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Issue date: Wednesday, October 02, 2013

In this issue you'll find stories about:

Is Your Glass Half Full?

Data on more than 97,000 women from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) suggest that attitude may be the key ingredient to living longer. Using standard personality inventories, scientists found that the most cynical and hostile women had higher rates of heart disease and total mortality compared to their optimistic counter-parts; the women holding the glass ‘half-full'. Imagine that! Researchers found that adult females with a high level of well-being had decreased cardiovascular risk, decreased levels of stress hormones (cortisol, dopamine, epinephrine), increased levels of health-enhancing hormones (endorphins, neurotransmitters) and decreased levels of inflammation suggesting that attitude is everything! The good news, our brains are not hardwired for optimism or pessimism, optimism can be learned and pessimism overcome.

According to, Martin Seligman, psychologist and author of several optimistic reads such as: Authentic Happiness, Learned Optimism and The Optimistic Child, to name a few, building optimism consists of recognizing and then disputing pessimistic thoughts. Disputing pessimistic thoughts, when someone else is involved, is not the challenge. Disputing our own pessimistic thoughts about ourselves - therein lies the problem. Seligman suggests first recognizing the negative thought and treat it as if it was uttered by someone else, "a rival whose mission in life was to make you miserable" (Seligman's words not mine). He proposes four ways to make your dispute with yourself convincing:
• Evidence - What is the evidence for this belief? Learned optimism is about accuracy.
• Alternatives - Almost nothing that happens has one cause; most events have many causes. Is there any less destructive way of looking at this?
• Implications - Even if the belief is true, what are its implications?
• Usefulness - Sometimes the consequences of holding a belief matter more than its truth. Is the belief destructive? How can you go about changing it?
Learned optimism need not be an overwhelming task, it will take practice. Unfavorable thoughts can and do happen, recognize that and be prepared to dispute them.
Think of it as an opportunity to step outside of your automatic negative response and view it differently. The more you practice the more automatic it will become. Be patient, don't expect major changes in thinking right away, but do expect them to become ingrained over time. Need some additional support cultivating the optimist from within? Join us on November 6th at Aurora St Luke's Medical Center, from 6:00-7:00pm for an evening with noteworthy clinical psychologist, Jeff Lauzon, PhD. Get ready to uncover what is getting in the way of you holding a glass that is half-full.


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