For years, the mindfulness field has advocated the wellness benefits of embracing a positive mindset. From feeling gratitude for most things to generally being able to live a happier life, positivity has long been espoused to improve overall well-being. And while few can doubt the advantages of having a positive outlook, many in the medical community have given the theory a closer look.
For example, Lisa R. Yanek, M.P.H., and her colleagues discovered that optimistic individuals whose families have a history of heart disease have 33% less chances of suffering from cardiovascular issues than those with a negative perspective. Similarly, Suzanne C. Segerstrom, PhD, found that first-year law students who were optimistic they would do well have better functioning immune cells than their worried counterparts by the middle of the semester.
This article looks into this theory and discusses the benefits a positive mindset has on recovering patients.
Positive Mindset Gives People Control
Positive people have a knack for focusing on what they can control. And often, what people can control is how they react to situations. Training the mindset on attention and energy will not give them the ability to control life’s circumstances, but it allows them to see the blessings and lessons in everything.
For example, a positive mindset during recovery can be manifested by viewing the condition as a gift; this teaches patients to appreciate each moment and value every day. This mindset can push them to pursue passions and projects they’ve long set aside. When patients focus on something other than healing and recovery, there’s no stress; they’re allowing the body to heal itself.
Positive Mindset Can Drive Placebo Responses
The medical industry has a friendly relationship with the placebo effect, often using it to test medications and treatments. And while the concept remains a mystery to most, according to Stanford Assistant Professor of Psychology Alia Crum, PhD, the placebo effect results from three components working together: the body’s natural ability to heal, the patient’s mindset, and the social context.
On top of that, neurobiological research shows that a person’s mindset or expectation of healing can help trigger areas of the brain associated with anxiety and pain, activating physiological effects that impact recovery.
Positive Mindset Reduces Stress And Its Negative Effects
Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that while the connection between health and positivity remains shrouded, researchers suggest that a positive outlook can protect from the inflammatory damage of stress. Studies also find that negative emotions weaken the immune response. Conversely, positive attitudes in patients improve outcomes and life satisfaction in conditions such as brain trauma, brain tumors, and stroke.
Positive Mindset Increases Mindful Awareness
When people have a positive outlook on life, it’s akin to seeing the world in high definition. More importantly, they increase their self-awareness, which allows them to look within. This mindful awareness also helps patients focus on what’s good for them.
For example, being more aware of their body’s needs pushes people to exercise daily. This, in turn, gives their body endorphins, dopamine, and other chemicals that make them feel good while creating a cycle of positive habits.
Tips For Cultivating A More Positive Mindset
While it’s more natural for others to maintain a positive mindset, there are practices that can help people lean more toward positivity, thereby reducing negative emotions and stress.
- Meditate: People who meditate swear by its benefits, including having easy access to calm and balance, increased focus, and mindful awareness. There are plenty of apps people can use to help them get started. Remember, it takes ongoing practice to reap meditation’s benefits.
- Breathe and smile: In yoga, instructors tell students to breathe and smile when a particular pose gets too challenging. This practice also applies to life. The next time people face a stressful situation, they should pause, take a few deep breaths, and smile. They’ll feel its relaxing effects instantly.
- Practice reframing: This means people should look at a situation from a vantage point other than their own. For example, if someone cuts them off in traffic, instead of immediately resorting to anger, they should think of what may be happening to that person. They may be in an emergency, are tired from a long drive, or are simply having a bad day.
When practiced regularly, these simple exercises can contribute to a more compassionate and, ultimately, more positive outlook in life.
The scientific community has continually worked on developing studies to help quantify the physical effects and subjective experiences patients derive from positive mindsets. But while concrete, quantifiable truths remain elusive, there’s plenty of evidence pointing to its benefits than the alternative. Indeed, people would find it nearly impossible to come across someone with a positive mindset suggesting they should’ve taken a different approach.