How you view the world and your place in it affects the quality of your health! Google optimism and this is how it is defined: hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something. Do the same for pessimism and this is what you get: a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future
So, are you an optimist or pessimist? Do you look for the good or the bad in people and situations? Do you see a silver lining when things aren’t going your way? Do you see the glass as half full or half empty?
If are an optimist you are more likely to have better health, fewer colds, and a lower chance of getting cancer and heart disease. Study after study has demonstrated that quality of your mental and physical health is better if you are an optimist.
The most recent study was published last month (12/2016) in the American Journal of Epidemiology. It showed a positive relationship between optimism and mortality in more than 70,000 women over a 6 year period. The optimistic women in this group were 29% less likely to die of any cause!
There are several objective questionnaires that can determine if you are an optimist or pessimist. You can find them on-line, but I think most people already know what they are.
Both in my personal and professional life I am an optimist and stay as positive as possible. I am also a realist in that I know conditions I can treat successfully and what I can’t. Those patients that I can’t help get referred to the correct provider.
I had a learning experience a few years ago when my optimism may have worked again me. A patient who did not follow my treatment recommendations contacted me. He stated when I told him he had arthritis in his spine I did not take it seriously and that is why he did not follow through with his treatment plan. Reflecting back, I think I explained the situation correctly but took it as a learning experience. Arthritis is degeneration of the spine. I call it rust. It is not a normal part of aging and is caused by long term dysfunction in the spine. It needs to be treated correctly and aggressively. My mistake was that I told him that if we treated his arthritis and he went through my recommended treatment plan, his pain would be relieved, his function would improve and more importantly we could slow down, or even arrest the progression of his spinal arthritis. What I didn’t do, and what he needed to hear from me was that arthritis is a serious diagnosis.
Looking back, I did tell him arthritis was serious, but in a positive way. Having spinal arthritis is not good news, but it is doesn’t mean you are doomed. What I should have done, and do now, is tell my patients that arthritis is serious, but 30+ years of clinical experience have given me the confidence to say that if treated correctly arthritis does not have to be debilitating. I now show before and after x-rays of patients who followed my advice and those who didn’t. Prior patients who followed through on my recommendations had no progression in their arthritis, and those who did not and returned 5+ years later all showed a progression in their degeneration. The patients who followed my recommendations and in spite of having arthritis are active and enjoying life! . It means you need to treat spinal arthritis correctly and then afterwards maintain that correction like oiling a rusty hinge, or wearing a retainer after your braces come off.
Maybe I was too positive, or maybe this patient was too pessimistic. I don’t know. Now I ask questions during my consultations to see if a patient leans more to being an optimist or pessimist and give my explanations accordingly. I always discuss the seriousness of the diagnosis and offer hope with a detailed recommendation to get them out of pain and on with life.
So what are you, an optimist or pessimist? If you want to live a long, healthy life, being an optimist improves your odds. If you are a pessimist how do you become an optimist?
I can tell you all the things you heard before and you dismissed including: avoid other pessimists; count your blessing; be positive; forgive others; smile more and frown less; exercise regularly; eat healthy and to stop blaming others. Which are proven strategies to be more optimistic.
My favorite method is to write down 3 things every day that you are grateful for. Try it! It’s a New Year! Start a new habit. It can take less than a minute to do. Look at the brighter side of life! If you want to live a long healthy life, being more optimistic has been proven to make you healthier!
I wish all of my patients and friends a Healthy New Year! At Performance Health Center we are committed to getting and keeping you healthy in a positive, supportive and caring atmosphere!