Monday, October 18, 2010

Wellness Wit and Wisdom

By Maureen Deutermann, MSN, R.N.
Director of Community Education

One of my favorite Disney movies is the classic Pollyanna. For those of you unfamiliar with the story, the heroine is an 11-year-old orphan who is sent to live with her bitter spinster aunt in a gloomy little village full of equally gloomy people. Pollyanna, however, is infused with an unquenchable enthusiasm for life which serves to change the lives of many of the villagers, and ultimately helps Pollyanna herself to overcome a personal tragedy.

Pollyanna’s tool for happiness is something called the “glad game.” Here’s how it works: Whenever something you perceive as being “bad” happens, say to yourself “I am glad of this because… (fill in the blank).” It’s a simple way of looking for the silver lining, or seeing the glass as half full. This little game is a good thing to practice, because as it turns out, having an optimistic outlook is beneficial to one’s overall health!

Studies show that folks who exhibit a positive attitude are less likely to develop certain health conditions, such as high blood pressure, diabetes and back trouble. They also recover more quickly from surgery. In fact, scientists now consider pessimism a risk factor for disease. In a study of 25-year-old Harvard University students, the optimists were significantly healthier at ages 45 and 60 than their pessimistic fellow students.

Psychologically, optimism also pays off. Optimists experience less stress, possibly because they believe in their own talents and expect the best outcome. Optimists don’t give up easily, and their persistence translates into greater achievement and success in life. In a study of clinically depressed patients, it was found that 12 weeks of training in optimistic habits worked better than medication!

Convinced that the practice of optimism is worthy of taking a whack at it? Okay, let’s start with a simple test of the Glad Game. Fill in the blank: “I am glad for Mondays because…” If you can do that one, Pollyanna would be very proud of you!