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The healing power of positivity

What Does Happy Mean? Health Effects and Tips for a Positive Mood As you read below, you'll find that smiling is one of the recommendations. Need help with that? Looking for holiday gifts? If yes, the Inner Smile Trilogy is right for you. Good health and happiness are closely connected, but did you know that you may be able to improve your health by increasing your positivity and happiness? Research has shown that positive psychological well-being is associated with various benefits, such as improved cardiovascular and immune health, as well as a reduced risk of mortality. Defining positive psychology Positivity encompasses several related concepts, including positive mood, positive attitude, happiness, and gratitude. Positive psychology, the study of a flourishing and healthy life, includes examining positive relationships, institutions, psychological states such as happiness, and psychological traits such as interests and talents. The health impact of happiness and positivity There are several ways in which positive psychological well-being may improve health. Researchers propose that genetics may influence both affect (mood states), health behaviors, and health in general. Positive affect may reduce the activation of certain pathways that directly impact health, such as nervous system, immune, and inflammatory pathways. Additionally, having a positive effect has been associated with a greater likelihood of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This process has been called the “upward spiral theory of lifestyle change.” Cardiovascular function When your body is exposed to challenges (stress), the sympathetic nervous system responds and initiates changes in cardiovascular activity, such as blood pressure and heart rate. Having a positive mood may decrease cardiovascular recovery time from a stressful state or negative emotions.

Cognition Having a positive mood may benefit cognition by improving the ability to process information. Research has shown that having a positive mood can help broaden attention, allowing individuals to be more perceptive of their surroundings. A positive mood can also modify the interpretation of negative events, such as unwanted behavioral responses, by decreasing their negative impact on ones’ outlook. Cortisol levels The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis responds to emotional states by releasing adrenal and pituitary hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is commonly referred to as the stress hormone, and experiencing chronic stress has been associated with excess cortisol output. Chronically elevated cortisol can impact health and has been linked to cognitive impairment, impaired injury healing, and a higher body mass index (BMI), or obesity. Immune health Positive affect has been associated with multiple changes in immune function. For example, positive well-being has been linked to an increased number of helper T cells. Positive affect may also improve antibody levels, antibody response, and natural killer (NK) cell response. Mental health A randomized clinical trial examined the effect of a gratitude intervention on the mental health and well-being of 1,337 adults. For 14 days, the gratitude group composed a gratitude list, which included moments they were grateful for during the day. The two control groups recorded either daily hassles or neutral events. The study found that the gratitude group experienced increased subjective happiness, life satisfaction, and positive affect, as well as decreased negative affect and symptoms of depression. Medical treatment outcomes As a positive mood increases beliefs in positive outcomes, and a negative mood can increase doubts, mood can indirectly affect health outcomes. Research suggests that both positive and negative beliefs play a role in the success of medical treatments. Similarly, studies have found that promoting a positive mood can improve how an individual processes and responds to information that threatens their health, such as a warning message about the impacts of smoking. How to improve your psychological state Certain factors that impair psychological well-being may be out of your control. Examples include poor socio-economic standing, adverse environmental exposures in early life, abuse, or caregiver separation. On the other hand, activities you have control over are referred to as intentional activities. If intentional activities are positive, they can lead to an improvement in positive psychological well-being. These activities can include:

  • Behaviors (e.g., being kind to others, exercising)

  • Thought patterns (e.g., having gratitude, having a positive interpretation of events)

  • Motivations (e.g., setting and working towards goals that reflect your values)

  • Other factors that may improve psychological well-being include:

  • Flexible thinking and creativity

  • Good physical health

  • Social engagement

The following tips are ways you can improve your psychological well-being.

  • Use mindfulness approaches

  • Practice positive thinking

  • Try smiling to increase happiness

  • Create an attitude of gratitude

  • Working on improving your general health

Another useful tool is the Inner Smile Trilogy. This ancient wisdom with cutting-edge technology turns on your power of positivity. In this soothing 3–part audio program, Dr. Linda guides you on a journey through your body, mind, and spirit rejuvenating every bit of you, transforming stress, and cultivating joy with the healing power of your smile. The bottom line Improving your psychological well-being can reduce the risk of certain health conditions and mortality while improving well-being. Fortunately, several voluntary activities, such as practicing mindfulness, using positive thinking, smiling, practicing gratitude, and improving general health are associated with positive mental well-being. Follow the tips in this article to help increase happiness and improve your mood.

FUN FACT: There are 19 different types of smiles: UC-San Francisco researcher identified 19 types of smiles and put them into two categories: polite “social” smiles which engage fewer muscles, and sincere “felt” smiles that use more muscles on both sides of the face.

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