The effects of optimism on the body and mind
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Being a “Debbie Downer” can negatively impact an individual’s mental and physical health. Similarly, having an optimistic outlook can improve health, quality of life and interpersonal relationships. Those struggling with depression or other mental health disorders might find it difficult or impossible to see the positive side of things, but this population can benefit the most from implementing optimism into their daily lives.

Optimism is not always easy, which is why people often work toward it on a daily basis. Therapists recommend setting intentions for each day, then moving forward with these intentions in mind. “Emotional vampires” or people who suck time and energy from those around them, are to be avoided in an effort to maintain good mental health. This is not always possible, as family members, co-workers or other individuals that cannot simply be cut out can have these tendencies. However, it is advised to reduce the presence of these toxic relationships and to not absorb the negative energy of others.

Suzanne Segerstrom, professor of clinical psychology at the University of Kentucky, has conducted numerous studies on the ways in which optimism improves physical health. However, she has come across data that concludes optimism can also have negative effects on an individual’s immune system in certain contexts, contrary to the majority of her findings. She labels this as “the disappointment effect,” which pessimists are less likely to encounter. Segerstrom explains, “It seems that, in general, when stressors are less responsive to coping efforts, meaning they are less controllable or more persistent, optimism is associated with lower immune parameters. According to the disappointment-effect explanation, optimists hold a positive outlook, are proven wrong and then feel disappointed… so their immune parameters fall.” Despite these findings, Segerstrom holds to the belief that optimism improves immune system function and overall physical health.

A positive outlook is a high commodity these days, at a time in which pessimism appears to be in vogue. There are many smartphone applications that boast aiding optimism, including a series of apps aimed at those struggling with pre-existing mental health disorders, called “Optimism Mental Health Apps for Self-Tracking.” The website for this series notes that the apps “act as a springboard to detect patterns in your health and develop strategies to proactively manage depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health conditions.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with depression or any other mental health disorder, it can be difficult to maintain a positive outlook. The silver lining is that help is available. Sovereign Health Group treats individuals struggling with mental health disorders, substance abuse issues and dual diagnosis. Call (866) 819-0427 to speak with a professional today and find out more about treatment centers in your area.

Written by Courtney Howard, Sovereign Health Group writer

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