The way we look at life can improve our bodies’ ability function. While it is fairly well-documented that prolonged stress resulting can increase a person’s risk of stroke, heart disease and type 2 diabetes, the benefits of positivity are less apparent.
Anger and anxiety increase inflammation, which can cause chronic aches and pains. This type of stress and the inflammatory response have been shown to disrupt the heart’s “electrical stability” and even induce atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque buildup stiffens the arteries.
By focusing on maintaining emotional balance, we can lessen the impact of stress and lower our risk for coronary heart disease. Research has even shown that optimism can decrease risk of coronary heart disease by nearly 50 percent.
In one study, a group of seven-year-olds were evaluated for their ability to stay on task. They were also asked to self-report their level of happiness. Thirty years later, the children who were both focused and happy were free of disease.
According to the study’s leader Laura Kubzansky, this research suggests that emotions can definitely improve our level of physical health. Kubzanksy is an associate professor of society, human development, and health at the Harvard School of Public Health.
By focusing on being positive, we can actively improve our psychological state. Physiologically, feelings of happiness decrease inflammation, lower heart rate and may even reduce levels of plasma fibrinogen, a substance whose presence commonly indicates risk of heart attack.
Laughter also presents significant health benefits. Frequent laughter improves the ability of veins and arteries to widen as necessary to increase healthy blood flow.
Though people have shown the capability to be happy even when living in a poor state of health, the benefits of positivity, optimism and happiness are beginning to show. Ultimately, more research is required, but the relationship seems to be a two-way street. As our health improves, so does our outlook on life. Conversely, the happier we are, the healthier we seem to be.
According to Kubzansky, mindset reflects both sides of the nature versus nurture debate. As a result, optimism and positivity can be learned at any point throughout life.