Healthy Optimism

January 22, 2013 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

In recent years, scientists from esteemed institutes of learning have identified an apparent link between an optimistic mindset and physical wellness. The latest entry into this topic comes from the Harvard School of Public Health. An analysis of nearly 1,000 middle-aged men and women determined that higher levels of self-reported optimism were associated with greater concentrations of serum antioxidants (carotenoids). The reason is likely due to a bidirectional effect in which “optimists are likely to engage in health behaviors associated with more serum antioxidants, and more serum antioxidants are likely associated with better physical health that enhances optimism”. This newly observed antioxidant effect may also, in part, explain why greater optimism has been continually linked to a lower risk of cardiac events and strokes.

If you find yourself lacking in the optimism department, there is hope for you yet. In fact, there are at least three scientifically validated ways of naturally increasing optimism. Researchers from Oxford University report that the use of positive mental imagery promotes optimism. Simply taking 5 minutes each day to envision a brighter future may be all that you need. Getting adequate, but not excessive, sleep has likewise been shown to improve optimism and other “positive personality characteristics”. How much is enough? Adults should generally aim for 7 to 8 hours per night. Of note: getting more than 9 hours of sleep may have a detrimental effect – except in children. A third, indirect approach to increasing optimism is to practice yoga. Two studies, lasting 4 and 6 weeks respectively, discovered improvements in optimism and other measures of psychological health, including reduced reactivity to stressful events. The studies cited today are the latest examples of how we can constructively change our mental and physical states by incorporating mind-body practices into our daily routines. It is now understood that optimism can be developed and the volume of pessimism can be turned down.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 – Association Between Optimism and Serum Antioxidants in the Midlife (link)

Study 2 – Comparative Optimism Among Patients w/ Coronary Heart Disease (link)

Study 3 – Low Pessimism Protects Against Stroke: The Health and Social Support … (link)

Study 4 – Optimism and Mental Imagery: A Possible Cognitive Marker to Promote (link)

Study 5 – Become More Optimistic by Imagining a Best Possible Self: Effects of (link)

Study 6 – Optimism and Self-Esteem Are Related to Sleep (link)

Study 7 – The Effect of Optimism on Depression: The Mediating and Moderating (link)

Study 8 – Sleep Quantity, Quality and Optimism in Children (link)

Study 9 – Moving Beyond Health to Flourishing: The Effects of Yoga Teacher (link)

Study 10 – Wellness Through a Comprehensive Yogic Breathing Program (link)

Low Pessimism May Protect Against Stroke

Source: Stroke. 2010 Jan;41(1):187-90. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Exercise, Mental Health

One Comment to “Healthy Optimism”

  1. JP Says:

    Update 06/30/15:

    Funct Neurol. 2015 Jun 11:1-7. [Epub ahead of print]

    Effects of dispositional optimism on quality of life, emotional distress and disability in Parkinson’s disease outpatients under rehabilitation.

    This study was performed with the aim of assessing dispositional optimism (DO) in a sample of Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients, in order to evaluate its association with clinical outcomes and its impact on rehabilitation. Before entering an outpatient rehabilitation program, 58 participants suffering from idiopathic PD completed the Life Orientation Test-Revised (LOT-R) to evaluate their level of DO, the WHO-5 scale to evaluate their health-related quality of life (HR-QoL), the Hospital Anxiety and De ression Scale (HADS) to identify emotional distress, and the Barthel Index to evaluate their level of disability. All the measures were repeated four months later, at their discharge from the program. Disease stage and severity measures (Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale) were also taken into consideration. Correlations and multivariate regression analyses compared DO with the health-related variables. On admission a high level of DO was found to be associated with less severe disease, a better quality of life (QoL) and lower emotional distress, but not with level of disability (Barthel Index). Consistent results were found at discharge. The level of DO did not change after rehabilitation, while anxiety was significantly reduced, especially in subjects with low LOT-R and high HADS scores. The Barthel Index values significantly improved. At discharge, participants with high DO showed the best improvements in disability and in QoL. Effects of dispositional optimism on quality of life, emotional distress and disability in Parkinson’s disease outpatients under rehabilitation In conclusion, a high level of DO was associated with QoL, HADS and UPDRS both on admission and at discharge. The level of DO remained stable after rehabilitation, while disability and anxiety were reduced. Participants with high DO generally had better QoL, and better clinical and psychological performances.

    Be well!


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