How is positive thinking good for my health?

Michael B. Finkelstein, MD
Internal Medicine
Positive thinking is good for your health. If you think of yourself as healthy or believe that you can be healthy, you are more likely to beat an illness and get well. On the flip side, if you think you're sick or you’ll never get better, you have a much higher chance of staying right where you are or getting worse.

For me, after all my years of study to diagnose and treat disease, optimal health comes down to this one simple fact: I can help you the most -- contribute to prolonging your life and improving its quality -- by helping you reframe your experience. Your blood pressure, blood sugar and weight do factor into the overall picture of your health. However, too many doctors and patients get lost in the pursuit of “ideal” numbers. They are meaningless out of the context of who you are, how you think and how you feel. In conventional medicine, we don’t talk enough about the mind  -- where you have the greatest opportunity for optimal health and where you have the most potential to make the biggest improvements.

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John Douillard, DC
Herbal Medicine
From an Ayurvedic perspective, maintaining a lifestyle with a positive attitude has a profound impact on our health.  People able to deal with stress and maintain a positive attitude have been shown to establish closer relationships and a richer appreciation for life. Positive thinking has also been shown to activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which calms and repairs our body, as opposed to negative thinking, which activates the sympathetic nervous system (our stressful fight or flight response) that can negatively affect our health. It’s been found that stress negatively impacts the health of our gut and can make it difficult for beneficial gut microbes (which support immunity and mood stability) to survive.

What’s more, sharing our emotions has been scientifically associated with greater longevity, and gratitude is directly linked with numerous subjective reports of enhanced health, including fewer physical ailments, increased rest and exercise, and better sleep quality. Writing love letters has been proven to significantly reduce total cholesterol levels.

Optimists have also been shown to have better recovery rates after heart surgeries and significant reductions in readmission rates among optimistic patients hospitalized for heart-related stays. Not only that, but laughing is a great immune system booster!  Science suggests that optimism is a powerful medicine for boosting our health and well-being.
Positive thinking -- generally approaching life, and even unpleasantness, with an upbeat, productive attitude -- can be as important to your health as getting enough sleep, eating right and being active. The health benefits of positive thinking may include:
  • increased life span
  • lower rates of depression
  • lower levels of distress
  • greater resistance to the common cold
  • better psychological and physical well-being
  • reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
  • better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
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Continue Learning about Emotional Health

Emotional Health

How well you handle stress, anger, relationships, work, family life-it all factors into your emotional health. Finding balance in life-as well as peace of mind-helps us cope with life's ups and downs. Take time to explore new ways ...

to find stress relief, and to release anxiety, and unhappiness. Counseling can help-as can a gratitude journal.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.