Should you accept your glass-half-empty attitude? Certainly not. A positive outlook has been linked to a load of health benefits, so being more optimistic is definitely worth trying. In fact, high levels of optimism are associated with higher levels of happiness and less depression. Some studies also indicate that greater optimism is associated with a longer life.
The effects of positive thinking go beyond making people feel better. Taking an optimistic approach usually allows people to act in a better way and achieve positive results in times of adversity.
The effects of optimism on the body
Optimistic people tend to exert more efforts. They are more willing to give something new a try, or keep working towards a solution. Pessimistic people, on the other hand, tend to give up easily. Optimistic people also tend to shrug off stress, according to a 2015 study published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Consequently, this helps decrease their levels of stress hormones like cortisol.
Elevated cortisol levels can cause inflammation which is linked to all sorts of serious health issues ranging from cancer to depression. So, it’s easy to see how a positive attitude could have big-time health benefits on an individual.
What to do? Picture yourself as an optimist
Research has linked something called positive imagery with increased levels of optimism. A 2007 study published in Nature found that thinking happy thoughts, or imagining positive future outcomes, activates the part of the brain linked with positive emotion and stress-reduction. Furthermore, envisioning a happier future can help people disengage from any bad situations that are happening in the present.
This idea is backed up by research. In fact, based on their analysis of 29 studies and more than 3,330 individuals, Malouff and his colleagues found that thinking about your best positive self and then creating a plan for creating that self is the most effective way to increase your levels of optimism. This idea has also been approved by other experts.
According to a 2011 study in the Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, people who spent just five minutes a day thinking about their best possible selves increased their positivity by an average of 17%. Adding to this, they also enjoyed a significant drop in negative thoughts and outlook.
Getting started with positive imagery
So, how do you get started? Start by focusing on the far future, thinking about the best possible outcomes of your social life, your life at home and your career. Sit down and for 20 minutes write in detail about these happy outcomes – what your life would look like, what goals you would have met and how you would feel about yourself.
Then, just spend five minutes each day imagining that you’ve achieved everything you wrote down, without reading what you wrote. Just try to imagine what your life would look like if all those things came true. Do this and see your levels of optimism soar.