Sunday, November 18, 2018

Health Benefits of Positivity + Positivity Exercises

Spending time with positive, rather than negative, people isn’t just more enjoyable — the company you keep also has deep implications when it comes to your overall well-being. Both positivity and negativity tend to be contagious, which means surrounding yourself with negative friends, family members and coworkers will tend to worsen your mood and outlook. But even more troubling, the negativity you pick up from others may potentially shorten your lifespan and impact your health in other serious ways too.

On the other hand, if your inner circle consists of people who exude positivity, you’re more likely to experience a boost in both your physical and mental health. Research suggests that benefits associated with positivity include: increased longevity, protection against chronic stress, increased happiness, greater meaning of life and greater connection to others.
What Is Positivity?

The definition of positivity is “the practice of being or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.” (1) People who have a positive character are said to accept the world as it is, look for the silver lining when something unfortunate happens and spread messages of hope to others. (2)

Psychology experts consider the start of the recent “positivity movement” to be the late 1990s, when the field of positive psychology was first developed. (3) Positive psychologists study happiness and positive emotions (essentially what makes life worth living), rather than dysfunction and mental illness, which most fields of psychology have traditionally focused on. Positive psychologists work to uncover habits and attitudes that can lead people to become happier and more fulfilled, including those related to positive thinking.

While more attention may be paid to positivity’s benefits today than in the past, certain populations have long exemplified the power of positive thinking and spending time with uplifting people. For example, in Okinawa, Japan — one of the world’s “Blue Zones,” where the average life expectancy for women is around 90 years, one of the highest in the world — people form a special kind of social network called a moai, a group of several friends who offer social, emotional and even financial support that typically lasts a lifetime.

Many children join moais from a very young age, sometimes even from the time of birth. Adults in the same moais share a lifelong journey together, often working together to grow crops and split gardening responsibilities, to take care of one another’s families, to offer help when a child gets sick and provide emotional support when someone passes away. Because moai members together create an atmosphere of positivity that influences one another’s behaviors, such as by encouraging exercise and a healthy diet, they also have a positive affect on each other’s health.

Author of The Blues Zones and National Geographic writer Dan Buettner tells us that “People in Blue Zones reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the U.S. and spend most of their lives in good health.” Some of the ways they practice positivity, especially by forming supportive relationships, include: having a strong sense of purpose, doing activities that reduce stress regularly, enjoying meals or a glass of wine with friends belonging to a faith-based community, putting family first and choosing friends with healthy habits. (4)
The Power of Positivity: 6 Benefits of Positivity/Positive Thinking
1. Increases Happiness

What makes us happy? Emerging research suggests people who practice positivity and gratitude together experience multiple benefits, including feeling relatively happier, more energetic and more hopeful and experiencing more frequent positive emotions.

Positivity seems to help us recognize hidden opportunities for enjoyable states like relaxation, playfulness and connection. As it’s described in a recent Psychology Today article, “People who are satisfied with life eventually have even more reason to be satisfied, because happiness leads to desirable outcomes at school and work, to fulfilling social relationships and even to good health and long life.” (5)
2. Buffers Against Negative Effects of Stress & Anxiety

In her book The How of Happiness, Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky tells us that “how you think — about yourself, your world, and other people — is more important to your happiness than the objective circumstances of your life.” Positivity seems to be protective against negative health outcomes because it reduces the effects that chronic stress has on your body. A number of studies have found that having strong social relationships, especially with positive people, protects against the damaging effects of disappointments and setbacks.

A 2017 New York Times article points out that “there is no longer any doubt that what happens in the brain influences what happens in the body. When facing a health crisis, actively cultivating positive emotions can boost the immune system and counter depression.” (6) Many studies conducted over the past several decades have found evidence of a link between positivity and improved health markers including: (7)

3. Reduces Risk for Anxiety Disorders

Studies have found that depressed and anxious individuals have a decreased ability to identify positive emotional content in the context of competing alternatives — and that these impairments contribute to “ineffective emotion regulation” that is the hallmark of these disorders. (8) In other words, one of the features of mood disorders is pessimistic/negative thinking. People with these disorders generate negative thoughts so automatically that they are unaware that it is happening and that their thoughts can be ignored or altered. (9)

A 2016 study published in Behavioral Research and Study found that positive thinking can help to decrease pathological worry and risk for mental-health conditions like Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). (10)  The study examined alternative approaches to reducing worry among people with GAD by having  one group of participants practice replacing usual worries with images of possible positive outcomes versus another group replacing usual worries with verbal expression of possible positive outcomes. A comparison control condition group visualized positive images unrelated to worry.

