For most of my adult life, I’ve believed one’s outlook affects one’s health. My unscientific observation has been that pessimistic people have more illnesses and ailments than the folks who see the brighter side of life. I wholeheartedly believe part of the difference is self-fulfilling, and some of it is the harm negativity does to the human body. Fearful and negative thought processes release molecules into the body that are detrimental to ones health, don’t they? Yes. They. Do.
Negativity = Stress = Strain = Damage
A Negative outlook is stressful, and stress strains the human body. Over time that stress and strain can and will damage the body, but why is that? “One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body.” Mayo Clinic Stress Management
The effects of stress caused by negativity include poor sleep, high blood pressure, heart disease, poor digestion, stomach aches, headaches, and a compromised immune system, but how does this happen? “Your body responds to stress by releasing hormones and increasing your heart and breathing rates.” — Healthline the Effects of Stress on Your Body
Stress, anger, negativity, and fear all engage the amygdala producing a fight-or-flight response. “…when the nervous system is in “fight-or-flight,” the body’s self-repair mechanisms don’t function properly and the body is predisposed to illness. All because you thought yourself sick.” — Scientific Proof that Negative Thoughts Harm Your Health
From the Common Cold to an Early Grave
A negative approach to the world around you can make you more susceptible to the harmful viruses and bacteria you encounter, “Poor emotional health can weaken your body’s immune system, making you more likely to get colds and other infections during emotionally difficult times.” —Family Dotor.org How Emotions Affect your Health.
And negativity can shorten your life, new scientific understandings have also identified the process by which chronic stress can actually decrease our lifespan by shortening our telomeres (the “end caps” of our DNA strands, which play a big role in aging). — How do Thoughts and Emotion Impact Your Health?
What Can You do About it?
If you have a negative, Murphy’s law (what can go wrong will) view of the world, can you change how you perceive the world around you? Yes, but it won’t be easy.
- Just say no – “Tell your inner voice no. Our inner voice is there to protect us. It will take limited information and project possible destructive outcomes. As helpful as it may be at times, our inner voice can be a negative source of stress. Occasionally you must tell the voice, “Thank you but, no, I got this!” Stop stressing out at work now!
- Forgive and forget – Forgiveness is more about you than those you forgive. Forgiving others frees your mind from the burden and stress of the infraction. Forgiving others relieves stress.
- Own up – Last week I walked past a new manager conducting an employment interview. I sat down uninvited and took over the interview. Later I heard my actions were a source of discomfort for the new manager. I immediately sought her out, apologized by telling her it was inconsiderate and egotistical for me to barge in. She accepted my apology and said she was concerned about saying anything to me because she appreciated my leadership training. I was wrong. Admitting I was wrong and seeking amends opened up communication with the new manager and eliminated a potentially stressful situation for both of us.
- Practice stress relieving activities – For me, it’s time outdoors, hiking, gardening, or just sitting in my backyard reading a book. Whatever works for you be sure to schedule time for stress relief.
- Celebrate even the smallest successes – A good friend wanted to share with me her disappointment in a recent conference. She counted off the problems and when she finished, I asked her what went right. She paused for a moment and then listed off several successes. Later she thanked me for changing her perception of the conference. I told her I often had to remind myself of the same.
- Show gratitude – Can you think of a more positive and less stressful emotion than gratitude? When jealousy, ego, and anger rear their ugly heads, find something to be grateful for. You know there’s a lot you have to be grateful for, don’t you?
Think Yourself to Better Health
By controlling your outlook on life, looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and finding the good, you can reduce stress, while decreasing the chance of damaging your body and mind with negative thoughts. Like I said, it won’t be easy, but you do have a choice. It’s up to you. Is your glass half empty or half full?