Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Positive me

Happier people live longer, get fewer infections and feel less pain.

Why is a positive attitude so vital to our health?

Think yourself better: happier people live longer

Forget the pills and potions, hold the tissues, and be positive

It just may be a good way to avoid a cold.

People with a positive emotional style – happy, lively, and calm – were nearly three times less likely to develop a cold after being exposed to a virus than the negative-minded volunteers.

They were infected by the bug, but their body's reaction to it meant they were less likely to have a cold.

We found that the tendency to express positive emotions was associated with greater resistance to developing a cold, say the researchers.

Common colds are not the only health problem to be avoided or lessened by being positive.

New research shows that men and women with so-called dispositional optimism – defined as having positive expectations for the future – were less sensitive to pain.

Positive folk may also be less likely to die prematurely and to live seven or more years longer than the more miserable.

They recover more quickly from surgery, may be less likely to develop cancer, suffer a stroke, die from heart disease, or suffer from depression.

The more positive people expect their futures to be, the better their mood, the fewer their psychiatric symptoms, and the better their adjustment to diverse situations including pregnancy and cardiac surgery," says Dr Suzanne Segerstrom, of the University of Kentucky

While it's long been accepted that negative emotions such as anger, depression and anxiety have an effect on health, increasing evidence is showing that positive emotions may be associated with lower rates of illness and less severe symptoms.

Researchers at Yale University who investigated longevity found that those people who had positive attitudes about ageing when they were young lived more than seven years longer that those with a less positive attitude.

Our study carries two messages.

The discouraging one is that negative self-perceptions can diminish life expectancy; the encouraging one is that positive self-perceptions can prolong life expectancy," says Dr Becca Levy, who led the study.

The link between a positive mind and health may also lead to new ways of tackling disease.

It is an important area," says Dr John Weinman, professor of psychology as applied to medicine at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College, London.

For years, what we have tended to do is to focus on people who have problems, those with illnesses.

We have maybe over-focused on these people and why they have problems in coping with illness.

We would actually learn a lot from people who do well despite having major health problems, those who get back to functioning quickly, and who survive for longer periods of time.

What is especially interesting is the long-term survival of people with major health problems which we know should shorten their lives.

In type one diabetes, for example, which is known to reduce life expectancy by about 15 years, there are people out there who are in their seventies and eighties who have lived since childhood with diabetes.

What is it about those people?

That is the big question

Just how a positive and optimistic outlook has such an effect is not known.

Some theories suggest that it is because such people tend to look after their health better, be more focused and know what they want, and are more likely to shun health-threatening behaviours.

But other research suggests something else at work.

In the common-cold research at the University of Pittsburgh, the researchers found that it was not so much that the positive people did not get infected with the virus, but that they tended to have fewer signs and symptoms of illness.

That, say the researchers, appears to suggest that the link may be down to differences in the release of immune system cells involved in the inflammatory response to the infection.

Researchers at Miami University have suggested that many hormones that play a key role in health are affected by emotions, including cortisol, norepinephrine, dopamine, prolactin, and oxytocin.

Positive psychological factors have been associated with many of these hormones they say, which
simply put

If you learn to think positively

It leads to positive actions

Which create positive habits

After which positive results appear
Positive me indeed!
R. Dobson

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