Skip to main content

The benefits of a positive attitude

October 23, 2014

When life hands you yarn, why not knit a head of hair? That's what 71-year-old Rosemary Capitolo did after undergoing chemotherapy to treat her ovarian cancer, reported The Huffington Post. In a photo, her bright red "wig" includes heavy bangs and a bouncy, outward flip, and sits comfortably underneath a baseball cap. 

"I'm an avid knitter," she told the news source. "I've been knitting for 60 years. I saw a pattern on a website and thought this would be a hoot."

The positive attitude helped her get through two years of therapy, and it also served as an inspiration to her loved ones, including her granddaughter, who tweeted a photo of her grandmother excitedly wearing the handmade wig, noted the source. It's this type of attitude that helps so many conquer their illness and lead long, healthy lives.

Optimism is the best therapy
Capitolo is joined by many others who use positivity in their recovery. Those with cancer and other sicknesses turn to humor and optimism to enjoy life and extend their longevity - and for good reason. Multiple studies show the benefits of positive thinking on your health. According to a study conducted by the American Heart Association, those with heart disease who hold better attitudes are more likely to engage in physical activity that extends their life. The study involved 600 patients with ischemic heart disease and found that those who were more positive were drastically less likely to go to the hospital for heart-related issues five years later.

A good attitude can also help with other conditions. With a proper diet and regular blood sugar tests, a person's diabetes is manageable. According to research from Penn State College of Medicine, a positive attitude can further help a person cope with the disease and stay healthy.

"We found that although these negative experiences with diabetes exist, people also held on to the positives," Heather Stuckey, assistant professor of medicine at Penn State, said in a press release. "Some said diabetes made their lives a little richer because they ate healthier foods, or they were able to connect with their family more to overcome challenges. It gave them a better appreciation of what they have."

Looking on the bright side of things - even an illness - can help boost your mood, relieve worry among your loved ones and ultimately improve your health.

Positivity and longevity
Even those who are in top health can benefit from a good attitude. A 2011 study published in the journal Current Directions in Psychological Science explained that those who are positive typically engage in healthy behaviors, like regular exercise and proper eating and sleeping habits that promote healthy aging and improve longevity. These choices can drastically affect the health of older adults and contribute to the way they manage stress. A positive attitude doesn't just help people deal with their worries - it can also reverse some of the damaging effects of stress.

"We all age," said the study's author, Anthony Ong of Cornell University. "It is how we age, however, that determines the quality of our lives."

To take control of your health and boost your longevity, try participating in activities that make you happy. Invite a friend over for some tea and chatter, and get involved in group activities and exercise classes in your community or independent living residence. If you've always thought dancing would make you happy but you've just never taken a class, now's the perfect time to start. It's never too late to improve your mood and health.