Cancer and the State of Mind

A paper which examines how optimism and pessimism relate to stress and coping with cancer.

The paper shows that an increasing amount of research links negative and positive emotional states to wellness or ill health. The negative or pessimistic emotions seem to have a negative effect on the immune system and on general health. This paper discusses how pessimism has been shown to be unhealthy and have adverse effects on health, including increasing the risk of cancer and preventing recovery from the disease. On the other hand, positive or optimistic emotions have been shown to strengthen immune functions and bring about good health. The paper examines research that suggests optimism has a positive association with better mental and physical health, as well as coping with stress and therefore helps cancer patients deal better with their illness.
“Often the exact same circumstances may devastate one person, barely concern another, and be seen as an interesting challenge by a third person. This all depends on the person’s attitude. In recent years, cancer treatment centers have given patients a new prescription: have a positive mental attitude, believe in yourself, look for the best in people, be optimistic and so on. This is based on common sense and on research that a pessimistic attitude can create problems.
Our attitudes influence our behavior and vice versa (Sears, Peplau, Freedman & Taylor, 1988). Attitude is defined as a manner, disposition, or feeling about a person, situation, or thing.”