All groups benefited from the positive thinking training, with decreases in anxiety and worry. There were no significant differences found between groups, suggesting that any type of replacement of worry with different forms of positive ideation is beneficial for mental health
4. Contributes to Greater Meaning of Life

A 2010 study published in the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry found that people with high levels of positive thinking report feeling that their lives have more meaning following stressful events. The study, which included 232 students and community-dwelling adults, intended to test whether positive automatic cognitions (thoughts) moderated the relationship between event stressfulness and meaning in life. The researchers found that those who said they practiced positive cognitions associated stress with higher meaning in life, while those with low levels of positive thinking associated stressful events with lower meaning in life. (11)
5. Increases Your Connection to Others

Practicing positive thinking helps us to maintain mental clarity, perspective and a bird’s eye view of the circumstances in our lives, allowing our vision to expand and helping us to form more accurate connections … Some researchers refer to this as “the broaden effect” of positivity. Positive emotions have also been shown to increase our sense of oneness with others and the world around us.

Positivity can help us when it comes to connecting to people in our community, at work and in religious organizations. This is important because studies have found that our connections to other people build meaning and purpose and are a major factor in what makes life seem like it’s “worth living.”
6. Reinforces Healthy Habits

Positivity tends to build upon itself, meaning when we experience more positive emotions, it’s easier to build health-promoting habits that contribute to our ongoing happiness. According to Dr. Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “As we make a habit of seeking out pleasing states, we change and grow, becoming better versions of ourselves, developing the tools we need to make the most out of lives … The benefits of positive emotions obey a tipping point: When positive emotions outnumber negative emotions by at least 3 to 1, the benefits accrue. (12)
8 Positivity Exercises

So how do you focus on the positive and shift your attention away from the negative? The positivity exercises below can help you inject more positivity into your own life, as well as the lives of those around you:

    Identify negative self-talk. Start paying attention to ways you engage in negative self-talk, such as: magnifying the negative aspects of a situation and filtering out all of the positive ones, automatically blaming yourself, always anticipating the worst and seeing things only as either good or bad with no middle ground. Identify areas of your life you usually think negatively about and then focus on one area at a time to approach in a more positive way.

    Repeat positive affirmations. Find positive words or positivity quotes that you can repeat to yourself daily or put somewhere that you see often (such as your computer or refrigerator).

    Keep a gratitude journal. The practice of gratitude involves a focus on the present moment, on appreciating your life as it is today. Try keeping a journal that you write in briefly each morning or night, jotting down things that made you feel happy and appreciative. This helps you learn to “think in terms of abundance” and savor pleasurable experiences and serves as an antidote to negative emotions, including jealousy/envy, regret, hostility, worry and irritation.

    Incorporate body positivity practices. Instead of always focusing on your weight or things you wish to change about your body, look for things that your body already does perfectly well, such as allowing you to exercise, go about your day, work and engage with others. Focus on your behaviors rather than the outcome. For example, establish an exercise routine and eat a healthy diet filled with mood-boosting foods because these have a positive affect on your outlook and stress levels, not because they might lead to weight loss.

    Avoid social comparison. Rather than focusing on what other people have that you don’t, think about things you’re thankful for in your own life. Find things about yourself that make you unique and valuable, and consider writing about your own strengths in a journal. Treat yourself like a friend by practicing self-compassion, and don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to anyone else.

    Carve time out for fun and relaxation. Make time for calming, stress-relieving activities — or those that make you smile or laugh. Seek out humor in everyday life and give yourself permission to take breaks.

    Be mindful. Practice mindfulness or meditation, which teach you to focus on “the here and now,” rather than the past or future. This is helpful for thinking of emotions/thoughts as only temporary and less overwhelming, since everything is always evolving and changing.

    Help others and volunteer.  How can you spread positivity? One way is to focus on benefiting the lives of others, which also has the added benefit of boosting your mood too. Helping others gets you “out of your own head” and can make you feel connected, grateful and proud.

Are there any downsides to being positive?

