By CORNELL McCLELLAN
Optimists rejoice! A new study from Duke University Medical Center has found that cardiac patients with an optimistic point of view are 30 percent more likely to still be alive after 15 years than patients with a negative or pessimistic outlook.
Although researchers aren’t exactly sure how this causation works, it seems that a positive point of view can lead patients to be more committed to recovery and more dedicated to treatment. Pessimistic patients are more likely to be stressed and anxious, all of which can put undue stress on the body and heart.
Studies such as these point to the intrinsic relation between the mind and the body. The old truism “If there is a will, there is a way,” is never more true than when it is applied to one’s health and well-being.
It is the will that pushes marathon runners through the last treacherous mile, it is the will that drives Olympic athletes to break and rebuild their muscles every day, and it is the will that transforms the average person into a force to reckoned with at the gym.
As powerful as the will is, it can be easily tarnished or weakened by our mental scripts. Our mental scripts are the thoughts that run through our heads everyday, the thoughts that comprise our beings and establish our moods and personalities.
Regarding fitness, the most common mental script that people encounter is “I can’t,” as in, “I can’t run a mile,” “I can’t keep the weight off,” or “I can’t change my life.”
It’s no wonder that these thoughts pervade our mind, because who among us hasn’t experienced failure? Failure leads to feelings of inadequacy, low self-worth and a general feeling of impotence.
The feeling of failure is so awful that most people decide it’s simply better not to risk trying to reach one’s goals. It’s better to sit on the couch and simply not try, because if you give up before the journey has begun, you never have to face those roadblocks and inevitable difficulties.
Unfortunately, as the Duke University study shows, this type of pessimistic thinking is not only emotionally harmful, it can be physically harmful as well. Even if you are not a cardiac patient, your mental scripts have a powerful impact on your physical well-being.
Someone with negative mental scripts is not going to stick to a healthy lifestyle plan or get up early and hit the gym. They reason: What’s the point? I’ll never succeed anyway.
Instead, consider the following ways to help generate more optimism in your life:
Set realistic goals. Grueling training programs and restrictive diets are a recipe for failure (which only leads to more disappointment and self-doubt). Set realistic goals that are reachable, and with each new accomplishment, you will garner more confidence and strength. Start by cutting out soda and fast food. Walk for 30 minutes each day.
Once you have accomplished these goals for a month, you can set new ones, such as signing up for an exercise class or cutting sugar out of your diet.
Reward yourself. Don’t wait until you have lost 10 pounds or dropped a pants size. Instead, celebrate small goals, such as being able to walk up a flight of stairs without panting or decreasing your cholesterol. But don’t reward yourself with food!
Most importantly, stay committed to your program. Small setbacks are inevitable.
Stay determined, keep working, and turn your “I can’t” into “Why can’t I?”