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Rethinking the Placebo Effect: How Our Minds Actually Affect Our Bodies | Brain Pickings


Stashed in: #health, Optimism, Stress, Awesome, Believe, Medicine, life, Soul, Forever Alone, Depression, @brainpicker, Alzheimer's, Anxiety, Solitude, University of Chicago

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Realism can be bad for your health. Optimists recover better from medical procedures such as coronary bypass surgery, have healthier immune systems and live longer, both in general and when suffering from conditions such as cancer, heart disease and kidney failure.

It is well accepted that negative thoughts and anxiety can make us ill. Stress — the belief that we are at risk — triggers physiological pathways such as the “fight-or-flight” response, mediated by the sympathetic nervous system. These have evolved to protect us from danger, but if switched on long-term they increase the risk of conditions such as diabetes and dementia.

What researchers are now realizing is that positive beliefs don’t just work by quelling stress. They have a positive effect too — feeling safe and secure, or believing things will turn out fine, seems to help the body maintain and repair itself…

Optimism seems to reduce stress-induced inflammation and levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. It may also reduce susceptibility to disease by dampening sympathetic nervous system activity and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system. The latter governs what’s called the “rest-and-digest” response — the opposite of fight-or-flight.

Just as helpful as taking a rosy view of the future is having a rosy view of yourself. High “self-enhancers” — people who see themselves in a more positive light than others see them — have lower cardiovascular responses to stress and recover faster, as well as lower baseline cortisol levels.

Marchant notes that it’s as beneficial to amplify the world’s perceived positivity as it is to amplify our own — something known as our “self-enhancement bias,”a type of self-delusion that helps keep us sane. But the same applies to our attitudes toward others as well — they too can impact our physical health. She cites University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo, who has dedicated his career to studying how social isolation affects individuals. Though solitude might be essential for great writing, being alone a special form of art, and single living the defining modality of our time, loneliness is a different thing altogether — a thing Cacioppo found to be toxic:

Being lonely increases the risk of everything from heart attacks to dementia, depression and death, whereas people who are satisfied with their social lives sleep better, age more slowly and respond better to vaccines. The effect is so strong that curing loneliness is as good for your health as giving up smoking.

Solitude is great for writing and art, but bad for health if it means being lonely.

Then again there are lonely people with lots of friends. That's the curse of our era.

Strive for balance.  The day is full of hours; designate some for solitude and some for friendship.

Definitely leave time for solitude. It's too easy to fill every second of the day!

The healthiest is to just leave everything as it is. 

People that are optimists 90% of the time cannot handle failure well

People that are pessimists 90% of the time cannot handle success. 

50-50 people are constantly judging wether something is going to be good or bad.  

Just stop!  

It is all empty language of the conditional mind trying to write the next page or rewrite the last page of your story. 

Let it write itself. 

I would have thought it would be easy to do nothing, but people don't seem to be able to do that well.

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