How can positive psychology help improve my health?

Positive psychology is still considered a relatively new form of psychology, compared to traditional psychology which is centuries old. There is plenty of evidence, however, which confirms that adopting positive psychological practices, leads to better mental health.


However more recently, there has been growing studies (aptly named ‘Positive health’), to look at how positive psychology can also help physical health too. There is already some research that suggests that concentrating on the positive qualities of life experiences and cultivating a positive mindset, can result not only in better mental and emotional health, but it has numerous pyhsical health benefits too.

How does positive psychology help a person’s mental wellbeing?

So, to understand how positive psychology might be good for physical health we first need to remind ourselves why it is good for mental health.


Traditional psychology tends to focus on the ‘what’s bad’ in life or emotional trauma’s a person might have faced in their life, which might have caused them to suffer from mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. 


Positive psychology is the scientific study of how to lead a healthy and flourishing life. The goal of positive psychology is to complement and extend upon traditional problem-focused psychology, by going a step further and focusing on the how to reduce a person’s negative thoughts and behaviours, as a better way to improve mental health. Martin Seligman, Cofounder of Positive Psychology suggests that developing and acknowledging ‘the good in life’ rather than just ‘repairing the bad’, might be a better approach.


Positive psychology is based on the concept, therefore, that happiness may be broken down into three areas; having positive emotions, being engaged, and having meaning and purpose in life. It focuses in on the positive aspects of life, such as happiness, gratitude, resilience, compassion, and love.


Research has shown that people that adopt positive psychology practices have better mental health including reduced stress, anxiety, and depression.

How might positive psychology improve my physical health?

It makes sense that maintaining a positive attitude will benefit mental and emotional health, but there is growing evidence to suggest it may also improve physical health. Promising research has started to show, that when we experience positive emotions, life satisfaction, optimism, life purpose, social support in our lives, this can help improve not just our mental health, but our physical health improves too.


It is well established that a positive mood impacts immune function, and negativity is depressive to the immune system. For example, positivity has been shown to decrease susceptibility to the common cold. In a series of studies involving HIV patients, those who were more optimistic about their lives and future exhibited significantly reduced disease progression compared to those who were not. 


In addition, coronary heart disease patients who presented with a positive attitude exhibited improved heart function over those with depressive tendencies. 


So, research is starting to back up, that maintaining an optimistic outlook on life may help prevent heart disease and other physical illnesses.

What are some of the practices I can adopt to create more positive emotions?

There are several interventions you can adopt in your daily life to increase your level of positive emotions, which will as a consequence increase your sense of wellbeing. Some of the more popular exercises include:

  1. Adopt an attitude of gratitude. This is by far, one of my favourites. I heard someone recently say, ‘if you want to find happiness, find gratitude.’ And it’s true. When we focus on the good things we have in life, we become more distracted by the bad things. Take time regularly, ideally every day, to write in a journal, three good things which might have occurred to you in your day, for which you are grateful for. Or better still tell others what you are grateful for. 


  1. Say ‘thank you’ Actively expressing our gratitude is great for making us feel good, and the bonus is, it makes the other person feel great too. Think about someone who has positively impacted your life or has inspired you and tell them. You can write them an email, send them a letter or card or even better, visit them in person to say thank you.


  1. Carry out a random act of kindness. Doing something helpful or thoughtful for others can be so powerful for both you and the recipient. It can be anything from smiling at a stranger, offering up your seat on public transport to randomly paying for a stranger’s coffee behind you, or volunteering at a local charity. 


It is evident that having a positive outlook on life can help you achieve optimal health on all levels, physical, mental, and emotional.


There is still much growing research looking specifically into how positive psychology can have a significant impact, particularly on physical health or ‘Positive health’. The findings so far appear promising.


And when we layer a positive, optimistic outlook in life with a fitness and exercise regime, this has an even greater impact on our mental and physical wellbeing. See my blog on how exercise can make you feel happier. 

About Dal Banwait

Dal Banwait, aka ‘the happiologist,’ is a certified Positive Psychology Coach and passionate about helping people grow into happier healthier versions of themselves. Her coaching empowers others to cut through their own debilitating, limiting self-beliefs, holistically connecting their ‘why’ and ‘how.’ Dal has a particular interest in how mind-body techniques can control thoughts and emotions and her coaching contains powerful strategies for harnessing these in daily life. Having graduated in law, she has worked as a city professional for over 30 years and also runs Positive Psychology & Wellbeing coaching in the corporate space. Based in London, and having lived in the Far East, Dal is a writer, serial globe trotter, accidental amateur photographer and self-confessed apacarophile (sunset obsessed)!  

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