What if you COULD will away disease?

learned optimism

I was reading the book: Learned Optimism by world renown psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman and he thinks you CAN improve your health just through changing the thoughts and feelings you have when you encounter failure and challenge.

Known as the father of positive psychology, Dr. Martin and his colleagues found that optimists live longer, experience less illness and infection, have better social relationships. And you guessed it, pessimists experience the opposite!

Four reasons why optimism should improve health:

1. Immunity is affected by psychology

When we are feeling depressed, helpless, stressed…our immune system’s T-cells (responsible for removing specific invaders like measles) and NK cells (responsible for removing anything foreign) no longer multiply as fast and lose their attacking abilities respectively.

2. Sticking to the plan

Optimists are more likely to seek medical advice and professional help where as pessimists will believe “it’s meant to be; nothing I do will help; why bother.” A study of 100 Harvard graduates showed that pessimists are less likely than optimists to give up smoking.

3. Shit happens (and all at once)

Statistics show that the more bad events happen in a given period, the more likely you are to have illness too. The odds of having a heart attack and cancer increase in the 6 months of a bad life event like getting fired, divorced, sacked, widowed.  The moral here is to get a physical check up at these pivotal times. Might save your life.

4. Better social support (not the Medicare variety)

When people are sick it’s natural to hide away at home to recuperate. What is important is having people you can call upon (or in today’s world, Whatsapp I presume). The friendships and love wards away isolation and depression and ill health.

To wrap up I want to share the results of a British study of sixty nine women with breast cancer who were followed for five years. Those who did not get a recurrence of the cancer came at it with a “fighting spirit,” whereas those who suffered a recurrence merely accepted the doctor’s diagnosis and were “stoic”.

It pays to have that fire in you!

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