home
RSS
How hope works with modern medicine
March 16th, 2011
05:51 PM ET

How hope works with modern medicine

Dr. Charles Raison, CNNHealth's Mental Health expert and an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, writes regularly on the mind-body connection for better health.

My mom, whom I’ve mentioned before, is 82 and struggles to walk. But she goes to great lengths each week to attend a church in which she finds comfort, one that teaches that reality can be changed to reflect our desires if our hopeful expectations are strong enough. This idea has been popularized in a widely read book called “The Secret,”which espouses a “law of attraction” such that the universe must respond to the way you think. Thus, positive and negative thinking must always bring about positive and negative physical results in the real world.

My professional life is rooted in scientific endeavors, so you won’t be surprised to learn that I think that idea is wrong. What amazes me, though, is that it is so nearly right. Although the universe does not appear to be obligated to deliver 100% of our fondest hopes and dreams, it turns out that thinking positively really can lead to positive medical outcomes.

The latest example of this effect comes from a recently published study that examines whether one’s expectations of future health status actually affects future health. Researchers at Duke University asked several thousand patients undergoing a cardiac diagnostic procedure what they thought about their likely future health and then followed these patients for 15 years to see what happened to them. A great strength of this study is that in addition to asking about specific health expectations, the researchers collected information on almost every imaginable factor that might also influence cardiovascular health so that the specific effect of these expectations could be isolated and explored.

The researchers found that the most optimistic patients were only about half as likely to die from heart disease as the most pessimistic patients. Of course, it’s easier to be optimistic about your future if your disease is not as bad, if you are not as depressed, etc. Taking these factors into account weakened the association between positive expectations and enhanced survival, but the effect remained large — as large, in fact, as the effect of our most powerful medications.

The practical implications of these findings—along with many similar results from earlier studies—are staggering. Given this, I never cease being amazed that modern medicine seems generally so little interested in exploring ways to maximally harness such a readily available source of therapeutic success. But for us as individuals the message is clear. When disease strikes we should work on ways to develop and nurture a sense of hope for the future. And not just general hope, but hope that is specific to the illness at hand. And in fact, if our hope reaches beyond what the evidence suggests is going to happen to us, so much the better. We should look upon this as a therapeutic strategy, and if we find it difficult we should remind ourselves that other therapeutic modalities—such as surgery or chemotherapy—are at least, if not more difficult.

Said another way, scientific data suggest that realistically developing unrealistic hope is good for our health. Of course, this is a tremendous challenge, because hope is much easier to come by when it appears to be realistic to a person. To knowingly practice unrealistic hope requires significant discipline, willpower and courage.

Notice that I qualified my statements about unrealistic hope with the caveat that we need to develop this hope realistically. This is where I part ways with spiritual views that insist hope is all powerful. Just because something works to some degree doesn’t mean it works completely, and many effective medicines become poisonous if taken at too high a dose.

Almost certainly there is such a thing as too much hope, if that hope causes people to forgo availing themselves of every medical intervention at their disposal. Hope works within the confines of modern medicine; by itself it is a good deal less effective. To see proof of this one need look no further than studies showing that Christian Scientists—who eschew all medical treatment in favor of spiritual healing—die at a much younger age than other Americans.

Still, I don’t want to end a post on hope with such gloom and doom. Perhaps a more appropriate way to close is to rephrase an old Arabic proverb that “He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything.” True enough, but it is also true that “He who has hope has health, or at least a better shot at it”.


soundoff (95 Responses)
  1. RV Paint Shop California

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you, However I am encountering troubles with your RSS. I don’t know the reason why I can't subscribe to it. Is there anybody else getting identical RSS issues? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond? Thanx!!

    https://m.snek.ai/redirect?url=http://esoedumag.com/osinbajo-calls-for-urgent-review-of-curriculum//

    April 25, 2021 at 19:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. herbal erection pills

    which erectile dysfunction drug is best https://canadaerectiledysfunctionpills.com/ erectile disorder dsm 5 criteria

    April 27, 2021 at 03:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. cialis viagra combination canadian pharmacy

    cialis canadian pharmacy https://canadacialisstore.com/ cialis, sale, canadian pharm.

