Can a negative attitude make you ill?

I was told last weekend that people with negative attitudes tend to get sick more and die younger. I was in a social setting, and said that I didn’t think that was true.  When pushed further, I added that it was not a factually based statement and there was nothing in the research to suggest that was a true statement. They claimed that it was, so here we are!  Maybe there is some truth to it, I clearly don’t know everything, but that seemed like a far fetched statement to me.  Honestly, I always think of older curmudgeons that seem to live forever….right??

What does the literature say?
There are some small studies that say that pessimism can affect your life negatively and affect your health negatively but it won’t kill you.  Research has shown that people that have a positive outlook on life have less stress and effective stress management techniques are associated with health benefits.  But, that doesn’t mean that you can turn the same statement negative and make it true.  So, just because thinking positively can decrease your stress level doesn’t mean that thinking negatively increases your stress level…you just might not have all of the benefits of a manageable stress level when you think more negatively. When I refer to positive thinking, it really means that you react to unexpected or more negative issues; you look towards the best possible outcome, as opposed to the worst. The research is unclear in why people have health benefits with positive thinking, but some of the benefits are:
-Increased life span
-Lower rates of depression
-Lower levels of distress
-Higher resistance to the common cold
-Reduced death from cardiovascular disease
-Better coping skills during times of high stress

What else can a positive attitude do?
The studies have also shown that people who are more positive also tend to live healthier lifestyles; they work out, eat healthier, and don’t smoke/drink in excess, or use illicit drugs.  Basically, people who tend to be more positive, have a better outlook on life, and don’t get sucked into the negative or poor behaviors associated with depressive states. You think positively, you will act positively!

How can I be more positive?
Try to surround yourself with positive people, then it will be easier to actually change your outlook.  Filter things before you say them; if it wounds negative in your head, then it is probably negative, so try to take a positive spin on it, you will see a difference in how people react to you and how to react to things.  Finding the humor in situations will always make you feel better, even if you are just making a joke to yourself! And just check yourself to make sure that you are focusing on the positive things in your life; don’t internalize things and blame yourself when things go wrong.  Sometimes things don’t go your way, it’s part of life, right? If everything was always awesome, it would be called ‘super happy terrific time’ instead of life, but it’s how you react to those things that define who you are and how you live your life.

So if you feel good and healthy, you will act good and healthy, thus you will have the benefits of an overall healthier lifestyle (such as stronger immune system due to healthier diet, less cardiovascular disease risk, etc.)  Every choice you make in life has an effect on you, whether it is positive or negative, so make the positive choice, and you will have the benefits of it.  No, being negative won’t kill you off early, but it will make life a less pleasant experience and can lead to negative behaviors that can have some bad outcomes….plus who wants to live life thinking that every day is the worst day ever?  Not me!!  Things don’t always seem like they are going your way…but think positively and they just might!

Yours in Good Health
B


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