Watch What You Think!
Beliefs and Attitudes Can Affect Your Well-Being and Health
Many chronic conditions such as cancer, heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic back pain, and multiple sclerosis, can have profound psychological and social consequences for the affected person and their loved ones.
Coping with the day-to-day effects of these chronic conditions can often lead to high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression.
Research has shown that what people think and believe can affect how they feel, and can also determine how well they do. For example, studies have found that people with various types of chronic conditions who were optimistic about life in general, felt less distressed than those who were pessimistic.
The relationship between optimism and less distress was supported by a study of ours, which was recently published in the journal Health Psychology. In this study, we found that people who were optimistic were less depressed one year after having a heart attack or diagnosed with unstable angina, than those who were not.
Another study examining patients recovering from heart bypass surgery found that compared to pessimists, optimists experienced fewer complications from their operation and had a faster rate of recovery.
Other research including two studies we conducted, indicated that people with rheumatoid arthritis, chronic back pain, and multiple sclerosis who believed they were proactive in doing things to help manage their symptoms and care, experienced less distress and did better than those who felt helpless or worried too much about their condition.
People can change their beliefs and attitudes if they want to do so.
Research has shown that a psychological intervention called cognitive-behavioural therapy is not only very effective in helping people become aware of and change problematic ways of thinking and reduce distress, but it is also very effective in helping people learn how to become more pro-active in managing their symptoms and care.
A recent study with breast cancer patients found that a stress management program using cognitive-behavioural strategies significantly decreased levels of distress, and significantly increased optimism and feelings of positive well being.
The Credit Valley Hospital's psychology department offers ongoing stress management groups that use cognitive-behavioural strategies to help people with cancer become aware of and change problematic ways of thinking, reduce distress, learn how to better self-mange symptoms and care, and increase their overall quality of life.
If you are a cancer patient who is interested in joining one of our stress management groups, please feel free to call the psychology department (905) 813-2388 and speak to Deirdre, the department Secretary.
Author: Dr. Zachary M. Shnek, Health Psychologist