Here’s what we know:
There is an indisputable link between a positive outlook and health benefits. Lower blood pressure, less heart disease, better weight control and healthier blood sugar levels are all related to how we feel about life. Upbeat and optimistic? Probably rock your annual physical. Gloom and doom? Better have good health insurance. According to Jane Brody in the New York Times Science Section (March 28, 2017), numerous studies have shown this strong correlation between a good outlook on life and good health.
And not only health, but longevity is affected by good juju. Becca Levy and Avni Bavishi at The Yale School of Public Health did a study involving people age 50 or over and demonstrated clearly that “people with positive views, enhanced belief in one’s ability and decreased perceived stress all fostered healthful behaviors and lived significantly longer.”
Which is all well and good for the happy-go-lucky-hakuna-matata-don’t-worry-be-happy-every-little-thing-gonna-be-all-right kind of dude. Long as you got a sweet honey, a happy job, be smokin’ the right kind of boo-yah and got a case of Doritos close by, that “positive attitude” gonna be within kissin’ distance. Long life and low blood sugar is yours.
But what does that say for the sourpuss? The grump? The complainer? The faultfinder? The grouch? You know the kind. You may be one, yourself. How does that study help the ones who are, for whatever reason, down on life? Will it be a short suffering life for the sad-sacks?
“Fear not, my little Eeyore,” says Judith Moskowitz, professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University School of Medicine. This gracious doctor, in a U/C San Francisco study, developed a set of eight skills to help foster positive emotions. To bump up the good vibes no matter what kind of groaner and moaner you are. Lady Moskowitz found the people with new diagnoses of HIV infection who practiced these skills, “carried a lower load of the virus, were more likely to take their meds and were less likely to need antidepressants.”
The main goal of the 8-skill training was to help people feel happy, calm and satisfied in the midst of a health crisis. Each participant was encouraged to learn at least three of the eight skills and practice one or more each day.
So, whether or not you are in the midst of a current health crisis, you gotta admit that being born is a death sentence. Time may be a great teacher, but she kills all her students in the end. So, it would seem that in order to make the most of this procession to the grave, the least we can do is have good time at it. Feel good about. So, here are the 8 skills that the Good Doctor M proposes to put a smile on even the grumpiest face:
Recognize a positive event each day.
Savor that event and tell someone about it.
Start a daily gratitude journal.
List a personal strength and note how you use it.
Set an attainable goal and note your progress.
Report a relatively minor stress and list ways to reappraise the event positively.
Recognize and practice small acts of kindness daily.
Practice mindfulness, focusing on the here and now rather and past or future.
No one suggests that this exercise will turn you into a Ronald McDonald or the Dali Lama. But, let’s face it: the more upbeat and positive people we got living on this spinning blue marble, the better it is for everyone. And who knows? You might live to be a healthy old fart and actually have a good time all the way. It’s at least worth a try.