Can positive thinking improve your health?

You can’t cure cancer, lose weight, or lower your cholesterol just by thinking about it.

So skip the slick infomercials, supplement aisle, and social media ads for miracle cures and magical weight-loss products.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way. Let’s take a closer look at the power of positive thinking and your health. Because it’s not all just in your head or woo-woo science.

Positive or negative: A crash-and-burn lesson about the way you think

Olympic skier Jackie Wiles topped 80 miles per hour on a downhill course in a World Cup Race. She hit turn after turn perfectly using her skis, poles, and body.

A week later, she was racing against the best downhill skiers in the world. And then something happened.

At the peak of her career as a world-class athlete, Wiles lost her balance. She spun out of control and veered off course.

When race officials reached her on the snow-covered slope, she couldn’t walk. The impact tore ligaments, broke two bones in her leg, and caused other injuries.

Even before surgery, Wiles knew she had a choice. Give up, quit skiing, and do something else. Or focus on getting better and stronger to ski like a pro again.

What would you do? Dwell on the negative or focus on the positive?

9 Health Benefits of Positive Thinking

After the ski slope crash, Jackie was taken away on a stretcher. She needed surgery to repair torn ligaments, broken bones, and damage to her knee. Then came physical therapy. Every step of the way to recovery, she’s focusing on the positive.

“Scars tell stories and show what I’ve been through and the strength from within,” says Jackie. “I’m going to come out stronger from this.”

And she did. She recently competed in the 2022 Winter Olympics in the Women’s Alpine Skiing Downhill event.

It’s good to focus on the positive or look on the bright side, even when things go wrong. It can improve your health and quality of life in many ways. Research shows that cultivating an optimistic outlook can help:

    1. Lower the risk for heart disease
    2. Improve longevity and quality of life
    3. Bounce back from negative events faster
    4. Improve well-being and quality of life
    5. Support and protect the immune system
    6. Reduce blood pressure
    7. Support healthy relationships
    8. Protect brain function and memory as you age
    9. Reduce worry, stress, anxiety, and depression

The Optimistic Outlook: 8 Ways to Think Positive

Are you already an optimistic person? Keep up the good work. But what if you tend to focus on the negative, or catch yourself thinking the worst? Practice positive thinking.

Here are 8 ways to develop a positive mindset:

1. Start your day with positive thoughts. When you wake up, do you start worrying about everything on your to-do list and what could go wrong? Stop. Start your day with a positive thought like: “Today is going to be a great day.”

2. Be grateful. It’s another way of saying, “look for the positive.” For example, when you’re stuck in traffic, be grateful for extra time to listen to your favorite song or podcast.

3. Keep a gratitude journal. Take a few minutes each day to write down a few things you’re grateful for. Even little things matter, like clean air, a beautiful sunset, or all green lights on your way to work.

4. Laugh more. It’s a great way to boost your mood, feel happier, and be more positive. Read or listen to funny jokes. Watch a comedy. And look for humor, even in difficult situations. When you laugh, endorphins are released in the brain that help improve your mood.

5. Make time for exercise. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes a day. Break it up into smaller chunks of time if that fits your schedule better. Go for a walk. Ride a bike. Hit the gym. Take a fitness class. You’ll feel better, think better, and be more positive.

6. Learn from failure. When something doesn’t turn out the way you expected, it’s easy to focus on what went wrong. Change the way you think about failure. Turn it into a learning opportunity. Inventor Thomas Edison said: “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.”

7. Stop, think, choose. Pay attention to what you say and think. When you catch yourself making a negative statement or comment, Stop. Think about what you’re saying. And Choose to reframe it with a positive statement.

Here’s an example:

    • Stop: I’ll never be able to eat a healthy diet.
    • Think: That’s not true. I just ate a cookie, but I eat healthy foods, too.
    • Choose: I’m working on eating a healthier diet. I’ll make better choices next time.

8. Surround yourself with positive people. You may not be able to avoid Debbie Downer or Bob Bummer if they’re your co-workers or part of your family. But you can surround yourself with positive people. Being around people with a positive outlook will help you learn to think this way, and avoid dwelling on the negative.

Positive thinking won’t solve all your problems or turn your life into a magical fairy tale. But it can improve your physical and mental health, help you live longer, and feel happier.

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