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Written by Judith A. Estes, MSW, LMSW, DaVita Social Worker
Many studies have shown that a positive attitude is important in maintaining happiness and that attitude influences your health, especially when you have been diagnosed with kidney disease. Individuals who are optimists are less bothered by daily aches and pains and recover faster from surgery. “Optimism can combat infection and reduce chronic pain,” stated John Tassey, PhD, and Director at the Health Psychology Clinic at the Oklahoma VA Medical Center in the 2005 spring issue of Remedy magazine. “It shortens recovery time, as well.”
Take this little quiz to find out if you choose to be optimistic or pessimistic. Look at the statements below under each category. Carefully consider each statement and check the ones that honestly reflect how you feel.
Count the number of items you selected in each category. If you chose more statements under the word “optimist”, you are more likely to see the world as a better (positive) place. If you chose more statements under the word “pessimist”, you are more likely to see the world as an unpleasant (negative) place.
So, are you a pessimist? Do you see the glass half empty? It is not a genetic disposition to be negative, but a choice. The primary choice may have originated with an incident that was not positive, and you responded with a less than optimistic view of that event. This resulted in a habit of viewing that occurrence—and others like it—in a negative way. Based on your experiences and thought processes, you may choose to view more things in a negative light. The more you choose negativity, the more it becomes comfortable, thus, the belief of being a natural pessimist.
The good news is that you can make a shift in attitude. Just as you chose the pessimistic attitude, you can choose a positive one. It may not feel comfortable to think that a negative outlook is a choice, and it may be hard to begin choosing a positive attitude now. Habits are hard to break! Many people believe, if you look for the worst-case scenario, you won’t be disappointed. However, continual negative thinking can perpetuate poor health and less overall satisfaction of life. Therefore, you will be compromising the joy of positive outcomes.
A study from Wageningen University in the Netherlands also looked at unhappy people and their attitudes. This study found that people who saw the glass half full had a lower risk of heart disease than those who saw the glass half empty.
So, how do you change a negative habit?
Recognize that you do have the ability to change.
“The more we get out and give to others, the more positive our experiences and the greater happiness we will experience” says John Tassey.
People who feel they are in control of their life live happier, healthier lives.
Extroverts tend to lead more satisfying lives. Not an extrovert? Then fake it until you make it! Just acting like an extrovert can increase your overall feelings of happiness and the end result may be a more fulfilling and healthier life.
Changes in attitude don’t happen over night. Just like it took some time to make negative choices, you’ll need to practice making the positive choices become more natural to you. It takes an effort to change but, hopefully, you’ll find the reward is worth the effort.
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