The Link Between Positive Psychology and Cancer Survival

ResearchBlogging.org

Have you ever heard a person in poor health being told “Well, you’ve got to stay positive, that will help”? This seemingly common idea is currently under significant scientific investigation. Indeed, the debate about the degree to which psychological processes can directly influence physical health has received special attention recently. A special supplement of the Annals of Behavioural Medicine directly addressed this topic in February this year and a recent article in the Lancet explored this issue, cautioning us that the relationship between a positive psychological orientation and cancer survival remains unclear [1].

How Your Head Can Influence Your Heart

How you think about your health can have powerful impacts on how you experience your health. In a recent study with a group of cardiac patients, how people thought about their illness (termed “illness cognitions”) was found to have a direct impact on how people experience health and emotional wellbeing [1]. These illness cognitions also affected health indirectly by influencing the types of behaviours people were engaged in to cope with cardiac problems. This study brings to our attention the relevance of psychology in relation to medical illnesses.

Tackling Heart Disease Together or Alone: The Behavioural Science of Self-Management

ResearchBlogging.org

Heart disease is the leading killer in the U.S. and throughout most of Europe. People’s behaviour can protect and reduce risk of heart disease, and interventions to help people “self-manage” exist. But what is the best way to “self-manage”? A recent study shows that group programmes and self-directed programmes have remarkably different effects [1].

heart-disease

Self-management interventions exist for many health problems. They are notoriously difficult to define. One thorough definition is that it relates to activities undertaken by the person who has a “chronic” or “long-term” condition such as asthma, multiple sclerosis or arthritis. These activities include problem solving, decision making, resource utilization, the formation of a patient-provider partnership, action planning and self tailoring [2]. Interventions or programmes are designed around these activities to help support people to manage their own illness. The idea is that following attendance at a programme of some sort, the activities and skills learned will be continued to be used, thus improving health, maintaining fitness and/or quality of life and reducing the risk of future acute episodes of ill health. These interventions are popular for many reasons, including the relatively low cost to health service providers as interventions can be delivered by health-care professionals or by people with the relevant condition who have been trained, or a mixture of both. Self-management interventions also allow people with long-term conditions to be meet in a group with people with similar conditions. The experience of being in a group, knowing one is not alone and sharing stories is thought to play some part in the effectiveness of self-management interventions. But to what extent is this true?

The Power of Gratitude to Cultivate Happiness

You’ve undoubtably heard the adage, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Ongoing research is finding that the pen is indeed a mighty weapon that can cultivate happiness. According to Dr. Steven Toepfer at Kent State University, we all possesses an amazing resource — gratitude — that can be used to improve our quality of life [1].

How much of our happiness can we nurture ourselves?

To address this question, Toepfer designed the “Letters of Gratitude” study to assess whether an extended writing campaign would improve happiness, life satisfaction and gratitude. Toepfer evaluated the effects of expressing thankfulness by enlisting 85 students on three Kent State University campuses writingto write three letters of gratitude to people who had positively impacted their lives. The letters had to be nontrivial, insightful and reflective, and contain a high level of appreciation or gratitude expressed in a positive manner. Instead of writing letters, a control group filled out questionnaires.

What You Believe Can Kill You

The Washington Post published a story yesterday stating that Personal Health Beliefs are Largely Hit and Myth. The story discusses the results of an American Cancer Society (ACS) study released last week, which will be published in the September 1st issue of the journal Cancer.