Positive Thinking

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?

The Evidence

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 “The Power of Positive Thinking”, from Johns Hopkins University, states that “People with a family history of heart disease who also had a positive outlook were one-third less likely to have a heart attack or other cardiovascular event within five to 25 years than those with a more negative outlook.” Also “Additional studies have found that a positive attitude improves outcomes and life satisfaction across a spectrum of conditions—including traumatic brain injury, stroke and brain tumors.”

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.

A 2016 article “Could Thinking Positively About Aging be the Secret of Health?”, from the media organization NPR, reports on the work of Yale Professor Becca Levy in this field.
In one study, Levy found that the people who had a positive view of aging lived about 7 and half years longer than the people who saw aging in a negative light.
Another study showed that middle-aged people who had no cognitive impairment, but did have negative views of aging, were more likely to later develop the brain changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

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. If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about.
• Check yourself. Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.
• Be open to humor. Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
• Follow a healthy lifestyle. Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress.
• Surround yourself with positive people. Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback.
• Practice positive self-talk. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. Think about things you’re thankful for in your life.

Sources

Mayo Clinic article: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950

Johns Hopkins article: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/the-power-of-positive-thinking

Harvard article: https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/optimism-and-your-health

NPR article: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2016/05/28/479751942/could-thinking-positively-about-aging-be-the-secret-of-health?t=1583849516634

Link to my post “How Not to Die

Link to my post “Doctor You

The Power of Positive Thinking

THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING is a practical, direct-action application of spiritual techniques to overcome defeat and win confidence, success and joy. Norman Vincent Peale, the father of positive thinking and one of the most widely read inspirational writers of all time, shares his famous formula of faith and optimism which millions of people have taken as their own simple and effective philosophy of living. His gentle guidance helps to eliminate defeatist attitudes, to know the power you possess and to make the best of your life.

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