The biggest reason more Americans don't live to be 100 is that they don't believe they can. Yes, folks, beliefs are that powerful—especially beliefs about aging.
Over the years, I have seen the tremendous strain that negative attitudes put on mind/body interaction. Negativity is toxic; depression and pessimism can shorten lives.
On the other hand, a positive outlook can accelerate healing. I've found that positive people, those who always seem to be "up" and are able to "reframe" any stressful or negative event so that there is a positive aspect to focus on, are the ones who "make it," even when faced with life-threatening disease.
This was recently confirmed in study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Researchers followed more than 2,800 heart patients who had undergone coronary angiography, which is used to monitor blood flow to the heart.
The patients were also given an 18-point questionnaire to determine how optimistic or pessimistic they were about their diagnosis and recovery.
After 15 years, researchers found that optimism was a strong predictor of overall survival. In fact, those patients who scored low on the optimism test were 30 percent more likely to die during the study period.
Optimism, cheerfulness, and humor will brighten your life and enable you to face problems and challenges better, give you a sense of perspective, and help you cope with change.
You might be wondering how to be optimistic when you have a health problem. If you feel your health condition doesn't limit what you can do and you feel you have control over the outcome, you may have an optimistic outlook.
If you don't feel this way, you need to acknowledge your feelings and then recognize that you are not stuck. You have the power to change that outlook.
Addressing your attitudes can empower you to better direct and maintain your health. It takes practice, so it won't take place overnight, but here are some ways to start.
- Use reframing techniques, mental imagery, meditation, or prayer. You can't control everything that happens in life, but you can control how you choose to respond. The key is to look at something negative and "reframe" it. Instead of thinking, "I feel lousy again today. I'll never get better," think, "Today will be better than yesterday. Tomorrow I will try to walk a little further. I can see myself growing stronger, feeling better." What helps me reframe my response to stress is to ask myself, "Is this situation really worth dying for?" This question forces me to examine the major source of my anxiety. In most instances, I decide it's not worth the energy I'm expending.
- Spend more time with positive people. Spend time with children. They have an enormous capacity for joy. Everything seems to engage them. Stroll through a playground and watch the children. Their joy is bound to spill over into your life in some small but meaningful way. Volunteer at a community center that runs a play group for toddlers; they always need volunteers.
- Play. Do things you love, on your own or with others. This could be walking hand-in-hand down the street with a loved one, working in your garden, golfing, or playing with a pet.
- Appreciate the blessings of life. Life has its bright and dark sides. While pain and sorrow do exist, appreciate life's blessings.
- Look for the positive side in adversity. If you seek, you will find.