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4/22/2017 APositiveOutlookMayBeGoodforYourHealthTheNewYorkTimes

https://nyti.ms/2nEuwCX

WELL | LIVE

APositiveOutlookMayBeGoodforYour
Health
PersonalHealth

ByJANEE.BRODY MARCH27,2017

Lookonthesunnysideoflife.

Turnyourfacetowardthesun,andtheshadowswillfallbehindyou.

Everydaymaynotbegood,butthereissomethinggoodineveryday.

Seetheglassashalffull,nothalfempty.

Researchersarefindingthatthoughtslikethese,thehallmarksofpeople
sometimescalledcockeyedoptimists,candofarmorethanraiseonesspirits.They
mayactuallyimprovehealthandextendlife.

Thereisnolongeranydoubtthatwhathappensinthebraininfluenceswhat
happensinthebody.Whenfacingahealthcrisis,activelycultivatingpositive
emotionscanboosttheimmunesystemandcounterdepression.Studieshaveshown
anindisputablelinkbetweenhavingapositiveoutlookandhealthbenefitslikelower
bloodpressure,lessheartdisease,betterweightcontrolandhealthierbloodsugar
levels.

Evenwhenfacedwithanincurableillness,positivefeelingsandthoughtscangreatly
improveonesqualityoflife.Dr.WendySchlesselHarpham,aDallasbasedauthor
ofseveralbooksforpeoplefacingcancer,includingHappinessinaStorm,wasa

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4/22/2017 APositiveOutlookMayBeGoodforYourHealthTheNewYorkTimes

practicinginternistwhenshelearnedshehadnonHodgkinslymphoma,acancerof
theimmunesystem,27yearsago.Duringthenext15yearsoftreatmentsforeight
relapsesofhercancer,shesetthestageforhappinessandhope,shesays,bysuch
measuresassurroundingherselfwithpeoplewholiftherspirits,keepingadaily
gratitudejournal,doingsomethinggoodforsomeoneelse,andwatchingfunny,
upliftingmovies.Hercancerhasbeeninremissionnowfor12years.

Fosteringpositiveemotionshelpedmakemylifethebestitcouldbe,Dr.
Harphamsaid.Theymadethetoughtimeseasier,eventhoughtheydidntmake
anydifferenceinmycancercells.

WhileDr.Harphammayhaveanaturaldispositiontoseethehopefulsideoflife
evenwhentheoutlookisbleak,newresearchisdemonstratingthatpeoplecanlearn
skillsthathelpthemexperiencemorepositiveemotionswhenfacedwiththesevere
stressofalifethreateningillness.

JudithT.Moskowitz,aprofessorofmedicalsocialsciencesatNorthwestern
UniversityFeinbergSchoolofMedicineinChicago,developedasetofeightskillsto
helpfosterpositiveemotions.InearlierresearchattheUniversityofCalifornia,San
Francisco,sheandcolleaguesfoundthatpeoplewithnewdiagnosesofH.I.V.
infectionwhopracticedtheseskillscarriedalowerloadofthevirus,weremorelikely
totaketheirmedicationcorrectly,andwerelesslikelytoneedantidepressantsto
helpthemcopewiththeirillness.

Theresearchersstudied159peoplewhohadrecentlylearnedtheyhadH.I.V.
andrandomlyassignedthemtoeitherafivesessionpositiveemotionstraining
courseorfivesessionsofgeneralsupport.FifteenmonthspasttheirH.I.V.diagnosis,
thosetrainedintheeightskillsmaintainedhigherlevelsofpositivefeelingsand
fewernegativethoughtsrelatedtotheirinfection.

Animportantgoalofthetrainingistohelppeoplefeelhappy,calmandsatisfied
inthemidstofahealthcrisis.Improvementsintheirhealthandlongevityarea
bonus.Eachparticipantisencouragedtolearnatleastthreeoftheeightskillsand
practiceoneormoreeachday.Theeightskillsare:

Recognizeapositiveeventeachday.

