Back in 1953, Norman Vincent Peale published his best-selling book “The Power of Positive Thinking”. In it, among other benefits of following his advice:
“You can attain a degree of health not hitherto known by you.”
But is there real evidence that positive thinking can prevent disease and ailments?
In the book “Doctor You”, Oxford Professor Jeremy Howick explains the power of the body to self-heal, and the factors that make this more likely, and a positive attitude and self-image are such factors.
An example of his researches is the finding that positive thoughts can influence physical outcomes such as the speed of hand movement in Parkinson’s patients.
In “How Not to Die”, Doctor Greger says that there is growing evidence that positive psychological wellbeing is associated with reduced risk of physical illness.
One example of a study was carried out at Carnegie Mellon University. They took a large number of volunteers, classified them as happy/relaxed or as anxious/depressed, and then tried to infect them with the common cold virus. One in three of the negative people became infected, but only one in five of the positive people caught a cold.
An article “Positive thinking: Stop negative self-talk to reduce stress” from the Mayo Clinic summarizes the health benefits that positive thinking may provide:
• 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
A 2008 article from the Harvard Medical School “Optimism and Your Health” states that optimism helps people cope with disease and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.
The article reports on several studies, including:
A U.S. study looked at 6,959 students in the mid-1960s. During the next 40 years, 476 of the people died from a variety of causes, with cancer being the most common. All in all, pessimism took a substantial toll; the most pessimistic individuals had a 42% higher rate of death than the most optimistic.
So, there’s not much doubt that if you’re in your sixties or later, and you (or your friends) don’t view you as a positive thinker, then now is the time to take action, and change your mindset.
So how to become more positive?
There are books galore on thinking positively, but the advice in the Mayo Clinic article is a good start. In summary:
You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:
• Identify areas to change.
• Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking.
• Be open to humour.
• Follow a healthy lifestyle.
• Surround yourself with positive people.
• Practice positive self-talk.
Link to my post “How Not to Die”
Link to my post “Doctor You”