There are points in life when you just feel crummy. Not so much physically downcast, but ineffectual, worthless, even blue. It’s not uncommon for older adults to experience bouts of low self-esteem. But, we don’t have to take it on the chin.
Conventional wisdom accepts self-image as forged by three intertwining factors: how we see ourselves, how others see us, and how we think others see us. It would seem a delicate balance susceptible to a variety of life factors.
“Older adults may be experiencing a change in roles such as an empty nest, retirement and obsolete work skills in addition to declining health,” notes Richard Robins, PhD, who has been studying the sharp decline of self-esteem among seniors.
Self-image and health go hand-in-hand. “Self-esteem is related to better health, less criminal behavior, lower levels of depression and, overall, greater success in life,” according to one study’s lead author, Ulrich Orth, PhD, as reported by the American Psychological Association. And that’s the catch-22: declining health contributes to low self-esteem and low self-esteem drives diminishing health. Read more…
“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Law or not, the old adage points to the negative expectations we sometime fall victim to whether merited or not. In medicine it might be called the nocebo effect.
We’ve all heard about the positive influence of placebos: take a pill with no active ingredients whatsoever and a healing response ensues anyway. A nocebo is an ill effect caused by the suggestion or belief that something is harmful. Think of it as the placebo’s sinister counterpart.
Researching the influence of nocebos on an individual’s health has lagged behind the study of placebos. Experts are just beginning to understand their importance through clinical studies. These investigations point to a robust mental component when taking into account health maintenance and outcomes.
Expecting the worst after a treatment (which seems to be a common response) can actually make the patient feel worse. Thus, doctors, nurses and other hospital staff are increasing their commitment to helping patients avoid the nocebo effect.
Case in point: the findings of researchers from Oxford University studying pain levels in patients. Simply telling a patient the painkiller he had been given had worn off increased the person’s pain to the same levels before the drug was administered, according to a study by Irene Tracey and her associates.
Penny Sarchet discusses these findings in her winning essay,The nocebo effect: Wellcome Trust science writing prize. From these results she concludes, “That a patient’s negative expectations have the power to undermine the effectiveness of a treatment, and suggests that doctors would do well to treat the beliefs of their patients, not just their physical symptoms.”
Sarchet points out an interesting dichotomy. Doctors have a moral and legal responsibility to disclose the numerous side effects of the treatments they prescribe. However, in doing so, they could be negating the very benefits they hope to confer due to the negative expectations brought on by divulging the side effects to the patient. It’s a catch-22.
With the proliferation of sickly symptoms and so many new illnesses coming to the attention of the public, one has to wonder to what extent nocebo-induced conditions are swaying an individual’s health.
I recall once being told I looked tired. Although I felt fine the comment bothered me to the point I soon began to feel limp and listless.
Looking back at that experience, I see the effect my thinking had over how I was feeling. My expectation – and how I felt – changed due to the negative comment. But other experiences and my own spiritual practice tell me we don’t have to submit to “Murphy’s law” thinking.
“I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse,” says Paul, Bible hero and healer.
That’s how I start my prayer – which helps to improve my mental outlook and my physical health.
Attitude, expectation and anxiety: these mental qualities do have sway over how you feel. When worry, dread, and apprehension are troubling you it’s time to eliminate “Murphy’s law” of negatives from your thinking.
The results are in: Americans are voting to broaden their approach to healing and health maintenance.
While waiting for the outcomes of national and state elections have slowed some current health care reform efforts, patients and health professionals continue to talk about “patient-centered care” and endorse an expansion of practices beyond “conventional” medical models. These can include prayer and mind/body practices, the use of natural products, or massage and chiropractic services.
Why the shift? Experts point to several factors. One is the challenges of the current health care system – some of which are inherent to the use of chemicals and surgery on the human body and some more due to a large system that is in overload and unduly influenced by dollars. Another is the increased confidence inspired by the beneficial results being reported when using complementary and alternative methods. In other words patients are finding they work.
One of the biggest challenges with the current approach to health care might be equated to the old adage; too many cooks spoil the broth. That’s certainly true. When too many people take charge, the results can be ruinous. A modern day variant of the axiom might go: Too many doctors can be bad for your health. That’s the headline in a Consumer Reportsarticle published recently.
Orly Avitzur, M.D., Consumers Reports Medical Adviser, points to an issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine confirming “what doctors have long known—that many patients are suffering from too much care.”
Avitzur goes on to cite a March 2012 report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) that lists four areas where overtreatment is leading to medical problems: over medication, too much testing, waste of time and resources, and increased stress resulting from too many opinions. He concludes, “In fact, when it comes to your well-being, less is often more.”
Yet, beyond the concerns of over-diagnosis and over-treatment, patients are demanding the implementation of alternative disciplines as an avenue toward healing. And health experts are responding.
42 percent of reporting hospitals offer at least one type of complementary medicine according to a survey conducted by the American Hospital Association and the Samueli Institute. That’s up from 27 percent just five years earlier.
“Experts say hospitals are embracing these therapies for many reasons, including a growing recognition that some integrative therapies, as they’re also called, are very effective in some instances,” writes Michelle Andrews for Kaiser Health News.
Additionally, over the last few decades more than 1500 studies have been made on the role spirituality, prayer and religiosity have in health. And, summaries of these studies indicate consistently, prayer and/or meaningful ties to a religious practice or faith community improve health results.
I have always appreciated the thought-provoking Bible account of the man waiting by the pool a substantial amount of time in need of healing. Before his health is restored, Jesus asks him, “Do you want to get well?” To me that question points to a responsibility each of us needs to take in our own thought and actions as we commit to healthy outcomes.
These advancements in healthcare are evidence of a changing mindset of mandated medical intervention to a growing awareness of other effective practices contributing to health and healing, especially the importance of thought on health. As patients are given a bigger voice in their treatment plans and elect to make appropriate lifestyle choices, they are coming to the realization of how much freedom and independence they have in pursuing healthy lives. That is something we can all vote for.
The biggest news coming out of Columbus, Ohio this week (other than Ohio State’s Sugar Bowl victory) is video of Ted Willams, a homeless man whose talents have been ‘rediscovered.’ The story of this man with the golden voice has ‘gone viral’.
Speak the word ‘viral’ this time of year and many think of colds, flu and the fear and discomfort that go along with them. Williams’ viral video reminds us that we don’t need to agonize over that term. Good is infectious. The discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, “If only the people would believe that good is more contagious than evil, since God is omnipresence, how much more certain would be the doctor’s success, and the clergyman’s conversion of sinners.”
Hurray for Williams. May 2011 bring more viral news like this.
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The King’s Speech
Following up yesterday’s post on Lionel Logue, my colleague, Tony Lobl, has just posted another piece on the topic, The King’s Speech – Lionel Logue and the Christian Science question. He shares additional information about this intriguing individual and other links. You can link to his site here.
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Writing about the connections between health, thought, and spirituality