How Attitude Affects Our Health

Psychologist Rick Wirtz describes the impact that a positive or negative attitude can have on health, coping and recovery.

Meet Rick Wirtz

We take our personality with us wherever we go - to work, school, in our relationships, on the golf course, etc. In fact our personalities are reflected in everything we do. They are reflected in the TV shows we like to watch, the foods we eat, the amount we drink, our hobbies, political affiliations, etc.

So it would only make sense that our personality would impact the way in which we choose to manage our health and the way we react to illness. It seems, however, that most of us don’t often think about how our personalities and behaviors influence our health and the ways we cope with illness. That is an unfortunate fact because we might all do a better job of staying healthy if we understood more about how our health is affected by our thoughts, feelings, and beliefs about ourselves and the world.

Personality is a complicated concept, and so while talking about a person in terms of a single personality trait is not very realistic, I will do so for the sake of making this simple. If you ever watched the cartoon version of Winnie the Pooh with your children, grandchildren, or secretly on your own, you are familiar with the character Eeyore. Eeyore is a donkey who is very pessimistic by nature. He does not expect events in his life to work out well and so when they don’t, he just sees it as proof of what he already knew to be true. If by chance something does work out well he sees it as a fluke, and he certainly doesn’t expect it to work out that way the next time.

Now let’s take Eeyore’s personality type and imagine how that translates into how views his health. Do you think Eeyore is a guy who watches what he eats, takes his vitamins, or gets a check up once a year? If you said, “probably not” you were right. Eeyore would probably say “Why bother. I’d go to all that trouble and then get hit by a car.” If we take that a step further and have Eeyore diagnosed with a serious disease, how do you think he might handle that? My guess would be that he wouldn’t be very conscientious about taking medication prescribed by his physician, that he might not always show up for treatment or rehab, and would not expect to survive. If you were a betting man or woman how do you think Eeyore would fare compared to someone who had a much more optimistic personality? I’d bet on the optimist any day!


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