Health: Does Optimism Promote Healing?

Keep your spirits up! Don't give up! Stay positive!' People who are ill often hear these injunctions from their loved ones or even from their doctors... But is this advice justified? Does optimism really promote recovery? Here are some answers provided by scientific studies.

Being optimistic is good for your health

If you tend to see the glass as half full, rejoice! According to some very serious studies, optimism is associated with better health and longer life.

For example, optimism has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. It thus helps the immune system to function optimally and to better defend itself against infections, for example.

Does this mean that optimistic people are better equipped to fight disease in general? To the question of the link between optimism and healing, the answers provided by science are more nuanced.

It all depends on the disease you are going through

While it has been shown that a positive state of mind generally contributes to good physical and mental health, when illness is present, it is more difficult to maintain positive thoughts.

However, some studies have shown that optimistic people have better prognoses for certain chronic diseases such as heart disease. In this particular case, scientists observed a potential reduction in mortality in optimistic patients.

On the other hand, it would be irrational to believe that optimism cures cancer. Only the treatment you are about to undergo can cure your cancer, and a positive frame of mind is simply going to help you better cope with that treatment.

Pessimists are no less likely to be cured

Besides, if you are the type of person who sees the glass as half empty, don't despair! Pessimism has never prevented anyone from getting better.

In some patients, pessimism can also be a strategy for coping with the disease, especially if it is a defense strategy.

Indeed, some people need to envision the worst-case scenario to better prepare themselves for the trials ahead.

When faced with certain diseases such as cancers, one must be prepared for heavy and unpleasant treatment that will disrupt daily life.

There is no point in fooling oneself or trying to be overly optimistic by refusing to face reality (e.g. thinking that one does not need chemotherapy and that one can be cured with alternative therapies such as plants, crystals etc.).

Conversely, excessive pessimism can undermine your chances of recovery if it causes you to become fatalistic and give up on your treatment.

If you start to think 'what's the point of treating myself?" or "I'm going to give up on my treatment because I have no chance of getting better," get help. You are entitled to psychological support by a psychologist and psychiatrist and this can help you through this ordeal.

A positive attitude helps with treatment

As you can see, optimism alone is not enough to cure, just as pessimism is not enough to condemn the patient.

The key to recovery is, of course, to follow one's treatment scrupulously and to trust one's doctors. In a course of care that is not always easy to endure, a positive frame of mind can help you hang in there and see your treatment through.

The great strength of optimists is that they know how to adapt to all situations, including the most difficult ones, and find resources to achieve their goal (in this case, recovery).

When faced with an illness, an optimist believes in his chances of recovery and in the effectiveness of the treatment he has been prescribed. They therefore follow it scrupulously, which of course increases their chances of recovery.

A positive state of mind is not a miracle cure, but it does promote adherence to treatment and maintains motivation to stick with it throughout the care protocol.

How to put all the chances on your side?

Good news for pessimists: optimism is not an innate quality. It is a state of mind that can be cultivated at any age.

In other words, even if it's not a reflex in you, you can train yourself to look on the bright side.

Of course, you may say, illness is not the most favorable context for developing optimism. However, it is during this ordeal that your state of mind will have the greatest impact on your health and well-being.

Failing to see life as rosy, strive to be confident in your treatment. Focus on the idea that this treatment, no matter how difficult, is there to make you feel good, to help you overcome the disease and get on with your life.

In chemotherapy, for example, you can imagine that your treatment will cleanse your body of all the cancer cells and allow you to get rid of all those bad cells.

Not only will these positive thoughts keep you motivated, but they will also help you perceive less pain and unpleasant side effects.

A positive mindset also pushes you to take action rather than resigning yourself. Yet action gives you a sense of regaining control over your destiny, a control that the diagnosis announcement often caused to waver.

Rather than locking yourself into a negative view of your situation and turning inward, lean on the support of those around you. Your loved ones and caregivers will be able to give you energy and hope when those resources run out.

Indeed, while optimism can help you during your care protocol, you should not feel guilty if negative thoughts plague you.

You have every right to be afraid, worried or angry, and expressing genuine emotions is healthier than displaying fake, constrained optimism.

Author: Audrey
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In French: Santé : l'optimisme favorise-t-il la guérison ?
En español: Salud: ¿el optimismo favorece la curación?
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