If you asked your best friend or wife to describe you, do you think they’d call you a Negative Nancy or a Positive Pete? No you can’t ask your mum, she’s too biased!
It may sound flippant, but this is a really important question for your health. So I’ll just wait here while you ask them.
Often, we focus on the physical sides of health. Like a mechanic looking at what’s gone wrong with the car. Just like with cars though, sometimes those recurring health and chronic disease problems might not be mechanical. There’s a chance that the problems could be with the driver and not the car. So too, there’s a chance that the problems your body is having, might really be coming from your mind, attitude and thoughts — especially if you’re a Negative Nancy!
You might have heard of the placebo effect. In medicine this is the number of people that will see their condition improve, even though given a sugar pill that does nothing. This usually effects about 30% of people but in some situations it can be as high as 80%. This is great news! People’s health has improved just because they believe what they are taking will help.
There is a dark side to the placebo effect though, the nocebo effect. The nocebo effect is most obvious in medical trials where patients given a sugar pill or placebo develop the same side effects as if they were taking the real drug.
The mind, your attitudes, and your beliefs are powerful. They have the power to make you well, equally they can make you sick, very sick!
The best test of whether your mind is working for you, or against you is whether you’re a Negative Nancy or a Positive Pete. While Positive Pete’s thoughts, beliefs and attitudes are working for him to help promote healing and wellness, Negative Nancy’s are working against here.
So where do you fit? I want to take a look at some of the main mental, emotional, and spiritual characteristics that promote wellbeing and healing and you decide.
Do you practice forgiveness …. real forgiveness?
We’re humans, there’s no way we can get through a single day without someone offending us.
Sometimes people offend us in small ways:
- Maybe someone cut in front of you on the way into work? or
- Perhaps you’re spouse burnt your breakfast?
And sometimes people offend us in bigger ways:
- You just got laid off at work? or
- You found out your partner was having an affair?
Whether it’s a big offence, or a small offence, how we deal with these experiences can have major impacts on health and wellbeing.
Positive Pete, practices real forgiveness. He doesn’t just say “it’s alright” and sweep it under the carpet pretending it never happened. Instead, Positive Pete goes though a conscious process of letting go of negative emotions, vengefulness, and resentment.
Negative Nancy on the other hand, well she doesn’t. Negative Nancy just brushes things under the carpet. She might say she forgives, but really she pushes the resentment and anger deep down inside. She may keep it bottled up under a tight cork, or she may pull it out every now and then to fan the embers.
Practicing real forgiveness results in improved cardiovascular health, and immune system function. In clinic I regularly see chronic long term resentment appearing as liver and digestive problems.
Do you have a supportive social network?
I’m not talking about your Facebook Friends. A supportive social network are friends that you can call on at any time of the day or night that are there to care, empathise and support you through the hard times and share the good times with you.
Sadly in today’s highly connected world we are less connected to each other than we have been at any time in the past.
Positive Pete has made a habit of cultivating meaningful, deep relationships with others. He takes the time to share his thoughts and feelings and has a genuine interest and concern for others in his peer group. He realises that life is about relationships with people, not our relationships with things.
Negative Nancy is a bit different. She struggles with friendships that go deep and tends to have superficial acquaintances. She is a little stand-offish, or even down right hostile. She believes that others are more motivated by their own selfish concerns rather than any genuine interest in her or her life.
The quality of our relationships within our social network can be an indicator of our quality of life and not just how many parties we get invited to. Negative Nancy is more likely to find herself with heart disease, cardiovascular problems and even dementia than Positive Pete.
Positive Pete will also have a greater survival rate if he develops cancer and less chance or risk of serious mental health conditions.
Are you married?
Now, I have an opportunity for those that are married to go for bonus health points! One recent study has shown that thinking positive thoughts about your romantic partner (yes I know it can be hard at times) has a positive effect on your physiology. So when you wake up tomorrow morning, rather than thinking about the day ahead, roll over, look at your partner and think positive thoughts about your relationship.
Do you pray or meditate regularly?
Since the 90’s the research on the benefits of prayer and meditation to health have literally exploded. The health benefits from these practices are so wide reaching that I would suggest if you do not already incorporate prayer and / or meditation into your daily routine as part of your spiritual growth, then bite the bullet and do it just for the benefits you will experience in your health. Who knows your may even develop a taste for it!
Now Positive Pete, he gets it! Positive Pete prays regularly and sets aside time each day for meditation and contemplation. Compared to Negative Nancy, Positive Pete has better levels of the hormones needed for protection from stress, and improved melatonin levels that help ensure restful sleep at night. Positive Pete also enjoys a stronger immune system and better resistance to the cold and flu.
Negative Nancy on the other hand, she just doesn’t have any interest in all that sort of stuff. She’s too busy to set aside a regular quite time, but she also tends to have higher levels of inflammatory markers, lower self esteem, and a greater risk of depression and anxiety than Positive Pete.
If you’re confused about where to start with prayer or meditation you can drop us a line to firstname.lastname@example.org and if you’re in Australia we’ll be happy to post you a short booklet “Talking with God” that will help get you started.
Who do you want to be?
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, Positive Pete and Negative Nancy are fictional characters, but they represent the choices that we all have every single day.
Our mind, beliefs, and attitudes are not something we’re stuck with. We can choose to develop them as either powerful curative tools or damaging, destructive weapons based on how we live each moment of our lives.
While in our clinic we often tend to focus on fixing the engine, it’s just as important to take the time out to ensure the driver is functioning properly too.