You hear the expression all the time, “think positive”. What does that mean? What if you don’t usually “think positive”? Is there any scientific basis for this? Can you learn to “think positive”?
Mesothelioma patients and their caregivers are told from diagnosis to “think positive” about their disease and treatment options. Looking at the statistics for malignant mesothelioma it is very difficult to “think positive”.
Historically it has been thought by many people that positive thinking is healthy and can improve your quality of life. The qualities of optimism and pessimism have a marked influence on your psychological and physical well-being.
“The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” — Winston Churchill
In 1985 the psychologist, Michael F. Scheier and co-author Charles S. Carver published a landmark study, “Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectancies”. This paper helped bridge the gap between psychology and biology. The study included a test to measure the effect of a personality variable on a person’s physical health. By developing a tool that was simple and easy to use, scientists were then able to measure what was thought of “the power of positive thinking”. As a result of this work and many after this publication, there is now scientific proof of the positive benefits of positive thinking on your health.
To start on the path to positive thinking look at yourself and what goes on in your head. Self-talk is that stream of thought that goes through your head that is not spoken. These thoughts can be positive or negative. Some of the thoughts may be logical, others can be from lack of information, and misconceptions. If you find that the unspoken thoughts that you are saying to yourself are negative, you can change that with time and practice. Be nice to yourself and encouraging. Give yourself a break! Look at the thought and evaluate it and remind yourself what is good about yourself!
Increasing positive thinking in your life can be done by figuring out what makes you happy. Spending time with people who you enjoy – such as your children or grandchildren — or doing a hobby that you enjoy. These could all be ways to increase positive emotions. Recent studies have proven that meditation has a positive effect. People that meditate daily have more positive emotions than those who do not. Writing has also shown to help. A study was published that showed that writing about one positive experience a day had a lasting effect on moods, and results in fewer visits to health centers, as well as better overall health. Exercise has also proven to help, as has allowing yourself time to explore something new and having fun.
Optimism and pessimism are personality traits. Positive thinking comes from optimism and then is used effectively in stress management. By thinking positive it does not mean that you deny reality. Mesothelioma is a deadly cancer, to take the approach that you are going to “think positive” and all will be well is not realistic. Positive thinking means that you approach the challenge of a mesothelioma diagnosis in an optimistic and constructive way.
There are ways to become a positive thinking person. Look at a situation that did not turn out as well as you expected and ask yourself: “what have I learned from this”? Change does not happen overnight but it is possible. Positive thinking will only aid you and your family members along the journey with mesothelioma.