It has been proven that negative behavior patterns such as hostility have direct and indirect effects on health. The question is whether the same applies to positive behavior patterns. After surveying relevant literature, it is possible to say that positive behavior patterns and health are also closely linked. Friendliness instead of aggression and peace instead of hostility result in avoiding health problems associated with negative behaviors and also contribute to mental and physical health.
First of all, positive behaviors are linked with positive mental states and emotions. A study (Danner, Snowdon, & Friesen, 2001) has reveled that positive emotions are strongly correlated with better health and longer longevity. Engaging in positive behavior might be one of the ‘ways positive emotions might be tapped to prevent and treat anxiety and depression and thereby optimize health and well-being’ (Fredrickson, 2000, p. 16).
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Additionally, it has been argued that the repertoire of negative behaviors is limited, while engaging in positive behaviors broadens a person’s outlook by broadening the space between though and action. A study of married couples (Gottman, 1998) has found out that couples, in which spouses demonstrate negative behaviors towards each other, have a fixed and predicable repertoire of actions, while those couples that are characterized by positive behaviors patterns of spouses have a wider range of options. Thus, positive behaviors have an indirect impact on heath, since they broaden a person’s outlook and contribute to healthy personality development. It is believed that exploring new opportunities and engaging in new activities enhances brain development.
Extensive evidence wit regard to the connection between positive behaviors and health can be drawn from the studies of the influence of religion on health. While the direct causal link between religion and health is questionable on many grounds, most religions promote positive behaviors and are based on such values as humbleness, diligence, non-resistance, and love of one’s neighbor. It should hardly elicit surprise that ‘religious involvement is associated both cross-sectionally and prospectively with better physical health, better mental health, and longer survival’ (George, Ellison & Larson, 2002, p. 190).
A study (Ferraro & Albrecht-Jensen, 1999) has discovered that ‘people who pray and participate more actively in their religions have better health’ (p. 199). While religious practice itself cannot be evaluated as an example of positive behavior from an objective point of view, it is very likely to be associated with such positive behavior patterns as community involvement and charity.
Moreover, positive behaviors help people to develop and sustain extensive social relationships. These relationships serve as a source of emotional support during crises and inner conflicts; as a result, crises and conflicts are solved easier. People who exhibit negative behavior patterns, such as hostility and aggression, are more likely to face social isolation. Absence of social support ‘may lead individuals to engage in risky health behaviours, such as substance abuse, overeating, and high risk sex, as a coping mechanism to regulate negative emotion’ (Mayne, 1999, p. 601).
In fact, mental health practitioners have developed a guideline for positive behaviors that ought to be followed to avoid mental health problems. They developed the 320-item Pleasant Events Schedule (MacPhillamy & Lewinsohn, 1982; in Fredrickson, 2000) that includes a comprehensive list of activities people should engage in if they are desirous of avoiding mental health problems such as depression. Some of the activities in the list are social interactions, spending time in nature, engaging in creative activities, and being physically active. There is a growing body of literature arguing that invoking amusement and laughter combats stress and illness (Cousins, 1985; Fry, 1994; Kuiper & Martin, 1998; Stone, Neale, Cox, & Napoli, 1994; in Fredrickson, 2000). There is mounting evidence ‘for beneficial effects of humor and laughter on immunity, pain tolerance, blood pressure, longevity, and illness symptoms’ (Martin, 2002).
Therefore, it is possible to conclude that positive behavior patterns affect health in a positive way, both directly and indirectly.—————————————————————————–
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