By: Red Hot Mamas
Published: May 26, 2010
Is your glass half empty or half full? It’s actually an important question; your outlook could have an effect on your health. Good thoughts, happy thoughts, optimistic thoughts all have positive benefits, not only for your quality of life, but your physical well-being as well.
Menopause is usually approached with a lack of enthusiasm and attributed with negativity. How many people do you know who can’t wait to reach this time in their lives? The symptoms are rarely pleasant, so it’s not exactly easy to approach menopause with an upbeat fervor, but your attitude actually makes a difference. Positive psychology interventions not only make a difference in your head, but your body as well.
Researchers have been studying the health differences between optimists and pessimists for quite some time. One pioneer in the field is Dr. Martin Seligman, who founded the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center. The department focuses on how the mind-body connection can affect physical health and psychological well-being.
Seligman’s curriculum vitae is packed with many empirical investigations concentrating on the effects of optimism on professional outcomes (from sports to presidential elections), and health outcomes (depression, alcoholism, aggression, etc.). His work demonstrates a definitive link between optimism and superior health. Higher rates of infectious disease, poor health and even earlier mortality were linked with a pessimistic explanatory style. An explanatory style is simply how people explain the events in their lives (which can influence whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist).
As many of you are well aware of, menopause can be very stressful. It can really turn your whole world upside down, leaving you feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, nervous, sad, anxious, panicky, shaky and just plain crazy. Stress is simply the body’s reaction to a challenge or threat. Optimists experience less stress than pessimists. Believing in yourself and your abilities along with having a good outlook usually leads to more risk taking and creating more positive, less stressful events in your life.
Optimists don’t give up as easily as pessimists. Therefore, they are more likely to persist and achieve success. In one of Seligman’s studies of clinically depressed patients, interestingly, 12 weeks of cognitive therapy, including reframing a person’s thought process, were more effective than drug therapy. This type of optimism training gave the patients the tools to position themselves more favorably for future setbacks.
As women, we face many health challenges. The crazy freeway of menopause drives in a truckload of these challenges as estrogen levels drop. One of these challenges is heart disease, the number one killer of women in the United States. In a recent study reported in the August issue of Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association, researchers found that among more than 97,000 U.S. women between the ages of 50 and 79, those with generally optimistic dispositions were 14 percent less likely to die over eight years than those who were pessimistic. Nine percent of them were less likely to develop coronary heart disease and 30 percent less likely to die of heart complications. Is the bright side starting to look sunnier?
The power of optimism is almost magical. It can bring happiness, longevity, energy and health. Learning to be optimistic requires you to step back and examine your thought patterns. The first thing you need to do is figure out if you are an optimist or a pessimist. Is your glass half full or half empty? One way you can find out is by taking the Psychology Today Optimism/Pessimism Test to find out how you define the events that ultimately shape your life. Once you determine your explanatory style, you can reflect honestly on your shortcomings, to work on them and shift focus on your strengths (which can be just as important). Here are some menopause pearls of optimism:
Learn to identify what you’re really feeling and work your way through them. If you don’t process negative feelings, they start to stack up like a giant tower. The tower then makes handling already difficult situations even tougher to work through, and can eventually lead to depression. By releasing them, it will be easier to look at the situation or feelings with a more light-hearted attitude.
Build a support system. Friends and family matter. Who wants to go through menopause alone? Surrounding yourself with true friends and others who know what you’re talking about will help you deal with the issues that you may want to close the door on. True friends will make you feel happy and confident so you can be an optimist.
Laugh a little, will ya? There is some really funny stuff going on around you at this time in life that is deserving of a good laugh. For instance, some of you may actually relate to these happenings: I now have another legitimate excuse for putting on the pounds and I don’t have to worry about taking stress home from work because I simply forgot a lot of what happened during the day (memory loss). There is life after menopause and it can be as good or as bad as you make it!
This article is not meant to make you think menopause is a piece of cake; it’s not supposed to tell you how to transform your menopause into the best experience of your life. Nor, is it supposed to set a bunch of goals to give you fake optimism. What it is intended for, is to help you get a grip on your mental pause and the other changes your menopause may be bringing. With a little willingness and self-reflection, you can shift your thinking and your explanatory style to ultimately have better health outcomes.
“Dr. Martin Seligman.” Authentic Happiness. University of Pennsylvania, Web. 14 Dec 2009. website.
“Learned Optimism Yields Health Benefits.” Discovery Health. 1997. American Psychological Association, Web. 14 Dec 2009.website.
“Optimism/Pessimism Test.” Psychology Today. Web. 14 Dec 2009. website.
Rudin, Mike. “The Science of Happiness.” BBC News. 30 04 2006. BBC News, Web. 14 Dec 2009. website.
Scott, Elizabeth. “How to Become More of an Optimist.” Stress Management. 13 08 2007. About.Com, Web. 14 Dec 2009.website.