Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - Community Healthcare - 17

results that say positivity doesn't really
affect disease outcomes."

POSITIVITY IS
SHORTSIGHTED

Don't go pooh-poohing positivity just
yet. Smith says it's all about how you
define it.
"We have to ask ourselves what we
mean by positivity. Is it being happy and
smiling? In a good mood? Or generally
believing in an optimistic outcome?"
he says. "There are days and times of
day where you feel better than others.
Optimism, however, has more to do
with the belief that things are going to
work out well in the long run."
And optimism can affect your health.
In one study, optimistic women were
nearly a third less likely to die from cancer, heart disease, stroke, respiratory
disease or infection compared with less
optimistic women. Specifically, optimists had a 16 percent lower chance of
dying from cancer than nonoptimists,
according to the study, published in
the American Journal of Epidemiology.
In another study, published in the
Journal of Thoracic Oncology, optimistic
lung cancer patients lived an average
of six months longer than their pessimistic counterparts. No studies suggest optimism is detrimental to cancer
outcomes, so it's worth a shot to take a
sunnier view of things.
What does that mean if you're positively a pessimist? That's OK-you don't
need a personality transplant to see
potential benefits.

FAKE IT TILL
YOU MAKE IT

You don't actually have to be an optimist to reap the health benefits of
optimism. You just have to act like
one. Here's how.
Surround yourself with support.
Dealing with cancer is hard. There will
be days you're too tired to get out of

bed or too distracted to listen to your
doctor's advice. The key is having
people around you who can pick up
the slack when needed. You might
need someone to make you meals,
drive you to treatment appointments
or jot notes in the examining room.
Let the people in your life help, and
don't feel guilty about it.
Follow your doctor's orders.
It might not be that optimists have
better outcomes because of their attitudes, but because they're more likely
than pessimists to follow a doctor's
treatment guidelines, Smith says.
"A true pessimist might decide
they don't want treatment because
they believe it's not going to matter
either way," Smith says. "But optimistic patients follow all the recommendations of the doctor, because they
believe it will work. And if you follow
the treatment guidelines, you're more
likely to survive."
Talk about side effects.
Optimists look for ways to deal with
problems because they can see the
other side of them, whereas pessimists
are more likely to assume the way
things are is how they'll always be.
Treatment side effects are a good place
to practice optimism; you don't have to
just accept them. Talk to your doctor
about ways to feel better. You may have
more options than you think.
Let yourself get angry. "One
thing I feel strongly about is that we
don't want to tell people dealing with
cancer they need to be rosy, shiny,
sunny all the time," Smith says. "Feeling
angry, sad or depressed-those are real
emotions you'll deal with. Trying to
smile when you feel like crying isn't
going to help anything."
So go ahead and scream, cry or
stay in bed when the feeling strikes.
But also allow yourself to laugh,
smile and be joyful when you feel
like it, too. ■

OTHER
BENEFITS OF
OPTIMISM
An optimistic outlook helps people feel
better when they are sick. Positivity
can lead to a longer, healthier life.
American Cancer Society studies
note that adults ages 65 to 85 have
a 45 percent lower risk of mortality
if they have an optimistic outlook.
"The more optimistic one is,
the less likely they are to have
depression or anxiety disorders,"
says Jake Messing, director of
Community Healthcare System's
Behavioral Health Services at
St. Catherine Hospital. "Optimism
can play an important role in assisting people who are recovering from
catastrophic events," he adds.
"Well-adjusted people make for
a happy home," says Anna Bower,
clinical nurse specialist in psychiatry
and licensed marriage and family
therapist at Community Hospital
Outpatient Centre in St. John. "How
we care for ourselves and take action
to create a positive home or recuperate from physical and stressful
events is a predictor for physical and
emotional health, and satisfaction
with life."

CALL

Cup Half Empty?
If you're feeling bogged
down by life, we may be
able to help. Seek out a
Community Healthcare System
behavioral health professional
by calling 219-392-7025 or
by visiting www.comhs.org/
services/behavioral-health.

FALL 2017

17


http://www.comhs.org/services/behavioral-health http://www.comhs.org/services/behavioral-health

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