Mining: Your outlook on life can affect your health

Raspberries in water

Do you look on the bright side of life? Are you a 'glass half full' kind of person?

You probably know people who fall on both extremes of the optimism-pessimism spectrum. You see this in the mining industry, just like everywhere else in life. There are the ones who never seem to have a care in the world and always look on the bright side of life. As the saying goes, when life gives them lemons, they make lemonade. Then there are the grouchy ones who see the worst in every situation.

Most of us fluctuate somewhere between these two points. But, be honest — how frequently do you find yourself thinking things are worse than they are? You might not give too much thought to it, but could viewing life in this way actually be bad for our health?

Science says yes.

A pessimistic attitude may put you at risk of heart disease, according to recent research from Finland. Heart disease is a major concern, claiming the life of one person every 12 minutes in Australia.

On the other hand, research has shown that having a positive outlook can lead to:

  • Lower rates of depression
  • Lower rates of other psychological distress
  • Better coping skills during hardship and stress
  • Increased ability to cope with cancer treatment
  • Better weight control
  • Better control of blood sugar amongst diabetics
  • Increased resistance to colds
  • Lower blood pressure.

What’s more, a meta-analysis of 83 studies looked at the relationship between optimism and physical health and found that an optimistic outlook also had a significant impact on mortality, immune function, cancer outcomes, pregnancy outcomes and pain.

Even if you think you can’t change because ‘I’ve been this way forever’ or ‘I’m too old and set in my ways’, personality is not necessarily set in stone. While it can be difficult to change a core personality trait such as being an extrovert or an introvert, we can certainly change our behaviours, decision-making process, and how we react. Over time this may affect how we instinctively see and experience things. Read more about personality change here.

How to reduce negativity

Here are some helpful tips, inspired by the Mayo Clinic:

  • Focus on just one area you want to change. It is incredibly difficult to change multiple things at once so think about what is most pressing, and then gradually chip away at it.
  • Notice when you think negatively. Sometimes just catching yourself in the act instead of being on autopilot is enough to trigger change.
  • Even in the face of stressful circumstances, give yourself permission to crack a joke. Laughing and, bizarrely, even just smiling have an impact on how we feel. Try this odd (but backed up by science) experiment: put a pen or pencil between your teeth so you’re forced to smile. This is called facial feedback. Your brain responds to what the muscles are doing, regardless of whether it’s a fake grin or not.
  • Relax the body to relax the mind. Make sure your shoulders are back and down, head up, don’t clench your teeth, place your tongue at the bottom of your mouth and breathe slower and deeper. To find out more about the power the body and body language have over the mind, listen to this TED talk.
  • Make sure you eat better and exercise. You don’t have to go jogging and eat salads all day long. Make small, gradual changes to your diet and break exercise into ten-minute slots. Read more about the link between diet and mental wellbeing here.
  • Emotions are contagious so be careful of the company you keep. You don’t have to abandon your friends and avoid your colleagues if they’re a bit moody, but do try to be around positive people a little bit more often.
  • While it sounds a little New Age, keeping a notebook to write down the positive things that happened that day or the things you feel appreciative for has been shown to help your mental wellbeing and makes you focus on the important things in life.
  • Learn about ‘mindfulness’. This centuries-old practice is very easy and completely free to learn, and it will help you focus on the here and now rather than the bad things that might.

If you think your negativity might be associated with wider issues, like depression, please take a look at our mental health tips here. It’s specifically for FIFO workers, but the advice is good for everyone.

If you’ve always been a negative person or a ‘realist’, it’s highly unlikely you’ll suddenly wake up different tomorrow. But if you practice these tips on a regular basis, over time you may find yourself seeing things in a better light.

Being happy at work goes a long way to helping you feel more positive.

Leah Fogliani
Mining People International