Given obvious world events, we’re all bombarded with names like Birx, Fauci, Moderna, and Johnson(s). Right now, I’m focused on Mayo.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “positive thinking helps with stress management and can even improve your health.” That article header on their website caught my eye, given my interest in both positivity and health. The correlation is not news to me, but it certainly bears another look.
The Mayo Clinic Staff cited studies showing that personality traits like optimism and pessimism affect many areas of your health and well-being. Positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key to effective stress management. Effective stress management, in turn, is associated with many health benefits.
I find myself surprised at how much resistance people have to the idea that we have the power to heal ourselves. ‘Surgery heals, medicine heals, I can’t heal myself.’ Certainly, doctors are often necessary in the healing process, but what happens when you fracture a pinkie or pull a muscle? The doctor sends you home with the advice to rest it and let it heal. Your body (you) is mending your broken bones and stitching together muscle fibers, not the doctors.
A study conducted in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital determined that post-operative patients with a hospital room view of trees and grass had shorter recovery stays and fewer complications than patients whose windows faced a brick wall. Other studies indicate that people with deeply held religious beliefs had better prognoses than their less devout peers. If something as simple as seeing a nature setting can enhance the healing process, why is it so difficult to believe that we do in fact have a great deal of control over our health and healing?
The way we think about our health affects our health. The old adage ‘worried sick’ is a very real thing that we all do to ourselves. Herbert Benson, a Harvard Professor & the President of the Mind Body Institute in Boston reports that surgeons are wary of people who are convinced they will die. 10 years ago researchers stumbled on a striking find. Through surveys, they found that women who believed they were prone to heart disease were nearly 4 times more likely to die of heart disease than women with similar risk factors who didn’t hold such fatalistic views.
In other words, it had nothing to do with the usual heart disease indicators, such as age, cholesterol or obesity. It came down to their belief. Think sick, be sick.
Conversely, when you believe in your ability to be healthy and also your ability to heal yourself in the event of trauma or illness, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. In 1954, researcher Julian Rotter developed the concept of locus of control. (Locus means location.) This phrase refers to a person’s belief in whether they control their lives (internal locus) or if they believe that events and life outcomes are largely beyond their control (external locus).
Patients who were identified as having an internal locus of control (believing that they largely controlled their destiny) showed improved physical and mental health and a generally higher quality of life over those patients identified as having an external locus of control (believing that events outside their control were the overriding factor for how their lives unfolded). Internal locus of control patients suffering from HIV, migraines, diabetes, kidney disease and epilepsy fared better and maintained a higher quality of life than their external counterparts. Have certainty in your ability to heal yourself and think healthy to be healthy. Kabbalists teach that certainty is the knowing that whatever we encounter in our life, no matter how unpleasant or difficult, is there to benefit our spiritual growth. Certainty doesn’t happen when things are great.
According to the Mayo staff, researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
● Increased life span
● Lower rates of depression
● Lower levels of distress
● Greater resistance to the common cold
● Better psychological and physical well-being
● Better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
● Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
Whether that positivity enables better coping with stressful situations which reduces harmful effects on your health or if positive people simply tend to live healthier lifestyles, I am not seeing a downside to facing whatever life throws at us next with anything other than a smile and a determination to thrive.