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4/22/2017 APositiveOutlookMayBeGoodforYourHealthTheNewYorkTimes

Savorthateventandlogitinajournalortellsomeoneaboutit.

Startadailygratitudejournal.

Listapersonalstrengthandnotehowyouusedit.

Setanattainablegoalandnoteyourprogress.

Reportarelativelyminorstressandlistwaystoreappraisetheevent
positively.

Recognizeandpracticesmallactsofkindnessdaily.

Practicemindfulness,focusingonthehereandnowratherthanthepastor
future.

Dr.MoskowitzsaidshewasinspiredbyobservationsthatpeoplewithAIDS,
Type2diabetesandotherchronicillnesseslivedlongeriftheydemonstrated
positiveemotions.Sheexplained,Thenextstepwastoseeifteachingpeopleskills
thatfosterpositiveemotionscanhaveanimpactonhowwelltheycopewithstress
andtheirphysicalhealthdowntheline.

Shelistedasthegoalsimprovingpatientsqualityoflife,enhancingadherence
tomedication,fosteringhealthybehaviors,andbuildingpersonalresourcesthat
resultinincreasedsocialsupportandbroaderattentiontothegoodthingsinlife.

GreggDeMeza,a56yearoldarchitectinSanFranciscowholearnedhewas
infectedwithH.I.V.fouryearsago,toldmethatlearningpositivityskillsturnedhis
lifearound.Hesaidhefeltstupidandcarelessaboutbecominginfectedandhad
initiallykepthisdiagnosisasecret.

WhenIenteredthestudy,Ifeltlikemyentireworldwascompletely
unraveling,hesaid.Thetrainingremindedmetorelyonmysocialnetwork,andI
decidedtobehonestwithmyfriends.Irealizedthattoshowyourrealstrengthisto
showyourweakness.Nopunintended,itmadememorepositive,more
compassionate,andImnowhealthierthanIveeverbeen.

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4/22/2017 APositiveOutlookMayBeGoodforYourHealthTheNewYorkTimes

Inanotherstudyamong49patientswithType2diabetes,anonlineversionof
thepositiveemotionsskillstrainingcoursewaseffectiveinenhancingpositivityand
reducingnegativeemotionsandfeelingsofstress.Priorstudiesshowedthat,for
peoplewithdiabetes,positivefeelingswereassociatedwithbettercontrolofblood
sugar,anincreaseinphysicalactivityandhealthyeating,lessuseoftobaccoanda
lowerriskofdying.

Inapilotstudyof39womenwithadvancedbreastcancer,Dr.Moskowitzsaid
anonlineversionoftheskillstrainingdecreaseddepressionamongthem.Thesame
wastruewithcaregiversofdementiapatients.

Noneofthisisrocketscience,Dr.Moskowitzsaid.Imjustputtingthese
skillstogetherandtestingtheminascientificfashion.

Inarelatedstudyofmorethan4,000people50andolderpublishedlastyearin
theJournalofGerontology,BeccaLevyandAvniBavishiattheYaleSchoolofPublic
Healthdemonstratedthathavingapositiveviewofagingcanhaveabeneficial
influenceonhealthoutcomesandlongevity.Dr.Levysaidtwopossiblemechanisms
accountforthefindings.Psychologically,apositiveviewcanenhancebeliefinones
abilities,decreaseperceivedstressandfosterhealthfulbehaviors.Physiologically,
peoplewithpositiveviewsofaginghadlowerlevelsofCreactiveprotein,amarker
ofstressrelatedinflammationassociatedwithheartdiseaseandotherillnesses,
evenafteraccountingforpossibleinfluenceslikeage,healthstatus,sex,raceand
educationthanthosewithanegativeoutlook.Theyalsolivedsignificantlylonger.

Thisisthefirstoftwocolumnsonpositiveemotionsandhealth.

Thisisthefirstoftwocolumnsonpositiveemotionsandhealth.

AversionofthisarticleappearsinprintonMarch28,2017,onPageD5oftheNewYorkeditionwiththe
headline:PositiveEmotionsMayExtendLife.

2017TheNewYorkTimesCompany

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