Let’s Celebrate Good Luck and Good Health
As part of the “American Melting Pot”, we are fortunate to celebrate holidays, festivities, and other events of significance from the many cultures that have merged to form our wonderful society. St. Patrick’s Day is one such event and among America’s favorites to celebrate. So this seems like a fitting time to see if all those shamrocks and the “luck o’ the Irish” might have something to do with good health.
If You Believe You’re Lucky…
Some people simply believe they’re lucky; that good events are more likely to happen to them on a regular basis, and that bad events are uncommon and not as likely to happen again. Another way to describe these people is optimistic. Interestingly, there are a number of studies that indicate that these people are often healthier than those with a less positive mindset. So, while it’s not exactly reasonable to say that good health is the result of being lucky, it appears to have something to do with feeling lucky.
Maintaining an Optimistic Outlook
If we shift the discussion slightly, to the topic of being optimistic versus pessimistic, then we begin to see strong correlations between mindset and health. And the evidence points to those with optimistic outlooks as tending to enjoy better health. The following are a number of benefits pulled from various studies that underscore the potential benefits of being an optimist:
- Longer life
- Improved immune system
- Healthier cholesterol levels
- Lower risk of heart failure
- Greater resiliency under stress
- Reduced chance of stroke
Characteristics of the Optimist
Along with a demonstrated correlation between optimism and superior health, there are some characteristics that researchers believe contribute to this relationship:
- Optimists tend to know more about their own health and what contributes to a healthy lifestyle. This includes understanding common health risks and how to avoid them.
- Not surprisingly, then, optimists also tend to engage in healthier behaviors, such as exercising more, eating better, getting more sleep, avoiding smoking, and limiting their consumption of alcohol.
- Optimists are generally better at coping with stress or trauma, finding ways to confront the source of the issue and taking a pragmatic approach to resolving with it. They view it as a problem to be solved, when possible. If they can’t resolve it, they try to manage what they can’t prevent.
- Larger social networks are also common among optimists. And not only do they often have larger networks, the relationships with those people tend to be stronger, with fewer disagreements or negative interactions.
How to Become an Optimist
At this juncture, it’s easy to fall back on the concept of luck and simply resign ourselves to being either an optimist or a pessimist, essentially accepting that “we are what we are” and either rejoicing or wishing it were otherwise. But the reality is that, to a large degree, “we are what we think”, and we tend to have more control over our thoughts than we assume. So, if you feel you’re a pessimist by nature, the good news is that you can reverse that mindset. That being said, changing a pattern of negative thoughts is not easy; it requires effort. And everyone’s road to optimism may be somewhat different. The following are some things to consider if a long, healthy life is an appealing concept to you.
- Identify your negativity — The first step is acknowledging that you have some negativity. Everybody does. But there’s value in consciously identifying those times when you know you are being negative about a particular topic or situation.
- Silence the negative — Soon you’ll be able to identify your negative thoughts in time to prevent sharing them. If you’re able to refrain from actually verbalizing that negativity, congratulate yourself because you just did something positive.
- See the positive — When you’re feeling negative, sometimes a dose of positivity can almost be annoying; we don’t want to “see the bright side”. At that point, stop yourself and commit to at least trying to see what might be positive in the present moment. If it helps, imagine what a positive friend might say in the same circumstances.
- Defend the positive — On occasion, pit your negative thought against the opposing positive perspective and find reasons to support the positive. It’s easy to justify negative thoughts, so challenge yourself to at least acknowledge that there are two ways to perceive most situations.
- Associate with the positive — In this case, we’re talking about positive people. Optimism is, fortunately, contagious, so surround yourself with it. When you’re around a negative person, recognize that it’s not a healthy way to be and see if you can consciously steer the conversation toward the positive.
- Extend the positive — The act of providing positive feedback to others often results in a rebound effect, where you feel a bit more positive about yourself for having done something nice. If necessary, set a goal of extending a positive comment to other people a certain number of times each day.
- Accept the positive — As importantly, allow others to say positive things to you without deflecting the good energy. It’s OK to have someone be nice to you.
- Practice the positive — It’s worth repeating: becoming an optimist may take some effort. Keep practicing. It’s free and it’s good for you.
CiminoCare wishes you the best of luck and support on your path to a happier, healthier future.