Summary: Have you ever came down with a cold right after you finish a big project or return from a trip? Stress can zap your immune system and make you more susceptible to illness and infection. You can, however, increase your immune system’s strength with a better future view. This article and video give you three solid steps to improve yours. (Also published on Success.com)
When you think about your future, how positive is that picture? Your future view either sabotages your energy and makes you more likely to get sick or it increases your positive energy and resiliency to stress and illness.
We think about the future many times each day. Each time you do, what do you focus on? Is your view of the future optimistic and full of possibilities, or is filled with stressful and worry?
After 23 years of being a stress motivational speaker and researching working adults, I’m absolutely clear on one thing:
People who thrive under stress have better future views.
Let me back up that statement with some research. In a 2010 study published in Psychological Science, researchers studied 124 law students to determine if their future view, how optimistic they see their future, affected their immune system. They found that those with a more optimistic view of their future had significantly stronger immune responses.
Meaning, their attitude made their body better at fighting infection.
That’s interesting don’t you think? It gets even more interesting.
As a “motivational speaker” on stress and productivity, I sometimes get push back when I share that being optimistic gives you a strategic advantage in life. Some will say, “I’m just not that optimistic of a person.”
The really interesting aspect of this study is that the researchers found that the students baseline level of optimism did not have a significant affect on their immune system.
This is great news, because you don’t have to be full-blown optimist to get the amazing benefits of improving your future view. Even cynical, pessimistic, “dooms dayers” can get the same, full benefits of an improved immune response if they improve their future view.
We don’t have control over what the future holds, but we do have control over how we view our future. This study shows that our bodies are designed to thrive when we look forward with optimism.
Here are three steps to help you create a better future view:
A. Take a mental snap shot of your current future view.
What do you see when you look to the future? How does that picture make you feel?
B. Improve it.
Identify anything that can help support a better future view. I flesh out how to do this in another stress management video, called 1 out of 3: How people who thrive under stress stay motivated.
C. Make it a pattern.
Whenever you think about the future, I want you to make that a trigger to refocus on how to make the future look better.
For example, I was the closing Keynote speaker for a group of meeting professionals call the Society of Government Meeting Professionals. Their organization is going through some big changes. I asked them, and I ask you – When you look to the future are you focusing on the uncertainty or the opportunity? The added work or the chance to stand out? The loss of stability or appreciation for what you have?
By choosing a more optimistic view, you will not only increase your energy and motivation, but you will strengthen your immune system.
I know this is a simple idea, but the better you get at developing a better future view the better your chances are at being successful under stress.
CITATION: Optimistic Expectancies and Cell-Mediated Immunity: The Role of Positive Affect.” Segerstrom, Suzanne C.; Sephton, Sandra E. Psychological Science, Volume 21 (3), February 2010, Pages 448-455.