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Smiling Face, a Saving Grace: How a Positive Attitude May Wind Up Saving Your Life

Positive Thinking “If everything you do is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.” 

Those were the words spoken by Jerry Seinfeld to his good friend George Costanza, after George woefully told Jerry that every decision he’d made in his life had turned out wrong. To correct this trend, George and

Jerry thought that perhaps if George started making decisions that went contrary to what his gut told him, his luck might change. To make a long story short, doing the opposite worked out well for George.

Of course, Seinfeld is a sitcom, and while the idea of doing the opposite of what your gut tells you sounds intriguing, it probably isn’t the best modus operandi to follow for all of life’s vicissitudes.  But in one particular aspect of life, it is precisely the modus operandi one should adopt.

I speak of one’s attitude.  How often do we say, “You’re putting me in a bad mood,” or “I woke up on the wrong side of the bed”?  While assigning blame may seem like legitimate excuses to our poor attitudes, ultimately, we – and we alone – choose how we are going to feel, act and react to life’s many permutations.  Something as simple as smiling at someone in the supermarket – even when we don’t particularly feel like it – helps give us a more positive attitude about our day and life in general.  But having a positive attitude may do more than just help us have a better outlook on life.  It may also save our life.

According to research recently published in the July-August issue of the journal Annals of Family Medicine, men who suffered from a heart attack or stroke were three times more likely to survive it if they believed they were at a lower than average risk of cardiovascular disease.

Doctor Robert Gramling from the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, NY, and his team of researchers spent 15 years studying over 2,800 adult participants, all from New England, between the ages of 35 and 75.  The participants were asked at the study’s outset how at risk they believed they were to having a heart attack or stroke in the next five years compared to other people their age.  Near to the end of the study, the researchers gathered information from the National Death Index to see who, if any, of the study’s participants died in the intervening 15-year period and from what cause.  Among the men who believed they were at low risk for heart problems, but did in fact suffer from a heart attack or stroke, they were three times more likely to survive their heart attack or stroke compared to those who believed that they were likely to have a heart attack or stroke. 

This positive attitude was felt even among those who, by any objective measure, would have been labeled “high risk” for heart attack or stroke.  But despite the objective measures, those that were optimistic about not having a heart attack ended up surviving their heart attack more often than those who were pessimistic about their chances. 

In discussing the results, Gramling made a great point.  To paraphrase his comments, he said that perhaps the best thing doctors can do in the future is raise people’s optimism about living a life free of a heart attack and promoting changes in behavior, as opposed to raising people’s fears about having a heart attack if one lives a certain lifestyle.

This is precisely the point.  How we approach life so often determines the ultimate result.  If a baseball player approaches the plate with the attitude of “I think I’m going to strike out,” he’s going to strike out more often than not.  Instead, if he approaches the plate saying, “I’m going to score the runner from third,” he’ll often get that RBI.  It’s all in how we approach things.  And as this study shows, it can wind up saving – or costing – our lives.

Related Posts

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  4. Study: Among Obese, Cancer Risk Increases
  5. Health Smarts, Strong Hearts: Study Shows Health Literacy Prolongs Life
  


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