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A positive outlook may mean better health

Researchers are finding that a positive outlook may improve health and extend life.
Thanks to research, there is strong evidence that the brain and body are connected.  There is therefore no doubt that what happens in the brain influences what happens in the body. Studies have shown an unquestionable link between having a positive outlook and health benefits such as lower blood pressure, less heart disease, better weight control and healthier blood sugar levels.
Dr Barbara Fredrickson is a positive psychology researcher at the University of North Carolina.  She published a landmark paper that provides astounding insights about positive thinking and its impact on your life, your work and your health. Her work is among the most referenced and cited in her field.

Her foundational research led to her to develop a theory on positive emotions called Broaden and Build Theory. This theory lies in the notion that positive emotions play an essential role in your survival. Positive emotions, such as love, joy, and gratitude, promote new and creative actions, ideas, and social bonds. Dr Fredrickson goes on to say that when people experience positive emotions, their minds can broaden and they open up to new possibilities and ideas. At the same time, positive emotions help people build their personal well-being resources, ranging from physical resources, to intellectual resources, and social resources (Fredrickson 2009).

The health benefits of positive thinking

Researchers are continuing to explore the effects of positive thinking on health. Some health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
  • Increased life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower levels of distress
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Better psychological and physical well-being
  • Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
It's unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. However, one theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.
It's also thought that positive people tend to live healthier lifestyles:
  • They get more physical activity,
  • follow a healthier diet, and
  • don't smoke or drink alcohol in excess.

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