The glass half full is the healthier option. This may seem self-evident to optimistic people, but now science is confirming that the resilient type is not just better able to withstand the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, she’s also probably in better shape. So it looks like the happiness industry has found its best ally – health.
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health links improved positive states of mind with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. The detrimental health consequences of negative emotions such as depression have long been known. But the absence of negativity isn’t the same thing as the presence of positivity according to the HSPH research.
New research is also showing that positive emotions are the best way to deal with negative experiences. This somewhat goes against the Freudian grain that says stress needs an exit valve, and that once released the mind can reset in equilibrium. It turns out that living your life in a positive frame of mind and being resilient are connected.
Why? Negative emotions can be transformed into positive ones. And people who see life as a challenge/opportunity are better at this vital emotional jiu jitsu. This personality type is more focused on personal growth. They don’t recoil at life as if bracing for impact or as if in constant threat detection mode.
But who wants to get stuck on a lifeboat with an incurable cheerleader? The research subjects apparently aren’t superficial optimists. Their biometric readings were consistent with spiking stress levels under pressure. But the bounce-back factor is what sets them apart. They can shuck off negativity.
We should think about this now that World Health Day has come and gone (on April 7th) and with surging health care costs taking up larger chunks of the economic pie. The bright side of life seems to have more than a few benefits!