Stay pos­i­tive to fight dis­ease

Shepparton News - Country News - - COUNTRY LIFE -

Hav­ing a pos­i­tive at­ti­tude can im­prove out­comes for those liv­ing with chronic ill­ness, a re­search re­view has found.

Re­searchers at Curtin Uni­ver­sity in Western Aus­tralia have stud­ied the power of pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive thoughts on peo­ple liv­ing with cancer, di­a­betes and car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

The study, pub­lished in the in­ter­na­tional jour­nal Psy­cho­log­i­cal Bul­letin, an­a­lysed more than 270 stud­ies and found strong neg­a­tive emo­tions led to avoid­ance or de­nial, which can in turn in­ter­fere with treat­ment and re­cov­ery.

Ac­cord­ing to the study, pa­tients with a neg­a­tive at­ti­tude to­wards the ill­ness were more like to suf­fer de­pres­sion or anx­i­ety and are less likely to get bet­ter.

Those who viewed their ill­ness as hav­ing fewer se­ri­ous con­se­quences on their life were less likely to be dis­tressed, more likely to stick to their treat­ment and ex­pe­ri­ence bet­ter out­comes.

‘‘Broadly, the re­search sug­gests that what peo­ple think about their ill­ness im­pacts on what they will do about it and, im­por­tantly, their re­cov­ery, or, at least, how well they man­age their ill­ness,’’ lead au­thor Martin Hag­ger said.

Breast cancer sur­vivor and for­mer in­ten­sive care nurse Sue Mackey is a big be­liever in the power of pos­i­tiv­ity.

‘‘It’s some­thing that we’ve al­ways known but it’s not been sci­en­tif­i­cally proven yet, be­cause it is a dif­fi­cult thing to prove, but most doc­tors and nurses really do see that the peo­ple with the pos­i­tive at­ti­tudes do seem to do bet­ter,’’ Ms Mackey said.

The au­thor of Pos­i­tive On­col­ogy said de­vel­op­ing strate­gies to man­age the psy­cho­log­i­cal im­pact of her triple neg­a­tive breast cancer di­ag­no­sis made a ‘‘huge’’ dif­fer­ence to her treat­ment jour­ney and out­come.

Among the help­ful strate­gies Ms Mackey used to shut out the ‘‘white noise’’ and ru­mi­na­tions were us­ing daily mantras and lis­ten­ing to par­tic­u­lar songs.

‘‘I would have songs that I would just sing in my head if I felt that things were get­ting out of con­trol,’’ she said.

‘‘It’s about dis­tract­ing your­self in a con­struc­tive and up­lift­ing way to in­cor­po­rate more ‘mi­cro mo­ments’ of joy even in the really dark times.’’

Pro­fes­sor Hag­ger hoped the new re­search would trans­late into im­proved care of pa­tients with chronic ill­nesses.

‘‘Health pro­fes­sion­als should not only com­mu­ni­cate the se­ri­ous con­se­quences of the ill­ness but also iden­tify con­crete ways to help pa­tients deal with their ill­ness such as tak­ing their med­i­ca­tion as pre­scribed or at­tend­ing their med­i­cal ap­point­ments as re­quired,’’ he said.

‘‘It may also be help­ful for health pro­fes­sion­als to of­fer ways of deal­ing with emo­tional dis­tress and stress re­lated to their ill­ness,’’ he said.

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