Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - 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
Positive thinking can help people
feel better when they're sick, but
each condition, and each person,
is different.
"There is more research in some
areas when it comes to optimism and
health than others," says Tenbroeck
Smith, strategic director of patientreported outcomes for the American
Cancer Society. "For instance, there
is definite evidence in cardiology
that having an optimistic attitude
is related to good health outcomes
for cardiovascular disease."
Here are three specialties with
proven positive correlations between
optimism and outcomes.
* Cardiology: One study indicated
that optimistic patients were half as
likely as pessimists to require rehospitalization after a cardiac procedure.
* Immunology: Optimistic patients
were less likely than pessimists to contract a common respiratory virus in a
2006 study.
* Gerontology: Multiple studies
have shown optimism can increase
longevity. One study showed a
45 percent lower risk of mortality
in adults ages 65 to 85 who demonstrated optimism compared with
adults who did not.

DOWNLOAD

Track Your
Gratitude
One way to increase optimism
is by practicing gratitude.
Get started by downloading
Gratitude Journal to your
iPhone or Android and record
what you're thankful for each day.

FALL 2017

17



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia

Contents
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover1
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover2
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Contents
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Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover3
Vim & Vigor - Fall 2017 - University of Virginia - Cover4
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