How Thinking Positive Thoughts Could Help With Medication Adherence

Thinking positive thoughts could also have positive health benefits when it comes to making sure we're taking our medicine, a new study shows.

The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that when people with high blood pressure think positive thoughts, practice self affirmation and undergo patient education, they are more likely to follow their medication regimen than with patient education alone.

"Positive affect made a real difference -- patients are better able to follow through on behaviors to improve their health," study researcher Dr. Mary Charlson, of Weill Cornell Medical College, told the Daily Mail.

In the study, researchers enrolled 256 people with high blood pressure who are African American to participate in the study. (African Americans are disproportionally affected by hypertension, researchers said.)

The study participants were split up into two groups -- one group was given materials for patient education on taking the medications and were called bimonthly to check on medication adherence, while the other group was given the same materials in addition to information on the benefits of positive affirmations with regard to medication adherence.

In addition, in the bimonthly phone calls, people in the second group were asked about small things in their lives that made them feel positive, and were advised to think about those things during their daily routines. People in the second group also got small surprise gifts in the mail before they were called, and were also reminded to think about their values and achievements whenever they were unmotivated to take their medicine.

After a year, 42 percent of people in the second group properly adhered to their medicines, while 36 percent of people in the first group did, researchers reported.

However, researchers didn't find that there were actually any differences in reduced blood pressure between the two groups.

A related commentary was also published, where experts from the University of Rochester weighed in on the benefits of positive thoughts on medication adherence.

"... We recommend that future research target positive affect and self-affirmation in a context of support for satisfaction of the basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness," they wrote.