    April 27, 2021 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. real estate for sale bayview idaho

    Hi, I do think your site might be having web browser compatibility problems. Whenever I look at your blog in Safari, it looks fine however, if opening in IE, it's got some overlapping issues. I just wanted to give you a quick heads up! Besides that, great blog!

    http://www.gubkin.ru/bitrix/redirect.php?event1=&event2=&event3=&goto=https://meganleary.com

    April 27, 2021 at 22:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. joker 123

    Great work! This is the type of info that should be shared across the net.
    Disgrace on Google for now not positioning this submit higher!
    Come on over and talk over with my site . Thanks =)

    April 28, 2021 at 04:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. canadian weight loss pills

    canadian pharmacies ed pills https://canadapillstorex.com/ canadian pharmacies ed pills

    April 28, 2021 at 07:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. dapoxetine

    priligy cost dapoxetine tablet price in india

    April 30, 2021 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. avanafil

    avanafil dosing avanafil 200

    May 3, 2021 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. mercedes sprinter camper van

    http://clients1.google.com.ai/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://sprintervanrepairshop.com

    May 4, 2021 at 16:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Oakley Rx Sunglasses

    Hi, I do believe this is a great blog. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to revisit yet again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to guide others.

    https://liveshow.ru/redirect?url=https://optometristphoenixaz.com

    May 5, 2021 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. aika online download

    Right here is the perfect webpage for anybody who would like to understand this topic. You know a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic that has been written about for many years. Excellent stuff, just great!

    http://www.bioscience.org/2017/v9s/af/474/fulltext.php?bframe=https3A2F2Faikareborn.com

    May 5, 2021 at 02:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. truck repair around me

    http://www.sanfranciscochocolatestore.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.fleetautorepairshop.com

    May 5, 2021 at 02:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. truck air conditioning repair near me

    Great post. I will be going through a few of these issues as well..

    http://clients1.google.com.nf/url?rct=j&sa=t&url=https://fleetservicesorangecounty.com

    May 5, 2021 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. success group

    After I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on each time a comment is added I get four emails with the same comment. Is there a way you can remove me from that service? Thanks a lot!

    https://google.az/url?rct=i&sa=t&url=https://mastermindformen.com

    May 5, 2021 at 20:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. tire shops near me

    http://hirlevel.cadit.hu/~hirlevel/redirect.php?id=299&url=https://getdentalimplantsnearme.com

    May 5, 2021 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. hino 258lp

    I'm extremely pleased to uncover this site. I want to to thank you for ones time just for this wonderful read!! I definitely loved every part of it and I have you bookmarked to see new things in your website.

    http://www.kmvision.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.boxtruckrepairshop.com

    May 5, 2021 at 20:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Fabrication Riverside

    Having read this I believed it was extremely informative. I appreciate you spending some time and effort to put this informative article together. I once again find myself spending way too much time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worthwhile!

    https://antenna.wakshin.com/wp-content/themes/antena_ri/ss/c_counter.php?&c_id=1824331&url=https://ocrv.org

    May 5, 2021 at 20:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. italian food near me

    http://domina.ch/clickban.php?ban=6&link=http://bulknearme.com

    May 6, 2021 at 14:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. chinese food near me

    http://blogpeople.net/cgi-bin/click.cgi?u=http://postfallsphotographer.com

    May 6, 2021 at 17:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. truck collision repair near me

    https://endlessvideo.com/watch?v=5kqgcjmjymc

    May 6, 2021 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Forklifts California

    I must thank you for the efforts you have put in writing this website. I am hoping to view the same high-grade blog posts by you in the future as well. In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated me to get my very own blog now 😉

    http://kazhit.net/watch/UVAfKfhBrXE

    May 6, 2021 at 18:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Amber Lager Beer

    https://local.google.fi/url?rct=i&sa=t&url=https://craftbrewersofboise.com

    May 6, 2021 at 18:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Forklift Repair Shop Los Angeles

    https://maps.google.co.zw/url?q=j&source=web&rct=j&url=https://forkliftsafetyschool.com

