When you are ill, you are likely to feel pretty down-in-the dumps. You will usually feel even lower if your condition is chronic or possibly untreatable. And as time goes on, the stress of being ill all the time can really drag your mental Health down, too.
But thinking negatively can impede your chances of remission or recovery, as well as leaving you feeling even more miserable with your lot in life.
If you have never believed that the mind and body are strongly connected, a new study has presented clear evidence to show how a positive mind-set can skyrocket your ability to fight off illness.
Daily Positivity Can Heal Chronic Health Conditions
In a study conducted by Northwestern University, 80 people who had recently been diagnosed with HIV were taught easy skills designed to help them to increase their positivity levels.
Participants were asked to practice these skills daily, and were tested for HIV after 15 months; an astonishing 91 per cent of volunteers had less HIV in their blood.
Researchers suggested that the reduced viral load could be due to positive emotional states having the ability to build immunity. Other studies have linked positive emotions with a higher CD4 count, which indicates less HIV-related damage to the immune system.
Positivity Can Help You Cope With Your Health Condition
Despite the anxiety, stress and low mood that a chronic illness can cause, especially over time, none of the volunteers had increased anti-depressant use, even after 15 months of being ill. A control group, by contrast, who weren’t practising daily positivity, had nearly doubled their use of anti-depressants.
The group who had practised daily positivity tasks were also much less likely to have recurring worries, and intrusive or avoidant thoughts about their illness than the control group.
Positive Emotions That Boost Your Immunity
The research team prescribed tasks that were likely to increase happiness, calmness and a feeling of satisfaction, as evidence shows that these states are the most likely to induce positive feelings.
“Even in the midst of this stressful experience of testing positive for HIV, coaching people to feel…positive affect…appears to influence important health outcomes,” said lead study author Professor Judith Moskowitz.
Daily Tasks To Practise To Improve Your Health
If you are suffering from an illness, or just want to boost your immunity and resilience, here is a concise list of the tasks to practise. All you need is something to write on, and your mind:
Identify a positive event each day, allow yourself to enjoy that feeling, and then record it – either by writing about it or telling someone else.
Start a gratitude journal and post something in it every day.
List a personal strength each day, and an example of how you used this strength recently.
Set a realistic goal every day – and note your progress towards it.
If you find that something slightly stressful occurs, list ways in which that event could be positively reappraised.
Do a small kindness every day and reflect on how it gives you and the receiver a boost in wellbeing.
Practice breathing mindfully for 10 minutes each day, and focus on the breath. If you don’t know how to do this, download my free Mindful Breathing MP3 here to learn.
Northwestern University’s research paper was published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
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