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A Positive Attitude
Ernest H. Rosenbaum, MD and Isadora R. Rosenbaum, MA

Hope is the most beautiful of affections, and doth much to the prolongation of life, if it be not too frustrated, but entertaineth fancy with expectation of good. --Francis Bacon

We have known for over 2,OOO years - - from the writings of Plato and Galen-that there is a direct correlation between the mind, the body, and one's health. "The cure of many diseases is unknown to physicians," Plato concluded, "because they are ignorant of the whole...for the part can never be well unless the whole is well."

Recently there has been a substantial shift in health care toward a recognition of the wisdom of Plato's creed, namely that the psychological and the physical elements of a body are not separate, isolated and unrelated, but are vitally linked elements of a total system. Health is becoming. increasingly recognized as a balance of many processes, including physical and environmental factors, emotional and psychological states, nutritional habits and exercise patterns.

Researchers are now experimenting with methods of actively enlisting the mind in the body's combat with disease. To this end, techniques such as meditation, biofeedback, and visualization -- the creation in the mind of positive images about what is occurring in the body -- are being actively employed in major medical centers along with traditional medicine.

Some people are devastated by the mental and physical effects of illness. Others are able to call upon their inner reserve to sustain them through their crisis, whether it's a short-term or long-term ordeal. Why do some people respond positively to suffering while others are unable to endure?

We have often seen how two patients of similar age with the same diagnosis, degree of illness, and treatment program can experience vastly different results. Why does one not respond well to treatment while the other does? The answer seems to lie in their attitude. Medical journals consistently report so-called hopeless cases where patients have rallied their strength and regained their health. We have witnessed prolonged or unexpected remissions and occasional cures, and we believe that an optimistic instead of a pessimistic attitude was a critical factor.

We are in charge of our actions, but our actions are a reaction of our attitudes. Our attitude can make the difference in how we cope with the challenges we face in our daily life. This, in turn, can affect our level of stress, sense of control over our situation, and our overall health.

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First appeared May 4, 2008; updated June 12, 2009