Thursday, November 17, 2005

Hope Has Healing Power

by Donna L. Watkins

© Donna L. Watkins - Male Northern Flicker

Our outlook on life can determine life or death for us according to the research presented below. I've had a lot of health challenges in my life and I know that my optimistic attitude has allowed me to fare much better than many I come across with the same health problems.

This year I've gotten a glimpse of where I got some of that optimism and determination. My father has had a series of operations this year and on each one he was released earlier than expected and bounced back so well the doctors were amazed. Family members were stunned at the constitution of this man.

In December he went in for an angiogram and they kept him for triple bypass surgery. They discovered colon cancer. He recouped from the bypass and three months later went in for the colon surgery which was successful without chemo or radiation. After two months of wearing a temporary bag to give the colon time to heal, they opened him again to re-connect the intestine. He's now recovered from that surgery also.

From the beginning of these surgeries he's known that he had to have surgery for an aneurysm which was to be scheduled this month and in the process of tests along the way they informed him he would need to have carotid artery surgery also. It's been a year of doctors and hospitals but his determination to get through the hurdle and onto the rest of his life has been an inspiration to many.

We have to choose how we are going to think.

There are medical costs for pessimism, and corresponding benefits from optimism. For example, 122 men who had their first heart attack were evaulated on their degree of optimism or pessimism. Eight years later, of the 25 most pessimistic men, 21 had died; of the 25 most optimistic men, only 6 had died.

Their mental outlook proved a better indicator of survival than any medical risk factor, including the amount of damage to the heart in the first attack, artery blockage, cholesterol level, or blood pressure. And in other research, patients going into artery bypass surgery who were more optimistic had a much faster recovery and fewer medical complications during and after surgery than did more pessimistic patients.

Like optimism, hope has healing power. People with a great deal of hopefulness are better able to bear up under pressure. In a study of people paralyzed from spinal injuries, those who had more hope were able to gain greater levels of physical mobility compared to other patients with similar degrees of injury, who felt less hopeful.

Hope is especially telling in paralysis patients and how the person reacts emotionally has broad consequences for the degree to which he will make the efforts that might bring him greater physical and social functioning.

Why an optimistic vs. a pessimistic outlook should have health consequences is open to several explanations presented by the medical world. One theory proposes that pessimism leads to depression, which in turn interferes with the resistance of the immune system to tumors and infection. Or it may be that pessimists neglect themselves since some studies have shown that pessimists smoke and drink more, and exercise less, than optimists, and are generally much more careless about their health habits. Or, they say, "it may one day turn out that the physiology of hopefulness is itself somehow helpful biologically to the body's fight against disease."

There are many things in the Bible being proven true by science and that last statement is an interesting thought to a scientist, but it's a Truth to a Christian if we choose to believe what God's Word says:

Psalms 39:7
And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee.

Psalms 43:5
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.

Jeremiah 17:7
Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is.

Romans 8:25
But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.

1 Peter 1:21
Who by him [Jesus] do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.

It's interesting that studies have shown that the immune system instantly weakens when you frown and put on a tragic face. But when you smile your immune system and your entire body perks up. Turns out that there are various pressure points in your face that affect your entire system when you flex certain facial muscles. That should make you want to smile every chance you get. Smiling will make you more attractive as you age also, so get used to wearing a smile all day, every day. You'll be amazed at how many people will smile back and give you unexpected energy.

My prayer for you is:

Romans 15:13 - "Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost."

• "Emotional Intelligence" by Daniel Goleman
• Optimism and bypass surgery: Chris Peterson et al., "Learned Helplessness: A Theory for the Age of Personal Control" (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993)
• Spinal injury and hope: Timothy Elliott et al., "Negotiating Reality After Physical Loss: Hope, Depression, and Disability," (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 61, 4 - 1991)

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