Some argue that constantly striving to be positive when you really feel the opposite can mean you’re denying how you really feel, potentially leaving you feeling closed off from certain emotions. The goal of practicing positivity shouldn’t be to deny or ignore the fact that sometimes you feel sad, annoyed, irritated or disappointed. Instead, it can be helpful to first accept how you feel and then recognize that everything is temporary. You can’t always control your circumstances or how things will turn out, but you can try your best to learn from experiences and find something to be grateful for even when things aren’t perfect. (13)

It’s official: Eating organic foods reduces your risk for developing cancer. New research out of the Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale in France brings incredible news. That’s right, choosing organic foods over conventionally grown foods can reduce your risk of cancer by 25 percent.

The concerning part? More than 90 percent of the U.S. population harbors detectable pesticides in their blood and urine. What does this mean for our future health? Well, for one thing, big companies that use and produce pesticides may have to start owning up to the data. Non-industry-funded research repeatedly links these chemicals to cancer. Another thing to consider? This new French study comes on the heels of Environmental Working Group’s recent testing that detected glyphosate in cereal. It appears that Monsanto’s Roundup and other pesticides are downright dangerous for our health.
What Is Organic Food?

To earn the organic label, a government-approved certifier inspects the farm and approves the food product. This happens to make sure the grower is following the rules set in place by the United States Department of Agriculture.

When it comes to organic farming, there are strict standards and inspections in place. Organic agriculture only permits the use of natural fertilizers like manure and compost.  Other hallmark methods of organic farming include: (1)

Research shows that when people switch from eating conventionally grown foods to more organic foods, concentrations of pesticide metabolites in urine decreases.

Although we know that eating more organic foods and less conventionally grown foods will reduce the amount of pesticide residues in our bodies, what exactly does this mean for our health?

In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified three pesticides frequently used in agriculture as carcinogenic to humans. Yes, that means that according to the IARC, glyphosate, malathion and diazinon are chemicals used on our food even though they may cause cancer in humans.
Organic foods - Dr. Axe

Until recently, evidence supporting the carcinogenic effects of these pesticides was based only on occupational exposure, primarily in agricultural settings. But what about low-level pesticide exposure in the general population, which primarily comes from the intake of conventionally growth fruits and vegetables? That’s the exact question that researchers in France sought to answer with this study.
The Study of Organic Foods & Cancer Prevention

The 2018 October study appeared in JAMA Internal Medicine. It examines the association between self-reported organic food intake and cancer risk. Researchers collected data on more than 68,900 French adults, with a mean age of 44 years, in order to establish their organic food consumption frequency and dietary intake.

For 16 food products, including fruits, vegetables, dairy, meat, fish, eggs and vegetables oils, the participants reported how often they chose organic over conventional options by selecting one of eight categories, including “never,” “occasionally” and “most of the time.” Based on an individual’s self-report, researchers computed an “organic food score” and used it to estimate a person’s risk of cancer.

Study authors followed the participants for a mean of five years, analyzing the incidence of cancer during a followup assessment.

Of the 68,946 volunteers, 1,340 developed cancer, including 459 cases of breast cancers, 180 prostate cancers, 135 skin cancers, 99 colorectal cancers, 47 Non-Hodgkin’s lymphomas and 15 other lymphomas. Researchers pointed out that among these types of cancer, individuals with a higher frequency of organic food consumption enjoyed a reduced risk for three specific cancer sites: postmenopausal breast cancer, Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other lymphomas.

According to researchers, eating a higher frequency of organic foods correlates to a 25 percent lower risk of cancer diagnosis. More specifically, people eating the highest intake of organic foods experienced a 73 percent lower risk of developing non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and 21 percent lower risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer. (2)
Any Drawbacks of Study?

Although this recent data suggests what we already suspected — that eating organic foods is likely better for human health, there are some drawbacks to this particular study that we need to address.

One possible weakness of the study lies in the fact that organic food intake is notoriously difficult to assess. Eating at a restaurant, take-out spot or friend’s house makes it more difficult to know verify food sources. So there may be an issue of misclassification in some cases. Plus, not all conventional foods are equal. Some contain more pesticides (or more potent pesticides), and this study doesn’t take this into account. So if a study participant chose to go organic with all “dirty dozen” foods, but went conventional for the rest, that’s not considered here, either.
Trying to stay healthy and make practical food choices in a world where fast food and sugar reign supreme is no easy task. Part of taking control of your health is understanding what you’re consuming.

One of the best places to get this information is through entertaining and informative health documentaries. Thanks to streaming sites like Netflix, Amazon Video and Hulu, there are a wide variety of health documentaries at your fingertips. These films take a hard look at the food industry, the role excess sugar plays in the modern diet, and the toll processed foods can take on the body.

