Being an optimist isn't just good for your mind—it's good for your body too.

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When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts about yourself, your circumstances, or even about others, STOP! Instead—force yourself to think of three positive things instead. If you persevere with looking for the good, instead of the bad, it will become a habit. It’s well worth the effort. The benefits of being more optimistic are now being recognized in numerous studies.

Many people see positivity as a genetic trait—something they are either born with or not. In the same way that we might talk about our eye color or height, many of us will describe ourselves as naturally optimistic or pessimistic. However, your brain can change. In the same way that we can train our brains to appreciate healthy food, we can train ourselves to have a more positive outlook on life. Here’s why:

Improved heart health
According to a new study from the University of Illinois, having a positive outlook on life could provide you with better heart health. The study of more than 5,100 adults found that people who were most optimistic were twice as likely to be in ideal cardiovascular health, with significantly better blood sugar and cholesterol levels, compared with their pessimistic counterparts. The optimists were also more likely to be physically active and have healthier BMIs.

More likely to succeed
You might think that succeeding would lead you to feeling happier, but it works the other way round. Studies show that positivity will increase your chances of success. For example, did you know that 3/4 of our success at work is linked to our optimism and how well we manage stress, rather than our IQ? Being positive could also help you to achieve better results in smaller tasks. In fact, studies have shown that people who are encouraged to think positively before a math test actually did better!

Related: 3 Ways To Improve Your Mental Running Game

Better chances of ditching the junk food
Struggling to lose weight? One of the reasons that diets ultimately fail is that we usually start them in a negative frame of mind, often because we feel bad about the way we look. For the majority of us who have been on repeated diets, it is difficult not to feel that this latest diet will end in the same way as all the others—with all of the weight and more going back on. A negative frame of mind, science shows, means we are less likely to succeed at our endeavors. I believe that a major factor in helping us to lose weight is to develop that positive frame of mind before you start your small and sustainable steps towards weight-loss.

When we’re feeling negative, we can turn to sugary and fatty foods that will give our bodies a quick burst of energy and feel-good hormones. However, this is swiftly followed by a crash in our blood sugar levels—leaving us feeling even worse than before. So instead try focusing on the positives; think about how hard you’ve worked so far, and how good you’ll feel when you finally reach your goal weight. You’ll find that those negative yearnings for junk food will soon dissipate!

More likely to stick with your fitness goals
Thinking about fitness in a negative way will make you more likely to bail at the first opportunity. Studies show that a positive frame of mind helps people to stick with their fitness regimes as well as their healthy eating goals. Once you start exercising, that positivity is helped even more by the endorphins, or feel-good hormones, that exercise releases. If you find that the thought of heading to the gym leaves you feeling miserable, then ditch the gym! Find different ways you could keep fit—classes, swimming, or brisk walks in the fresh air. There’s something out there for everyone, and when you’ve found an activity that you really enjoy, those positive feelings will make you more likely to stick with it for the long haul.

Dr Sally Norton is a UK Leading Health Expert, a NHS Weight Loss Surgeon and founder of www.vavistalife.com

Read More About Thinking Positively
How To Turn Negative Thoughts Into A Positive Mindset
The Truth Behind Mastering Mental Toughness