Optimism vs Pessimism and Your Health

We have tons of clinical data that show positive optimism is related much better health outcomes while negative pessimism relates to poorer health outcomes. One of the ways pessimism shows up is with catastrophizing which is negative thinking or thinking for the worst.

Here’s just one example of that where negative pain catastrophizing shows up as an independent risk factor for chronic pain after having a knee replacement. It’s a good example because the person received a new knee (arthritic knee gone) but may still struggle with pain. It shows the power of the brain and its influence on our health.

Likewise the power of optimism shows up strongly in a positive direction for health as shown in this review study.  ‘Hope and optimism were significantly related to positive pain-related outcomes based on meta-analytic findings from 96 studies and over 31,000 participants.’ Positive optimism translates to better health across many different conditions not just pain. ‘Mortality, survival, cardiovascular outcomes, physiological markers (including immune function), immune function only, cancer outcomes, outcomes related to pregnancy, physical symptoms, or pain. In each case, optimism was a significant predictor of health outcomes or markers.’

So one of the pieces to healing chronic health conditions is stopping catastrophizing and getting the right mindset and using optimism to help you heal. It is one area I screen for in all my patients and we work on for a good outcome.