“I believe that there is a connection between mind and body — and that our thoughts and attitudes/emotions affect physical functioning and overall health.” – Norman Cousins
Many of you may be familiar with the extraordinary life and story of Norman Cousins, diplomat, editor and author. He died in 1990 but in the mid 1960s he was diagnosed with a fatal disease and told that his death was imminent. Almost completely paralyzed, Cousins decided to leave the hospital, throw away his medications, check into a hotel and surround himself with things that would make him laugh. He watched Laurel and Hardy movies, read positive message books, enjoyed comic books from his childhood, and pored over inspirational writings.
Detailed in one of his books, “Anatomy of an Illness,” Cousins chronicled his journey and the unbelievable restoration to complete health with another kind of medicine: laughter along with a changed outlook and attitude.
Can optimists really heal themselves?
Can humor impact your health?
If you make statements like, “I’m sick with worry” or “I’m scared to death”, could you be fueling an illness?
Long term and current research now tells us that the mind and immune system are inexorably connected and do not exist independently. For example, if you expect illness, you increase the odds of getting an illness. If you expect good health, your chances of enjoying good health are increased by that attitude.
Duke University reported in the journal Medical Care that the way we perceive our health has a dramatic effect on our actual health. They found that in a group of 3,000 heart patients who were asked to rate their health, those who said it was “very good,” had three times the survival rate of the others who answered “poor” regardless of the variables in their health.
…regardless of risk factors, those who saw themselves as having poor health, roughly doubled their risk of death within five years.
Johns Hopkins University confirms what Duke University reported and says that their researchers interviewed more than 5,000 people over the age of 65, and regardless of risk factors, those who saw themselves as having poor health, roughly doubled their risk of death within five years. Hard to believe, but pessimism proves to be more deadly than congestive heart failure or smoking 50 or more packs of cigarettes every year.
Gunnar Engstrom, MD, a professor at Lund University in Sweden has studied self-ratings of health and says, “A positive attitude about health can ward off mental distress and may help provide important protection against diseases.”
In 1973 Dr. Grossarth-Maticek tested the attitude of thousands of elderly residents in Heidelberg, Germany. Amazing results surfaced twenty-one years later when he compared the test scores with their current health: “the 300 people who had scored highest turned out to be thirty times more likely to be alive and well 21 years later than the others.”
A seven year study at the University of Texas found that people with an upbeat attitude about life could actually delay ageing suggesting that psychosocial factors play a role along with genes and physical health in determining how fast we age.
They speculate that positive emotions might alter the chemical balance of the body. Leading the research, Dr. Glenn Ostir told BBC News Online: “I believe that there is a connection between mind and body — and that our thoughts and attitudes/emotions affect physical functioning and overall health.”
Past president of the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor, Steven M. Sultanoff, Ph.D. and clinical psychologist in Irvine, California says, “Humor stimulates laughter and we know that physiological stimulation through laughter leads to a number of health benefits by reducing stress and boosting antibodies that fight infection. The research, particularly on heart disease, is dramatic. People who are chronically angry are four to five times more likely to have a heart attack than people who are not.”
There are other studies revealing that depressed people may be 42 percent more likely to develop diabetes. Sadness seems to stack the odds against you.
John Barefoot, Ph.D. research professor at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina initiated a 25 year study of medical students from the 1950s and discovered at the end of the study in 1980 that the ones who had been hostile were the ones who were more likely to have died. Later expanded studies have confirmed those same findings.
Support groups can have a powerful impact on your health as well when you’re dealing with sadness and depression or a circumstance that is painful. In a study at Stanford University researchers found that cancer patients who were included in a support group lived longer.
Our mind is a powerful weapon that can be used to defeat our enemy, disease, or as an ally to heal us and give us great health and a long life.
Maybe there is something to the old adage Laughter is the Best Medicine.
In good health,
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Anatomy of an Illness: Norman Cousins