Many of us have heard that having a positive outlook on life can improve our mental and physical health. Yet, if you're like me, you've noticed that it can be hard to focus on the bright side of things when you're feeling anything but positive.
That's why I was drawn to this article in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) newsletter. It discusses several NIH-funded studies on the topic and explains what it means to have a positive outlook and how a positive mood can affect your health. The really helpful information, from my perspective, is it also explains how developing certain skills, like meditation and self-reflection, can make you can feel more positive more often. From the NIH story:
Having a positive outlook doesn't mean you never feel negative emotions, such as sadness or anger, says Dr. Barbara L. Fredrickson, a psychologist and expert on emotional wellness at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. "All emotions--whether positive or negative--are adaptive in the right circumstances. The key seems to be finding a balance between the two," she says.
The research teams used a variety of techniques to learn about the underlying mechanisms of positive and negative emotions and what it is that enables people to bounce back from difficult times.
Among those who appear more resilient and better able to hold on to positive emotions are people who've practiced various forms of meditation. In fact, growing evidence suggests that several techniques--including meditation, cognitive therapy (a type of psychotherapy), and self-reflection (thinking about the things you find important)--can help people develop the skills needed to make positive, healthful changes.
"Research points to the importance of certain kinds of training that can alter brain circuits in a way that will promote positive responses," Davidson says. "It's led us to conclude that well-being can be considered as a life skill. If you practice, you can actually get better at it."
Previously: Navigating a rare genetic disorder with a positive attitude, Promoting healthy eating and a positive body image on college campuses, When life gives you lemons: Study suggests the benefits of a positive outlook are context dependent and The power of positive moods in improving cognitive function among older adults
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