NiceDay Blog: What is positive health?

‘’Positive health’’ is a field of study proposed by Seligman in 2008, which takes an innovative approach and aims to help people stay healthier, happier and recover more quickly from illness, by identifying ‘health assets’. Health assets are personal attributes that make it more likely that you will live a longer, happier life, have a reduced need for healthcare, and experience better outcomes when illness does strike. 

In the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic, these ideas are more relevant than ever and working toward some of these health assets can provide an important contribution to your health and happiness. 

The link between positivity and good health

The suggestion to study ‘’positive health’’ came from a wealth of evidence that has linked positivity and attributes with well-being and good health! For example, researchers analyzed the diaries of 180 nuns and found that those who reported more positive emotions had a longer life expectancy. Incredibly the most positive nuns lived on average 10 years longer! Furthermore, optimism and positivity have been found to be protective against heart problems and strokes as well as being associated with less clinical diagnosis’ and increased longevity! In fact when looking at 120 men who had suffered from heart attacks, guess what predicted their chances of survival? Not blood pressure, cholesterol, or damage from the first attack as you might expect, but optimism! Of the 16 most pessimistic men 15 died in the following 8.5 years. 

Although it is not entirely clear how positivity leads to these better outcomes, the amount of evidence linking the two makes it hard to ignore the effect positivity has on our health and clearly shows that there could be some benefit to taking a more positive outlook. 

Health Assets

So what are some of these ‘health assets’ that can help you live a longer and happy life?

  • Optimism

Optimism is all about how we perceive things. As humans it’s very easy to take a negative perspective, in the past this was probably evolutionary advantageous when we had to watch out for danger. Instead practise positive self-talk and try to challenge your pessimistic thoughts with more positive and optimistic thoughts. Observe the effect this has on your behaviour and the outcomes.  

  • Supportive friends and family

It is important to surround yourself in friends and family who support and motivate you, in times of joy and distress. Just being able to talk about your problems with someone can provide a great sense of relief.  

  • A sense of purpose

Having a sense of purpose, and giving some meaning to your life, will give you a greater satisfaction in things you do and achieve. Try writing down your values, or create some ‘SMART’ goals, this can help make it clearer for you so that you can reach your goals. 

  • Exercise

Research has shown that regularly participating in moderate exercise can do wonders for your health.The equivalent to around 10,000 steps a day can already be a great benefit. There are many ways you can exercise such as running, yoga, swimming, whatever suits you best!

  • Self regulation skills

There is a wealth of evidence linking self-regulation with wellbeing in both adults and children, therefore is a vital skill. Self-regulation is about how you manage your emotions and behaviours, or ‘self-control’. Try challenging yourself to do something you don’t particularly want to, or delaying ‘rewards’ until you have reached your goal, for example not eating your favourite food until you have been running at least two times in the week!

Do you want support reaching some of your healthy lifestyle goals? Or are you struggling to keep ‘positive’? Click here for more information about online help via NiceDay.

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Martijn Thomas

Hi, I am Martijn, psychologist at NiceDay. In my spare time I like to produce music, exercise and hangout with friends.

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