Can A Positive Mental Attitude Really Help Me Cope With Stress?

Dr. Charles Raison answers the question: 'Positive Mental Attitude And Stress?'

ByCharles Raison, M.D., Director, Behavioral Immunology Program, Emory University School of Medicine
April 16, 2008, 5:16 PM

— -- Question: Can a positive mental attitude really help me cope with stress?

Answer: It is very clear from research that's emerging that in general, a positive mental attitude is in fact a huge protector: A. against feeling unhappy when one is stressed out; but may also protect people from the physical damages that occur in the body as a result of stress. And this is probably because what a positive attitude does is it allows us to perceive stressful situations in ways that seem less threatening or less dangerous. And when that happens, our brain doesn't tell our body to activate all these stress and inflammatory pathways that damage health. So yes, there's a lot of evidence that a positive outlook is in fact good for health.

The only caveat to that is there are some studies suggesting that if people have unrealistically positive attitudes and then reality doesn't live up to those expectations, sometimes people can then flip the other direction and become overly pessimistic -- so there's a little bit of a caution there. But in general, realistic positive attitude is one of the best things we can do for our health.

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