With so much death and destruction in the world, I look to find any glimmer of hope in the news of the day.
I found it last week in the New York Times where an article discussed a recent study which reported a 20% rise in cancer survivors in the United States. I, for one, was thrilled. More people surviving cancer is a good thing, right?
I thought so until I posted this new, thrilling fact on my Facebook account and found that at least one person didn’t think it was very positive. Instead, that person wondered if that statistic was inflated because more people are being diagnosed with cancer. This person, a “friend,” went on to wonder if this statistic was even legitimate. “What about all the people who get diagnosed every day?” he wondered.
I was dumbfounded, as were several of my other Facebook friends. Several of them immediately commented, taking this person to task for 1) his insensitivity and 2) his glass-half-empty view of the world. He recanted, obviously chastened, and removed the offending comment from my post. He didn’t know that I was a cancer survivor, not that that really mattered in responding to my update.
To me, there was no way you could read the NY Times piece and see any downside. If there are more diagnoses, it still means that there are more survivors. And in my opinion, that can only be positive.
It just brings me back to that eternal question of just how optimistic can we be? Should we be? There is a lot of talk these days about optimism, the so-called “happiness” gene, one’s emotional outlook, all of the above and their relationship to physical health. Maybe my Facebook friend was having a bad day, or maybe he just isn’t optimistic. Maybe he knows someone who has just been diagnosed and isn’t seeing any value to a study. Hard to tell. But I always find it interesting to see how two people can take the same information or circumstance and look at it in an entirely different way. It makes me wonder: is it the way we’re wired or a choice we make?
I don’t think we’ll ever know for certain, but the latest issue of Oprah magazine does tackle the question of how beneficial positive thinking actually is, citing a study that says that cancer patients who explored their feelings about their illness and talked about it with others had to schedule fewer visits to their doctor. It goes on to say that there are a few things within our control like the quality of our diet and our commitment to exercise, but also our level of optimism. So it is something we can control and something we can unleash when necessary, like when we’re faced with a dire diagnosis and few options.
There are a few secrets to living an optimistic life including expressing yourself, meditating, seeking help if necessary, using your friends to help you, and looking on the bright side. The idea though, expressed simply, is that it is within our power to choose an optimistic mind-set and that we can practice to train ourselves to see things in a positive fashion rather than going negative at the outset.
Sure, we all fall victim to the doubts and the negativity, but I find it interesting that by doing a few simple things, like naming your adversity and identifying the consequences, to name a few, we can train ourselves to look at the bright side.
If you read the Stiletto Gang with any regularity—and because I’m a positive thinker, I’m going to assume that you do!—you know that optimism and positive thinking are two things that I think about and write about a lot. As a result, I was interested to take the quiz in the magazine which would score my level of optimism. I was happy to find that from my perspective,” things usually work out.” I am not “highly aware of potential disappointments,” nor do I “plan for the worst.” Optimism and its effect on health, according to the article is now a “scientific certainty” so in a world gone mad, we have the power to control how we feel and to focus on what’s good despite being constantly bombarded with the notion that the worst is yet to come.
With all that is going on in the world, though, how do you, our Stiletto faithful, keep a positive outlook?