Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cheer Up or Die

Hey, it's Monday night/Tuesday morning, so you know what that means! That's right, it's time for Snack and a Commercial!

Also, it's been in the low 80s here lately (Yes, after it snowed here just a week ago), and I live in the stuffiest room in the house. Even with a couple of fans on, it's still more or less an oven in here, so I haven't exactly slept well these past couple of nights. But that isn't stopping me from your expected first weekly blog post from me - one that isn't rambling about video games, no less - so there's your cue to take a moment to bask in my dedication. (And also hope that I don't make too many typos in my exhaustion.)

The focus of this week's lovely non-nerdy-rambling post? Yes, science again! In the least, a study I recently read about on MSNBC on the health and lifespans of optimists versus those of pessimists. As a self-identifying realist - which is a "pessimist" in most people's books - you can imagine my amusement at a study on the matter.

According to the study - unshockingly - optimists lead longer and healthier lives than pessimists. University of Pittsburgh researchers arrived at this conclusion by looking at death and chronic health problem rates amongst participants in the Women's Health Initiative study. (Said study has followed over 100,000 women from age 50+ since 1994.) Optimists were simply defined as people who expected good things to happen rather than bad, and found to be 14% less likely to die from any cause than pessimists, and 30% less likely to die from heart disease after eight years of study followup. Optimists were also found to be less likely to suffer high blood pressure, diabetes, or smoke cigarettes.

The team behind the study - led by Dr. Hilary Tindle - also took into consideration women highly mistrustful of other people, who they referred to as "cynically hostile." This group was compared with more trusting women. They found that women in the "cynically hostile" group were 16% more likely to die (Within the frame of the study period itself) than the women who thought that way the least. They were also 23% more likely to die of cancer. But while negative thinking certainly does seem to wear people down, Tindle also noted that the study doesn't actually prove that negative attitudes necessarily cause negative health health effects, though there seems to be a link. She ultimately concluded that more research is necessary to design methods of therapy oriented towards attitude modification beneficial to health.

And if you're a pessimist, Tindle encourages you not to slip into a defeatist mindset. Have hope! (Even if there might not necessarily be much reason to.)

The power of positive thinking versus the power of negative thinking. Of course, realistic thinking calls for a rational analysis of each set of circumstances and adopting an appropriate mindset as such - whether positive or negative. There are times when it's just absurd to blindly think positively, and even the most optimistic of the world's walking-sunshine-buckets in humanity have their limits. Likewise, as human beings, even pessimists have things that make them smile.

In the least, there's certainly hope to be had in the medical world, with breakthrough after breakthrough and the ongoing development of life-saving technologies each year. And this week, Obama seems to be planning to lift George W. Bush's embryonic stem cell research ban, in recognizing the important link between scientific research and free thought. Eight years later, we'll be seeing an end to the significant halt the medical research community has endured here in America. And in Japan? Scientists recently identified a cancer-suppressing enzyme, which could potentially lead to some sort of cure for breast cancer in particular.

Just try not to lead a constructed life like this guy.


AlpHa Buttonpusher said...

So in the end we are left with "think pink" attitude:)

Benjamin Fennell said...

Something like that, haha. Not entirely compatible with the real world, and not exactly something that'll stop people from being pessimistic, but I think it at least emphasizes that even the gloomiest of us should try to find a break in the clouds more often.

Sugarpoint Concepts said...

Really enjoyed this. I like the science behind it. I'll be checking out more of your stuff.

Benjamin Fennell said...

Thanks, welcome to the blog!