When we’re overwhelmed with commitments, projects, and errands, it’s easy to forget to look on the bright side. However, recent research shows that being optimistic can help you shrug off stress—so take a lead from the classic song title, and “Don’t worry, be happy.”
The power of positivity
A new study done by the American Psychological Association followed 135 older adults for over six years, measuring their cortisol—the “stress” hormone—levels several times a day. They tracked the results against the respondent’s own average cortisol levels, in order to account for lifestyle and personality differences.
They found that respondents who identified themselves as optimists had more stable levels of cortisol during stressful situations, and lower levels of stress in general. Respondents who identified as pessimists had cortisol levels that were much more elevated during difficult times—and their baseline stress levels were higher than those of their positive counterparts.
Chronic stress can have long-term consequences on our well-being. When we are constantly stressed out, we are more susceptible to infections, sleep less soundly, are at a higher risk for joint pain and headaches, and often crave high-fat, salty foods—triggering weight gain and more serious conditions such as hypertension and diabetes.
Although research confirms that optimism can benefit our health, it isn’t always easy to stay upbeat, especially when times are tough. These alive tips can help you to remember to see the doughnut, and not just the hole. Staying away from negative influences, monitoring your inner critic, and exercising regularly are all simple ways to support a positive attitude—and can help reduce your stress levels in the process.