7 evidence-based ways attitude heals or kills you

Are you a ‘glass half-full’ kind of person? If you are, you’ll receive major rewards down the line. In fact, you’ll probably live a longer, healthier life than people on the pessimistic side. You know why? Because the mere act of looking on the bright side of life has a profoundly positive effect on your body…

  1. It keeps your blood pressure healthy. A study conducted by researchers in Finland found that over a four-year period, men with a pessimistic disposition were three times more likely to develop hypertension than their positive peers.
  2. It protects you from heart disease. Scientists from Harvard and Boston University analyzed the personality style of 1,306 men and then tracked the health of these men over a 10 year period. And after 10 years, the optimistic men were a lot healthier than the pessimistic men. In fact, pessimistic men were twice as likely to develop heart disease.
  3. It wards off infections. Maintaining a positive attitude has an extremely positive influence on your immune system. In a 2006 study, researchers examined the personality style of 193 volunteers and then exposed them to a common respiratory virus. And guess what? The people with a positive personality style were less likely to develop symptoms of the virus than their negative peers.
  4. It protects your mind from post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine studied 750 Vietnam War veterans who had been held prisoner for six to eight years. Despite being tortured and kept in solitary confinement, these prisoners were less likely than other war veterans to develop PTSD. Why? Because they had a few personality traits that set them apart, the most important of which was optimism.
  5. It balances your blood sugar. A 2015 study conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois found that optimists had significantly healthier blood sugar levels than pessimists.
  6. It lowers your body mass index. The same 2015 University of Illinois study also found that people with positive outlooks had a lower body mass index than people with a gloomier view of life.
  7. It improves your recovery time. Whether you’re recovering from a minor surgery, a heart attack or cancer, optimism has been shown to help you heal quicker and better. A 2015 study found that optimistic people were less likely to be readmitted to the hospital after a heart attack—they recovered quicker and more fully than pessimistic people.

With all these life-saving health benefits, it’s no wonder that having an optimistic outlook has also been shown to help you live longer. A recent study from the University of Oxford found that optimism decreases your risk of dying. In fact, optimists had an 18 percent lower risk of dying from any cause over a four-year period.

These health benefits sound great. But the question is… how can you teach yourself to be more optimistic? Well, there are few simple techniques you can try:

  • Look for the good in every experience (even the ones that seem really bad)
  • Surround yourself with positive people. Optimism can be contagious.
  • Keep a gratitude journal where you write down all of the positive things in your life daily.
  • Stay present. Avoid dwelling on the past, or worrying about the future.
  • Focus on the things you can change for the better in your life and be proactive about changing them. Learn to accept the things you can’t change.
  • Adopt a healing mantra—which can just be a positive phrase—and make reciting it a habit.
  • Live in gratitude—try these five proven gratitude practices.
  1. “Optimism and your health.” Harvard Health Publications. http://www.health.harvard.edu. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  2. “Being positive linked to lower chance of dying, study says.” Medical Xpress. http://medicalxpress.com. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  3. “The Benefits of Optimism Are Real.” The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  4. “Optimistic people have healthier hearts, study finds.” University of Illinois. https://news.illinois.edu. Retrieved October 1, 2016.
  5. “Optimism and Recovery After Acute Coronary Syndrome: A Clinical Cohort Study.” Psychosomatic Medicine. 2015 Apr; 77(3): 311–318.


Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.