It can be tough to remain positive when facing a disease, but doing so could prove to be rewarding for your body. Optimism increases a patient’s quality of life, cuts stress, and actually improves the prognosis — there’s proof to support this.
The latest batch of information to bolster this ‘stay positive when you are sick’ idea comes from a study involving 90 women who have ovarian cancer. All are going through chemotherapy, which has frustrating side effects.
Researchers found that women who had a more optimistic outlook fared significantly better than those who didn’t. Women who had higher optimism about ovarian cancer, treatment, and life in general reported lower levels of stress, depression, and anxiety.
Interestingly, researchers also discovered that optimistic women at the start of chemotherapy experienced bigger declines in levels of the cancer antigen 125 (or CA-125, which is used as a tumor marker to indicate the presence of ovarian cancer) during treatment.
These levels help predict how likely it is that the cancer will remit as well as the overall survival success rates for the patients. This suggests that staying positive not only makes your quality of life better, but, in fact, can also help defeat the cancer inside you as well.
This news builds on previous findings, such as a study last autumn that suggested optimism could actually reduce one’s pain. The study showed that people could mentally lower their perception of pain. It’s the idea that “If I don’t think it’s that painful, then it’s not going to be that painful.”
Positive expectations decreased the amount of pain by nearly 30%. The lead investigator equated that to a shot of morphine. Researchers took 10 healthy people and applied heat to their legs, which caused a bit of pain. Before they applied it, they told the participants to expect a certain level of pain ranging from mild, moderate, or severe.
But the secret was that the researchers mixed up the level of heat so that it didn’t necessarily correspond with what they told the participants to expect. So the researchers may have administered severe heat, but told participants it would be just mild.
They found that every person felt less pain when they expected lower levels of pain. When told to expect moderate pain, but exposed to severe heat, they felt 28% less pain than when they were told to expect severe pain and then received it. It really is just trickery, but it worked.
During the pain-expectation phase, the regions of the brain that were activated actually overlapped with the regions activated during actual pain. This means expectation can reshape how pain signals are created.
All this means is that one way you can cope with an illness is to try and remain upbeat about it. That is not particularly easy to do, I know, but it does come with such great advantages. It’s truly a form of treatment that shouldn’t be ignored. Control your condition by thinking the right way about it — what an optimistic idea!