‘I am very well, thank you. If I was any better, I wouldn’t be able to cope.’
There cannot be many doctors who have been greeted by such an enthusiastic response when enquiring of a patient’s state of health. However, it was a delight to hear, and said much for the frame of mind of the patient. I imagine he generally has an optimistic outlook on life, requiring some considerable misfortune before his solid sense of well-being is shaken.
There is no doubt that psychologically having a glass that is half-full rather than half-empty is beneficial on the way our bodies cope with the stresses of life. Numerous accounts have demonstrated over time how some individuals have survived extremely unpleasant situations, which would prove to be the ultimate test of courage for most people. Terry Waite’s experience of being a hostage in Iran in the 1980s is an example that figures prominently in my own memory; and there have been many other similar stories since. One can add to that many wartime heroes, as well as those who have been tested to their physical limits by personal accidents (think of the Chilean coal miners, for example).
Positive thinking has the power to drive you to health (boosts immunity), happiness (banishes depression and anxiety) and success (motivates and empowers); whatever the odds against you may be. It has the ability to change your life for the better. It is a mental attitude that expects nothing but good to come of any situation, however difficult or dire the experience may be. It is almost a case of ‘believe in it, and it will happen’.
For example, how often does someone greet you by complaining about the weather? Last week, I had several people gloomily comment about how cold it has become. No surprises there; after all it is winter. However, looking on the bright side, the temperature was still in double figures in early December and it was sunny; a considerable improvement on the same time last year when we were struggling with ice and snow. I would say that is a good reason to be glad and rejoice.
Even ill-health and impending death can be fought with courage and a positive outlook. I have previously commented on an old friend who, weeks before he died, replied to my enquiry as to how he was by saying ‘I’m alive; it’s all that matters’. Last week I had the need to attend two funerals; one of a young cousin, and the second of a well-known local farmer. Both men showed courage in the face of adversity. At a time when he could not walk unaided, the farmer refused to give in to his increasing frailty by insisting that his grandson hoist him on a fork-lift so that he could change a light bulb in a barn. My cousin fortified himself for his death by stating that he was ‘looking forward to seeing Heaven’. Both men were dignified and positive in their response to an otherwise very negative situation in life.
A few weeks ago I had great pleasure in presenting an award for Outstanding Achievement in Acting to a member of the Duck Egg Theatre Company. The successful actress confesses on her Twitter site that she is ‘over-enthusiastic’. On the contrary, young lady; it is your enthusiasm that has helped to make you what you are; a rising star. What we need is a bit more enthusiasm from everyone, not less of it.
(First published in the Scunthorpe Telegraph, Thursday 15th December 2011)