwhelmed, depressed, or discouraged by adverse events.

4. Strengthens your immune system.
Studies show that people who consider themselves optimists are physically healthier, with greater resistance to colds and other illnesses. Not only do they get sick less often, but they also get better faster.2

5. Lengthens your life span.
People who describe themselves as optimistic have a significantly lower chance of dying from major causes, including cancer, heart disease, and infections, than people who tend to think in more pessimistic terms.3 In fact, people who think positively have a life span that is 11% to 15% longer than average.4

Positive thinking is less about approaching life with ‘rose-colored glasses’ and more about employing healthier coping strategies. Thankfully, there are simple ways to help you think with gratitude and positivity.

And if it doesn’t come naturally to you? That’s okay. It’s a habit that can be learned. Although it may seem difficult to embrace positive thinking and gratitude if you’re experiencing something difficult, even small steps can help shift your perspective to cope better with any situation. Here are five ways to put positive thinking into practice:

1. Keep a gratitude journal.
Each day, make a simple list of just three things you’re grateful for – regardless of how big or how small. Journaling helps you stop, appreciate, and participate in the positive aspects of life.

2. Make time for play and laughter.
Finding humor in situations and opportunities to laugh and play can improve your emotional and physical health, reduce stress, and make your relationships stronger.

3. Take care of your health.
Having any illness, pain, or physical complaint can make you feel down or more negative. Get care when you have symptoms, so negativity doesn’t take hold.

4. Volunteer.
Giving back, or volunteering, not only helps others but helps you feel better about yourself. That alone can increase your confidence and help you feel more positive about life and the future.

5. Spend time with other positive people.
Positivity, just like negativity, can be ‘contagious.’ Spending time with others who are happier and more life-affirming can help you appreciate successes and humor, as well as cope with stress more effectively.5

Even trying one or two of these strategies can help you reframe your thoughts and shift from an overall negative mindset to a more optimistic one. Thinking about and expressing what you are genuinely grateful for year-round is key, since you can’t feel gratitude and negativity simultaneously.

Because this time of year can also bring extra stress and seasonal illnesses like allergies, cold, and flu, it can contribute to negative thinking. If you are feeling sick, get the care you need to feel better faster. MDLIVE can help with over 80 common conditions. See what MDLIVE cares for here.

And if you are feeling symptoms of anxiety, depression, seasonal affective disorder, or stress, MDLIVE licensed therapists provide talk therapy and coping strategies while our board-certified psychiatrists can help manage mental health issues with medication. See how a therapy visits works here.

Bryan Gutierrez