We have all heard that we should stay positive. Sometimes that can seem naive or irresponsible, especially when we really feel like things aren’t going well. Positive thinking is not taking a Pollyanna mentality. It is normal to be aware of the negative things in life. The key is to keep yourself from becoming overstressed and dwelling on the negative.
Some stress is normal and healthy, but sometimes unhealthy stress comes from sweating the little things or worrying about things that we do not control. Stress from these sources is unproductive, and that’s the kind of stress that you should try to do away with through positive thinking.
Effect on Weight and Blood Pressure
Studies have shown that chronic low-level stress correlates with physical issues including unhealthy blood-pressure levels and excessive weight. In some cases, this stress is largely caused by dissatisfaction with one’s job. This is exactly the kind of stress that positive thinking can help you overcome. Positive thinking, including positive reflection on performance or events, can reduce workplace stress.
If stress causes problems with your physical health and positive thinking reduces stress, it makes sense to draw the conclusion that positive thinking can have positive impacts on your physical wellbeing.
One of the proposed reasons that positive thinking and stress reduction are linked to lower weight is that the body produces hormones during times of stress that may lead to adverse health effects at high levels over time.
Can Positive Thinking Boost Immune Health?
A 2008 study published by the National Institute of Health similarly stated that stress hormones can negatively impact the immune system. The study further suggested that by limiting stress we can bolster the immune system in order to combat illnesses. The article specifically discussed the role of stress reduction in combatting breast cancer in women.
Yet, an article published in the annals of Behavioral Medicine (2010) says that this “tyranny of positive thinking” can be misleading and irresponsible. According to the article there just isn’t enough research out there to say that optimism can cure cancer or bolster the immune system like some have suggested.
Learn Healthier Behaviors
Many of these perceived benefits of positive thinking can come from the ways in which people try to think positively or from some result of thinking positively. It may be that we make better choices when we are in a good mood. That is, we do not “stress eat”. Maybe when we are in a good mood from using positive thinking, we spend more time doing things we enjoy thus we may indirectly improve our immune system.
Whether health benefits really just come from positive thinking or whether they are part of a more complicated cascade, they are certainly linked somehow.
Manage Depression (with professional help)
There is also much debate regarding to what extent positive thinking can be used to treat disorders like depression. One take is that actively engaging in positive thinking could be used to combat depression, while the opposing line of thinking is that people who are depressed are necessarily outside of the influence of positive thinking. If you have or think you might have depression, talk to your doctor about what resources may be available to you.
Studies have shown that cognitive behavioral therapy can increase positive thinking and decrease negative thinking in patients with depression.
While positive thinking is likely not enough to combat depression on its own, positive thinking can be learned by people with emotional disorders and may be one additional tool to battle depression.