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Today’s guest post is by David Tao, Senior Editor of Greatist, your high-quality source on all things fitness, health, & happiness. Follow Greatist’s daily tips, news, and analysis on what’s truly helpful, factual, and need-to-know on twitter @greatistblog and facebook, not to mention subscribe at Greatist.
As the old saying goes, optimists see the glass as half full, pessimists see the glass as half empty, and engineers see a glass that’s twice as big as it needs to be. But beyond putting more pep in our step (and helping us enjoy that drink more), thinking positively might actually have some tangible, physical benefits. Research suggests staying positive might decrease the chance of stress-related health problems .
Would You Like Cries with That? — Why It Matters
While stress originates in the brain, its toll on the body is anything but imaginary and can lead to everything from weight gain to heart disease. While there are numerous proven methods to de-stress (besides chucking that office chair out the window), one of the most effective methods is to keep things positive. Optimism has been linked to a reduction in the negative effects of stress on the body, from curbing inflammation to bolstering the immune system . And when compared to their more pessimistic counterparts, optimists— who generally believe more positive rather than negative things will tend occur in their lives— even show greater longevity . A sunny outlook, it seems, can both encourage healthier behaviors and reduce the cumulative physical damage associated with stress.
Build Me Up, Buttercup — The Answer/Debate
While there are some established connections between mood and physical health— especially regarding the immune and cardiovascular systems— more research is needed before we can verify the exact mechanisms through which positive thinking promotes health. And while keeping our collective chin up is certainly a healthier option than staying gloomy, it’s hardly a cure-all. In fact, some researchers suggest that because sick patients are often encouraged to think positively, they might interpret a turn for the worse as their own psychological failure, which could foster feelings of guilt .
Aspiring optimists can start by surrounding themselves with other positive thinkers and improving personal weaknesses rather than focusing on self-criticism. Using positive affirmations is another effective way to keep that glass looking half full (and possibly keep the body healthier, too). While positive thinking won’t replace healthy habits and proper medical care, it’s almost certainly a healthier alternative to pulling a constant Charlie Brown.
 Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimisim-Pessimism Scale scores. Brummett BH, Helms MJ, Dahlstrom WG, et al. Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Box 2969, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC. Mayo Clinic. 2006 Dec;81(12):1541-4.
 Dispositional optimism and stress-induced changes in immunity and negative mood. Brydon L, Walker C, Wawrzyniak AJ, et al. Psychobiology Group, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London, UK. Brain Behav Immun. 2009 Aug;23(6):810-6. Epub 2009 Mar 9.
 Positive thinking and moral oppression in cancer care. De Raeve L. Centre for Philosophy and Health Care, University of Wales, Swansea, UK. Eur J Cancer Care (Engl). 1997 Dec;6(4):249-56.
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