However, the best documentaries go deeper than just telling you what not do. These 12 films never shy away from the human element, and they all offer viewers the knowledge they need to make better food choices the next time they hit the supermarket.

From forming healthier relationships with food to understanding the industry behind what we eat, these are the absolute best health documentaries available on streaming services right now.
Best Health Documentaries + Where to Watch Them
1. Forks Over Knives

Nutritional scientist T. Colin Campbell and surgeon Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. make a compelling argument for veganism in Forks Over Knives. The 2011 doc suggests that adjustments to a person’s diet can actually reverse the progression of diseases like heart Disease and diabetes.

Through research and a closer examination of non-Western diets, the film offers two expert’s take on how eliminating meat and dairy can lead to a healthier lifestyle.
2. That Sugar Film

By combining skits and interviews with experiential journalism, director Damon Gameau examines the toll added sugars take on his body. After several years of a sugar-free diet, Gameau begins consuming so-called healthy products like fat-free yogurt. His goal is to add 40 teaspoons of sugar to his diet a day — the national average for Australians. The effects this change has on his body and overall health are startling, and an absolute must-see for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of hidden sugars.
3. Fed Up

Narrated by Katie Couric, Fed Up takes aim at the sugar industry as a whole. The documentary delves into the lack of government regulation where added sugars are concerned and features commentary from author Michael Pollan. Not all of the film’s suggestions are practical, but it’s overall message — a healthier diet can be achieved by preparing your own meals — rings true.
4. Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

Australian Joe Cross embarks on a road trip across America and a 60-day juice cleanse. The good-humored Aussie is on a mission to improve his health while sharing his journey with others. Along the way, he crosses paths with a truck driver suffering from the same autoimmune disease that he has, and Cross shares his tips for healthier living with his new friend.
5. Bite Size

Childhood obesity is no doubt a problem, but so is the dehumanization that comes along with the way obese children are discussed. Bite Size takes aim at the stigmas associated with being an overweight tween by following four kids as they work toward self-acceptance, a better relationship with food and a more active lifestyle. This is one doc that will leave you feeling weepy, but inspired as well.

    Super Size Me

Morgan Spurlock’s 2004 social experiment made major headlines at the time of its release, and it remains an essential health doc today. For 30 days, he eats nothing but items from the McDonald’s menu, and the effects on his health are dramatic. In the years since the film’s release, America’s attitude toward food has shifted, and that may be at least in part due to Spurlock’s examination of the fast food industry.
7. A Place at the Table

Hunger is just as much a part of the health crisis as opioids, empty calories and obesity. A Place at the Table is about the topic of food insecurity and food deserts.

An alarming number of Americans go hungry each day, or buy cheap, processed food because fruits and vegetables aren’t readily available or affordable where they live. A Place at the Table not only shines a light on this often overlooked problem, but also offer practical solutions for families who struggling with food insecurity,
8. In Defense of Food

Author Michael Pollen’s philosophy for a balanced diet is remarkably simple. In this documentary, he tells viewers to, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Through his own scientific detective work and interviews with leaders in the food science community, Pollen explores the idea behind “bad” foods, and seeks to help America recalibrate their relationship with what they eat.
9. The C Word

Cancer is a scary topic, and no one knows that better that filmmaker Meghan L. O’Hara. The director of The C Word is a cancer survivor herself, and her journey inspired this doc about lifestyle changes, the pharmaceutical industry and the way cancer treatment is approached in America. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, The C Word offers a new way to think about a difficult health topic.
10. Sustainable

Knowing where your food comes from is an important part of staying healthy. Sustainable is an agricultural documentary that takes viewers inside the modern farming community, as well as diving into the local food movement. These two subjects are well-worth exploring if you’re interested in seeing how food goes from the farm to the table.
11. Beyond Food

The topics of food and lifestyle intersect in this doc that does exactly what the title says — goes beyond food by interviewing a variety of people who lead lifestyles that they consider healthy. The wide range of viewpoints are enlightening. More importantly, they also challenge preconceived notions about health, and open up possibilities about how to be your best self by not only changing how you eat, but how you think.
12. Vegucated

What does it take to get meat lover’s to swap bacon for kale? Find out in the funny and fascinating Vegucated. The film follows three meat devotees as try out a vegan lifestyle for three weeks.

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