Reaping the Health Benefits of Positivity (While Avoiding Toxic Positivity)
The power of positive thinking and the resulting health benefits are well known. It is a popular subject of books. A quick Google search for positive thinking and health benefits results in a multitude of hits.
The connection between positivity and health
While the exact mechanism may not be known there is no question a link exists between having a positive attitude and improved health outcomes. One possible link appears to be stress, known to weaken the immune system. It is also thought that those with a positive attitude make better health choices.1
Boosting your attitude
If you see the glass as half empty, you may be thinking you can’t reap the health benefits of positivity. According to John Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic, there are steps you can take to become a more positive person:1,2
Smile Even a fake smile can improve your attitude according to a University of Kansas study.
Reframe your situation Ever find yourself fuming because you’re stuck in a traffic jam? Try focusing on the positive. You have a few extra minutes to listen to your favorite podcast or music.
Build resiliency Accept that changes, including a diagnosis of macular degeneration, are a part of life. Foster good relationships with friends and family. Both are important when you are struggling with a health condition. When you are faced with a problem take steps to improve the situation. It won’t help to simply wait around hoping something good will happen with no effort on your part.
Stop negative self-talk Berating yourself for bad choices won’t improve your health. Instead, practice positive self-talk, “I messed up today, but tomorrow I will make better choices.”
Avoiding toxic positivity
Toxic positivity may result if we do not allow ourselves to feel negative emotions. It is important to let yourself feel all your emotions. That includes those that are negative.
Falsely reassuring yourself that everything is going to work out OK when you are feeling devastated will not help you. For instance, if your retinal specialist has just told you that nothing more can be done, you may feel devastated. In the moment, you may feel life is over. As time goes by, working on a positive attitude will be helpful to adapt to a life with low vision.
As a positive person, I love to encourage community members. I was struck by a recent comment by one of our Facebook community members. This person remarked, “Enforced positivity on many fronts leads to minimizing symptoms and affects yourself and others. Recognize losses and move forward for assistance. Balance is key.”
I am naturally optimistic. As a person with macular degeneration and an advocate for maculardegeneration.net, I strive to be sensitive to those community members that are struggling. Offering false reassurance or platitudes can only deepen their pain. Sometimes the best thing we can do for a hurting person is to simply let them speak their truth. There is a time to offer reassurance and solutions and a time to simply listen.
How does your mental health relate to your physical health?