The more scientists look, the closer they see the link between how we feel mentally and how we feel physically. This so-called mind-body connection raises a fascinating question: Are happier people also healthier people?
The answer is complicated and far from certain. But according to health experts, optimism and a positive mental attitude may provide such health benefits as:
- less stress
- greater resistance to infections, such as colds
- reduced risk for high blood pressure and heart disease
- easier breathing for people with chronic obstructive lung disease, such as emphysema
- a sense of well-being
- less chance for being rehospitalized for a heart condition
- a longer life
That’s right—a longer life. Those who see the glass half full may be around to do so longer than those who see it half empty.Laugh a little, gain a lot
One reason a positive attitude helps your health may be the effect of stress reduction. Stress takes a heavy toll on your health. It’s been linked to heart disease, dementia, suppressed immune systems and more. Anything that helps relieve stress also helps longevity.
Take something as simple as laughter. The Mayo Foundation reports that a good chuckle actually causes physical changes in your body that stimulate your heart, lungs and muscles; ease digestion; promote circulation; relieve pain—and maybe even fight disease. In one study, people with cancer who watched a funny video showed an increase in cell activity that helps fend off diseases such as cancer. Other studies have found that older Americans with a positive and hopeful outlook performed better on memory tests and were less likely to become frail.
We can all benefit from occasional attitude adjustments. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen with practice. When negative thoughts pop into your head, step back and turn them into positive ones. You’ll lower your stress level, raise your health quotient and maybe add years to your life.