Positive Thinking & RecoveryI wanted to take some time this morning to highlight a fantastic essay written a week ago or so over at Mark's Daily Apple on The Power of Positive Thinking. I've only been reading Mark's blog for a few weeks now but I like the quality of what he has to say. Though I differ from him a bit in his dietary emphasis I feel he has a through grasp on his topics.
He writes in this post about the power of positive thinking in that it can help improve mortality rates and assist in disease prevention and disease recovery but only in cases where the positive thinking is genuine. An excerpt; click through for his full post.
"We’ve all heard anecdotal accounts of and seen movies about people beating terrible diseases with the power of positive thought. Little kids in baseball caps and terminal wards who get better when their hero hits a couple home runs for them at the big game. Cancer cases where the chemotherapy and radiation treatment don’t seem to work, but the reintroduction of a former lost love does... I don’t think anyone would deny that being generally glum, surly, and unconfident about life will generally result in unfavorable outcomes – but does that mean the opposite is necessarily true?"
Fighting DepressionMy wife and I were just discussing this concept a couple days ago as she is in her first weeks of internal medicine rounds and she's been seeing inpatients who are in critical medical situations. We determined that often if these patients don't have a good attitude then their health is more likely to decline. This also translates over to the healthy-but-elderly people as well. We also noted that many older people who lose a spouse to death are often moved to a path of higher mortality rates due to the onset of depression. We felt that always having a reason to look to the future is critical to staying healthy and vital into life's later years.
Goals Are ImportantWe recently read news of a couple who was in their nineties who got married. Both partners were on their second marriages and had both lost their first spouses to death of natural causes. We thought that this was a great thing that these people were able to mourn their loss and move on looking to the future. Life doesn't and shouldn't end when you get to a certain age.
I told my wife that I always want to have goals for the future. I want to always have a set of goals for at least ten years into the future. It's hard for me to speculate what those goals will be when I get old as I'm quite young still today but I can look back to my great-grandfather for inspiration. When he was 94 he re-roofed his house by himself. The next summer he disassembled his car and then rebuilt it. The man never stopped looking to the future and I hope to do the same.
Along those lines I read a story a few months back about a pair of bowlers who set the record for the USBC Championships (a mega bowling tournament) for being the oldest doubles partners to ever compete in the games. The pair combined was 205 years old! I would love to be 80 years old and look at my bowling friend and say lets beat that record. When we're in our 100's lets bowl that event and break the record. I'd look forward to the day.
A Fake Positive Attitude Doesn't HelpAll this is to say I feel that positive attitudes are important. Goals are important. Looking to the future and continual self-improvement is important to longevity, vitality, and quality of life. I've also written about attitude and heart attack recovery times and I firmly believe a positive attitude helps. Mark, however brings up a good point in that it can't be fake; you actually have to believe it for it to be of use. If you don't believe it then you have to discover why you don't believe it and work to understand why things could be different.
How To Think PositiveMy father is a pastor. One thing he often brings up in his messages when speaking of prayer is to ask God to help you "want to want to change". Often church-going people want to be better individuals but they don't want to give up their vices, habits, or lifestyles, and to that he councils that they should pray for the desire to want to change. It's kind of like dipping the toe in the pool of change instead of just jumping straight in. It's easier to do for the weak. I feel this concept works well for those with bad attitudes.
If you genuinely have a bad attitude and you're lying to yourself with positive thoughts that you don't actually believe, start recognizing that there can be validity to these positive thoughts if you were to just understand them more thoroughly. Tell yourself I believe these positive thoughts are plausible (though I'm currently sceptical) and then start learning and investigating why they are plausible. As your understanding of the situation develops you might just find that you start convincing yourself of these positive thoughts and actually start believing them.
Dip your toe in the water of positive thinking and get academic about it. Exercise your mind and exercise your body. Physical stressors help fight depression just as mental challenges and goals do. What's important is that you keep a positive attitude and work on believing it rather than just speaking it.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this. Leave them in the comments section below.