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Optimism Helps Stimulate a Positive Immune Response

A new study by psychological scientists Suzanne Segerstrom of the University of Kentucky and Sandra Sephton of the University of Louisville studied how law students’ expectations about the future affected their immune response and concluded from their research that optimism may be good for your health. In this study, reported in Psychological Science, the researchers studied 124 law students measuring both their optimism about law school and their immune response to a bacterial injection five times over the course of six months. They reported: The students’ general outlook on life – whether they had an optimistic disposition – didn’t account for the differences in immune responses between students. But as each student’s expectations about law school waxed and waned, their immune response followed along. At more optimistic times, they’d have bigger immune responses; at a more pessimistic time, a more sluggish immune response. So, being optimistic about success in a specific, important domain may promote better immunity against some infections.”

As author of The Optimism Advantage, we’ve documented over and over again the positive impact that optimism can have in improving your quality of life. This specific study is yet further proof that one’s optimism can impact the body’s ability to fight disease.

I’ve seen this in patients fighting cancer. As a member of the advisory board for The Wellness Community Valley/Ventura, I’ve seen this organization in action since its inception nearly two decades ago. With sites around the country, the Wellness Community is dedicated to providing emotional support, education and hope to people with cancer and their loved ones free of charge. Through participation in its professionally-led support groups, educational workshops, social activities, and stress-reduction classes, cancer patients learn vital skills that enable them to regain control, reduce isolation and restore hope regardless of the stage of their cancer.

They work to help patients transform this dreaded diagnosis by becoming “patient active” and doing everything they can do to fight the disease. Optimistic patients are realists. They don’t disregard the mortality statistics; they just do what they can as patients and families to make their survival more likely.

This research is just further proof that optimism can help the body fight the good fight.

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