    May 7, 2021 at 00:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. cold stone near me

    http://www.orient-explorer.net/Redirect.asp?url=www.ocrvcenter.biz

    May 7, 2021 at 04:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. rv rentals orange county ca

    This page truly has all the info I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    https://www.vdyoutube.com/nl/watch?v=EqHgcHBWM5w

    May 7, 2021 at 07:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. 5Liter Kegs

    I’m impressed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s both educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is an issue that too few people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I stumbled across this in my hunt for something concerning this.

    http://audioscope.net/redirect.php?action=url&goto=howtobrews.com

    May 7, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. New Forklift Extensions California

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent site. I stumbledupon it 😉 I am going to come back yet again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the greatest way to change, may you be rich and continue to help others.

    http://www.tonvid.com/info.php?video_id=kS-DB09uj-0

    May 7, 2021 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. spa near me

    It’s hard to come by well-informed people in this particular topic, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

    https://www.bad.org.uk/for-the-public/patient-information-leaflets/alopecia-areata/?showmore=1&returnlink=http://www.forkliftrepairorangecounty.com

    May 7, 2021 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Forklifts

    Howdy! This post could not be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I am going to forward this post to him. Pretty sure he's going to have a great read. Thanks for sharing!

    http://www.yongini.com/kr/s_news/news_carrier.html?n_no=3139808&n_link=https://forkliftsafetyschool.com

    May 7, 2021 at 17:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. bus body repair

    http://uk.youtuberepeater.com/watch?v=aqF9j94MfEw

    May 7, 2021 at 20:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Internet Marketing Business

    http://sleepchallenge.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 7, 2021 at 23:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. trailer services near me

    May I simply say what a comfort to uncover someone who really knows what they're talking about on the internet. You actually understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people ought to read this and understand this side of the story. It's surprising you are not more popular given that you definitely possess the gift.

    http://lotterygamezone.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com

    May 8, 2021 at 00:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Content Marketing Consultant

    This site was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Thank you!

    https://citruslane.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 00:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Social Media Marketing Event

    Having read this I believed it was very informative. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this information together. I once again find myself personally spending a lot of time both reading and commenting. But so what, it was still worth it!

    http://www.finaid.org/scripts/redirect.phtml?url=http://affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 10:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Content Marketing Mentor

    http://cloudtip.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Local Marketing Pros

    Hi, I do think this is an excellent website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I'm going to come back once again since I book marked it. Money and freedom is the best way to change, may you be rich and continue to help other people.

    https://www.c21.hk/HOME/ENG?url=https://affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 13:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Google Marketing Company

    https://motorsports-merchandise.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 14:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. repair rv slide out

    After I initially left a comment I appear to have clicked on the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service? Many thanks!

    http://allabouttheplayer.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrvcenter.com

    May 8, 2021 at 14:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Digital Marketing Specialists

    After I originally commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and from now on every time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the same comment. Perhaps there is a means you are able to remove me from that service? Thank you!

    https://www.ihatelaurel-scion.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Local Marketing Agencies Near Me

    This is a topic which is near to my heart... Thank you! Exactly where are your contact details though?

    http://www.telomerelength.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 15:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Social Media Marketing Videos

    I want to to thank you for this very good read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I've got you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff you post…

    http://www.tenmessages.org/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=affordableranking.com

    May 8, 2021 at 16:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Countertops California

    https://dausel.co/W5PTKw

    May 8, 2021 at 19:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. RV Fabrication Orange County

    https://skiplink.org/Ujw1

    May 8, 2021 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. RV Wraps Los Angeles

    Excellent blog you've got here.. It’s difficult to find high-quality writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!

    https://cutwin.com/ZD5R

    May 8, 2021 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2

Post a comment


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.