I could never understand – in the sophisticated world of Western medicine — why clinical trials for important new advances always seemed to take so long. Yes, I figured that designing, then gathering funding and subjects for any important study was time-consuming. Maybe a year seemed reasonable. But my reality was the frustration of going for a visit to my doctor – for at least a decade — having to school him (I finally switched to a more open-minded female) on alternative medicine topics like the Mind-Body Connection. Getting used to being met with raised eyebrows, as though I was asking for voodoo. Even worse: finally finding a doctor that understood this and other related concepts, then learning that she was Out of Network, so ‘unrecognized’ by my medical insurance.
Then I entered a doctoral program (Organizational Psychology) and began prepping to write my dissertation. I had to become laser-focused on research that was peer-reviewed and data that was ‘academically’ legit. A simple question about why children from impoverished backgrounds often struggle in school meant tracking down long-term studies of these kids from kindergarten, to grade twelve. With teams comprised of psychologists, doctors, and specialists in neuroscience.Without accurate data, a citation was completely worthless to me as a researcher. And, whenever I found a relevant study that had taken place in the last ten years, I felt like I’d found the equivalent of the Hope Diamond.
So, with amazement and much respect, I took note of a longitudinal study featured in a major medical journal this week, pronouncing that the Power of Positive Thinking was indeed a “thing”. Referencing all kinds of data, the study concluded that “Optimists Live Longer (with better quality of life) than Pessimists”. Is it just me, or does it seem almost ludicrous for Western science to make a to-do over this, in 2020? Still, I’m grateful that the ‘experts’ have finally acknowledged what a lot of us already knew intuitively (and sometimes, heard from our grandmothers).
I’m guessing that everyone knows someone – maybe a family member or a co-worker – who’s negative about almost everything; the “glass half full” person; the “worm in the apple” (I was married to him) person. The constant grumpy-face, doom-and-gloom, cartoon character that’s followed around by his or her personal dark cloud overhead every day, all day. Low energetic-vibration people. I call them Black Holes: sucking light and joy into deep dark voids of nothingness.
The study featured in this journal concluded that negative or pessimistic people are definitely more prone to developing major illnesses. The biggies — like chronic heart disease, the onset of diabetes, and certain types of cancer are now linked to life-long negativity. Toxic thoughts bathing the body’s cells with ‘toxic chemicals’, creating long-term stress, and then sickness. When I read this, I have to admit that I had an “Ah-hah!” moment of understanding and deep appreciation for the exhaustive research the team conducted: over a decade; involving thousands of patients; and piles of medical, as well as psychological and social-emotional data. It’s official. We can now gently urge the people in our world whose outlooks sway to The Dark Side to consider the for-real impact of pessimism on their long-term health.
But the last thing a Pessimist wants is some perky Optimist bouncing around (like Winnie the Pooh’s friend Tigger), extolling the power of positive thinking. Still, if you love, or care for and about a genuine pessimist, you must bravely cope with their negativity. Maybe you locate a version of this new “data” and casually leave it lying around? Or, maybe you just continue to smile serenely, radiating even more love toward them, not allowing The Darkness to invade your own wellbeing.
I’m not holding my breath (another ten years) for the vast medical community to decide whether Optimism and Pessimism are personality traits we’re born with, or ones we learn – or make a conscious choice – to grow into. For right now, I’m just going to be extremely grateful that, despite a lot of Trials and Tribs in my life, I’m almost always standing in sunlight, counting my blessings, looking forward to tomorrow, and extending a hand to whoever seems to be stuck in the shadows.