To Be or Not to Be Happy – That Is the Question

To Be or Not to Be Happy – That Is the Question

Happiness may be the goal; but a positive outlook is how you get there. Being positive isn’t pretending everything is OK, but having a genuine upbeat attitude. So, how do you maintain a positive outlook? According to research from Psychologist, Michael F. Scheier, and his colleague, Charles S. Carver, who published a study in Health Psychology entitled, “Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies, optimists are problem-solvers. While pessimists may have the same number of problems, optimists actively solve more. They choose to use positive self-talk like, “I can follow a healthy eating plan” or “I am willing to face my fears about being overweight because I have faced other fears before and been successful.”

In a 2014 study reported in the Journal of Clinical Trials from the University of San Francisco, researchers looked at how positive affect assisted those with chronic health conditions like HIV. What they found is that even during periods of heightened stress, frequent positive emotions like contentment, gratitude, and ease can occur. Similarly, in another study entitled, Positive Affect as a Source of Resilience for Women in Chronic Pain, a sampling of 124 women were studied. It was reported that when these women experienced positive thoughts and feelings, their overall pain was reduced. So, although pain is very real, how you talk to yourself can influence the intensity of the physical manifestation.

How is positive outlook achieved? If a friend or loved one was going through a health crisis and needed support, what would you say to this person? These same words of positive support can be spoken to ourselves to achieve benefits like reduced stress. In an article by Jane Brody entitled, “A Positive Outlook May Be Good for Your Health,” published in the New York Times, the brain likes positive thoughts and these can counteract depression and strengthen the immune system. In Entrepreneur Magazine, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage,  is quoted as saying, “Your brain is three times more creative when in a positive state.” Neurochemicals like dopamine are released when the brain is upbeat. On the flip side, worry and anxiety can increase heart rate and cause blood pressure to rise, which in turn leads to fearful thoughts. So, using positive self-talk will get you closer to your health goals while avoiding additional ones. In the lyrics of a popular song by Bobby McFerrin, “Don’t worry, be happy.” If you can work at incorporating a positive outlook into your daily life, the results may surprise you.

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