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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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The Blues-Depression

If you missed it…our previous blog was on Autism in Young Children. Read the story at: Brainy Kids

Also as part of Brain Week we’re going to explore mental health. Specifically, Depression. 

depressed young lonely woman girl, sitting on the floor alone

Everyday life is a frenetic rush for most of us readers. Getting errands done, picking up the kids, checking off our to-dos. Seldom does one have time to slow down for any extended period-heck just the thought of it may even be so abnormal/weird-I know I think that! It’s a fact though that half the people with depression are without employment and so life in the slow lane is a place one can definitely go to-and it’s not what you think.

Waking up and just not feeling it. Not knowing what to do with your life so you go back to sleep. Feeling like you have no friends and noone to speak to-even just to hang out is a mission. Your drive and zest for life just ain’t there and so following through with tasks is a big ask. Compulsive drinking/gambling, reckless driving can sometimes be conduits of escape though shortlived.

Do you know someone like this? As cheesy as it sounds but there are many support lines one can call such as Beyond Blue, LifeLine, as well as chat rooms such as HeadSpace, etc… The sooner contact is made, the better the outcomes as depression can spiral out other aspects of life: relationships, job commitments, and physical health. Think about it: you don’t feel like going out with friends-next time they don’t invite you out; you are grouchy to your partner-all because you haven’t been sleeping enough; or you oversleep and keep missing your work appointments-causing you to lose your job; etc..

Personally I know of someone who withdrew completely from our social circle. Before he was the chirpy guy, loud and socially attuned. Now quite stunted in his communication. What happened? He had led himself to believe that he wasn’t enough for any girl-he was single. With the low self-esteem, he turned to alcohol. From there he began a downward spiral-he let go of work commitments as well as TAFE. He’s undergoing treatment now but it’s a long time coming.

Another close female friend went through a bad break up and her ex-boyfriend became quite physically abusive. She’s a young girl in her twenties and in the prime of her life with plenty of friends. After the breakup she felt she could no longer trust her friends. Her social life began a downward spiral and she admitted herself to hospital. Luckily she got treatment early on but the after effects, anxiety, and general caution with peers is always there.

As you can see depression can stem from life events-breakup, divorce, loss. Some of the risk factors that can add to the stressful event include:

  • living in isolation
  • family history of depression
  • financial strain
  • chronic pain
  • few social connections

If you know someone going through a tough time, these are some of the things YOU can do to make a positive impact:

  • Reach out and listen. Start the conversation. Meet for lunch.
  • Encourage them to get moving (I always like to say motion is emotion)
  • Help them reconnect with nature/volunteer together/share in a hobby you once enjoyed.

Whatever you do, don’t give up on that person! Chances are they just don’t know how to reconnect. Importantly, don’t feel like you need to fix the problem or provide solutions. A listening ear can be huge solace for those who are lonely.

Handy Contacts:


Beyond Blue




Vien LeTran, Pharmacist