The scientific evidence has been steadily accumulating: negative emotions like anger, fear, and sadness as well as the repeated activation of the stress response can have a negative effect on the immune system and may also put you at higher risk for a range of diseases.
“…a number of studies show that optimists are in general both psychologically and physiologically healthier.”
Traditional Chinese Medicine also suggests that laughter, pleasure, optimism, and boosting your spirits in other enjoyable ways can have a positive knock-on effect for your immune system and general well being. The “radiant circuits” – the meridian systems interconnected with the immune system – are thought to be highly responsive to your thoughts, images, and beliefs. Shifting your mind set can sometimes have an instantaneous effect.
Great Leaders and Thinkers Say Yes to Optimism
Both spiritual and conventional wisdom seem to agree that optimism is good for your health:
“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22
“If you believe that feeling bad or worrying long enough will change a past or future event, then you are residing on another planet with a different reality system.” – William James
“There is nothing that wastes the body like worry, and one who has any faith in God should be ashamed to worry about anything whatsoever.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” – Ovid
“When I look back on all the worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which never happened.” – Winston Churchill
Enjoy the Medicine of Positivity
Use any of these 7 simple methods to funnel the medicine of positivity into your own body, mind, and spirit. As you heal your own heart and mind, you will naturally exude kindness, compassion, and positivity and thus become a healing influence for others.
You can start with tiny doses: just one minute at a time, repeated several times a day. Morning, as soon as you wake up, is a potent time to “take your medicine” and set the tone for the day. For example, start the day with a smile.
- Smile ~ Smile for no reason! Studies have shown that smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin, substances that make you feel good. Smiling may also increase immune function, extend your longevity, and reduce your blood pressure.
- Joy ~ Recall a time when you felt happy. Bring that sense of happiness into the present moment and let it permeate your body and being. Or, remember a person that makes you happy and let the memory spark your heart with joy.
- Forgiveness ~ Imagine completely forgiving yourself or another and immerse your entire body, mind, and spirit in that feeling. Radiate forgiveness throughout your body.
- Gratitude ~ Tune into different parts of your body - your legs, your hands, your brain, your organs, and so on – and feel grateful. Send feelings of gratitude to each one.
- Love ~ Place your attention at your heart and feel a sense of unconditional love toward yourself exactly as you are. Kindle that that sense of love so it burns brighter and brighter. Repeat the phrases: “May I be well. May I be Happy. May I Be Safe.”
- Laughter ~ Watching funny movies, read joke books, look at funny comics, be silly, practice laughing for no reason at all.
- Affirmations – Repeat positive affirmations to yourself, write them out, draw them, post them in prominent places. You are fundamentally divine. Allow this truth to gradually wash away your low self esteem or self hatred.
- Nature – Watch a sunset, sit by a gentle stream, watch for whales or dolphins at the ocean, listen to the birds singing outside, smell the roses!
- Expand Your Happiness Vocabulary ~ Jubilant, eager, content, vibrant, and many more!
Lock in the Joy
Use this exercise called “How to Feel Joyful More of the Time” from Donna Eden to strengthen your joy tendencies:
“You can reprogram your nervous system to be more joyful, uplifting, and life-affirming. The next time you feel fabulous, riveted, connected, on a high, or otherwise happy, reinforce this energy by ‘tapping in’ the joy at your third eye, the point between your eyebrows just above the bridge of your nose. Tap with a steady beat for 10 – 12 minutes.” – From Energy Medicine: Balancing Your Body’s Energies for Optimal Health, Joy, and Vitality
Is Positive Thinking a Magic Panacea?
Positive thinking is magical in one sense. It can sometimes have an instantaneous effect. At the same time, unless you were born naturally bubbly, realistically, it takes dedicated repetition to develop a positive spirit. And those who have severe problems will very likely need additional support and appropriate methods suited to their particular challenge.
The truth is most of us are up against strong brain biology when it comes to transforming long-held negative thought patterns. The mind is powerful and we’ve used it to convince ourselves of many incorrect beliefs about our self, others and the world. So changing entrenched patterns and beliefs takes consistent repetition and diligence. It’s possible, but it requires a commitment on your part. The wins you experience along the way will reinforce your progress.
Science indicates that changing habits occurs best when done in bite size pieces. So start small and build on your successes. Fully enjoy each uplifting moment and remember to “lock it in”.
If you find it difficult to adopt an optimistic attitude, you may need additional help and support. These articles focus on scientifically proven methods, which may help you both understand the obstacles and unlock your potential for change:
- You Are Not Your Brain: The 4-Step Solution for Changing Bad Habits, Ending Unhealthy Thinking, and Taking Control of Your Life
- Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
As Life Coach Tim Bronson recently pointed out on twitter, logic alone is not necessarily sufficient to create change for everyone, especially if you have severe problems. He underlines: “With severe fear our prefrontal cortex is no longer in control, so any logical advice is next to useless.” There are effective methods for healing trauma and fear, but there’s more to it than positive thinking alone. The support of a Life Coach or Therapist can be a powerful force for kick-starting positive change in your life, whether your challenges are mild, moderate, or severe.
But most of us can gain positive ground simply by adopting and regularly practicing optimistic attitudes and making more space for fun and joy in our life.
I invite you to watch this amazing video called “Gratitude” by Louie Schwartzberg and elevate your immune system into a state of joy right now. It’s worth every moment.
Does optimism come easy for you? I would love to hear your secrets for creating more optimism and joy in your life.