Plus, how to practice positivity so you can reap the total-body benefits.
A diet filled with fruits, veggies, and whole grains and a regular exercise routine are two pillars to living a healthy life, but there’s another tool you should utilize to optimize your well-being — the power of a positive mindset. There are numerous health benefits linked to positive thinking, including an increased lifespan, lower rates of depression, and better cardiovascular health.
But, how can you become more optimistic in your everyday life? If it sounds like you’ll have to meditate for hours to achieve this, you don’t. Here’s how to tap into a more positive mindset and why it’s an easy, natural way to improve your health.
The idea of a positive mindset is a little complex when you try to unpack it, but to practice it requires very little action on your part. A positive mindset is simply the cognitive approach you take in situations — choosing to believe the best outcome instead of the worst.
Much of a positive mindset starts with the inner dialogue you have with yourself. Making it a point not to criticize or take part in negative self-talk can help rewire your brain to have a positive mindset in external situations, too.
In addition to mental health benefits, having a positive mindset can impact physical health and well-being. Research published in Psychological Science found that optimism (the belief that only good things will happen) and the immune system are directly linked. The study looked at 124 first-year law students who completed a questionnaire on their expectations of law school. Those who had a more positive mindset in their predictions had higher cell-mediated immunity — an immune response that doesn’t rely on the production of antibodies.
Further research published in Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health found that a positive mindset influences mental and physical well-being in a number of ways: Optimists are better at coping with life events and situations, and tend to adopt healthy behaviors that can lead to a better quality of life.
The idea of believing only good things will happen sounds great in theory but may be difficult to practice at first.
Here are some mental hacks to start to reshape your outlook:
Focus on the small things. Dealing with major negative life events can hamper a positive mindset, but you don’t need to completely ignore hardships to preserve optimism. Instead, acknowledge what you’re going through and find the small wins — reconnecting with friends and family members you may have lost touch with at a funeral. Or, relishing in a few extra Netflix binge sessions while you recover from an illness that may have made you miss an event you were looking forward to.
Surround yourself with positive people. You are the company you keep, and it’s easier to practice a positive mindset when those around you are doing the same. Take stock of who you spend your time with and how you interact with them to protect your well-being.
Find something to laugh about. The art of humor has loads of health benefits itself. Laughter can help your stress response, ease pain, and strengthen your immune system. When a situation doesn’t pan out as you were hoping it would, try to find something funny (related to the situation or not) that will give you a quick mood boost and steer you back toward a positive mindset.
To help develop a positive mindset, download FitGurlMel’s app to access her “Mindfulness Manifesto,” full of tips for positive self-talk, confidence, and self-love.
By making an effort to practice these small steps daily, you’ll find that your mental attitude will begin to shift to a permanently positive mindset.
About the author
Colleen Travers is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in health, nutrition, diet, fitness, and wellness trends for various publications and brands. Her work has appeared in Reader's Digest, SHAPE, Fit Pregnancy, Food Network, and more.