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 (557 Responses)
  1. Divina Dominick

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes which will make the biggest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    http://www.bshare.cn/share?url=https://edgara46e5.blogspothub.com/4060989/about-rv-solar-panels-shops-near-me

    June 10, 2021 at 00:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. rv repair near me

    http://nanos.jp/jmp?url=http://francisco3e7c6.blogscribble.com/3489873/5-tips-about-rv-service-near-me-you-can-use-today

    June 10, 2021 at 01:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Freddie Hypes

    Itís nearly impossible to find knowledgeable people for this topic, but you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

    http://cruzg71u2.qowap.com/59778424/significance-of-appointed-date-productive-date-in-restructuring

    June 10, 2021 at 03:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Ray Daman

    http://kylern81q9.59bloggers.com/5081865/time-for-kitchen-transforming-five-signs-that-provide-you-with-it-is-time-to-remodel

    June 10, 2021 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Gracia Shammah

    You need to be a part of a contest for one of the finest blogs on the web. I most certainly will recommend this web site!

    https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/reauthorization/reauexit.cfm?link=https://arthurs03w1.idblogmaker.com/4056301/the-smart-trick-of-2009-maserati-granturismo-that-no-one-is-discussing

    June 10, 2021 at 10:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Holly Robbinson

    Iím amazed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog thatís both educative and interesting, and without a doubt, you've hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few folks are speaking intelligently about. I'm very happy I came across this in my hunt for something relating to this.

    https://bitly.com/a/warning?hash=3nUs1YL&url=https://cesarb50u2.yomoblog.com/5899791/top-rv-body-shop-secrets

    June 10, 2021 at 11:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Jasper Schimmel

    http://mariom29e8.link4blogs.com/24232133/5-simple-statements-about-van-repair-explained

    June 10, 2021 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. rv repair near me now

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article! It is the little changes that make the largest changes. Thanks for sharing!

    http://www.furrondy.net/Redirect.aspx?destination=https://finn8i5u7.blogdanica.com/3498939/getting-my-rv-repair-shop-to-work/

    June 10, 2021 at 20:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Judith Aradanas

    This is the perfect website for anyone who would like to find out about this topic. You understand a whole lot its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need toÖHaHa). You certainly put a fresh spin on a subject which has been written about for ages. Wonderful stuff, just great!

    http://www.shinobi.jp/etc/goto.html?http://dallasr52k1.blogerus.com/24238519/not-known-facts-about-mechanic-spare-parts

    June 10, 2021 at 21:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Gerald Altonen

    I absolutely love your blog.. Pleasant colors & theme. Did you build this web site yourself? Please reply back as Iím trying to create my own personal site and would love to find out where you got this from or what the theme is named. Appreciate it!

    June 10, 2021 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Ericka Mannschreck

    https://ditu.google.cn/url?q=http://andersonp92t0.blog4youth.com/4572495/the-definitive-guide-to-mechanic-spare-parts

    June 10, 2021 at 22:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Candyce Koshar

    Everything is very open with a very clear description of the challenges. It was really informative. Your site is very useful. Many thanks for sharing!

    http://emilioq41j1.total-blog.com/top-guidelines-of-repair-shop-25802448

    June 11, 2021 at 01:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. rv repair near me now

    http://www.arakhne.org/redirect.php?url=https://holden7f3w9.theisblog.com/3491145/the-greatest-guide-to-rv-repairs-near-me/

    June 11, 2021 at 05:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Eddie Mormon

    Hello! I could have sworn Iíve been to your blog before but after browsing through a few of the articles I realized itís new to me. Anyways, Iím certainly delighted I came across it and Iíll be book-marking it and checking back frequently!

    https://fernandov15a3.idblogmaker.com/4349453/time-for-kitchen-remodeling-five-symptoms-that-show-you-it-s-time-to-remodel

    June 11, 2021 at 08:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Cathey Ziebell

    Very nice write-up. I certainly appreciate this website. Keep writing!

    June 11, 2021 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. near me

    Oh my goodness! Amazing article dude! Thank you, However I am having difficulties with your RSS. I donít know why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anyone else having similar RSS problems? Anyone who knows the solution will you kindly respond? Thanks!!

    menards

    June 11, 2021 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. redtube us

    http://www.emspectrum.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ocrvluxurycoaches.com/

    June 11, 2021 at 15:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RV Steps Near Me

    Hi there, I think your web site could possibly be having web browser compatibility issues. When I take a look at your web site in Safari, it looks fine however, when opening in Internet Explorer, it has some overlapping issues. I simply wanted to provide you with a quick heads up! Besides that, great blog!

    http://www.littleluly.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrv.tv/

    June 11, 2021 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Van Repair

    http://www.universaldisplaycorp.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=sprintervanrepairshop.com

    June 11, 2021 at 19:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Dodge Sprinter Service Centers

    I need to to thank you for this good read!! I definitely loved every bit of it. I have you saved as a favorite to check out new stuff you postÖ

    http://schwarzes-bw.de/wbb231/redir.php?url=https://campervanrepairshop.com

    June 11, 2021 at 21:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. rv furniture replacement

    Great article. I'm dealing with some of these issues as well..

    http://www.com-power.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=ocrv.biz/

    June 11, 2021 at 22:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. furniture refinishers orange county ca

    http://www.emrbirch.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.ocrv.online/

    June 12, 2021 at 06:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. RV Batteries Near Me

    Aw, this was an exceptionally nice post. Taking the time and actual effort to generate a great articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I hesitate a lot and don't manage to get nearly anything done.

    http://www.hostpost.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=orangecountyrvrepair.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 06:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Van Dent Repair Shop Near Me

    https://sunzu.com/link/?url=commercialrepairshop.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 06:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Nercedes Sprinter Repair Near Me

    Great information. Lucky me I discovered your website by chance (stumbleupon). I have saved it for later!

    http://katiefine.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=sprintervanrepair.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 07:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Camper Ac Repair Near Me

    http://mymuse.nmns.edu.tw/children/webpage/blogReply.jsp?dataId=3501&returnSrc=http://campervanrepairshop.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 07:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. phone repair near me

    http://blackfive.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=masternearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 16:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. sherwin williams near me

    Aw, this was a very nice post. Spending some time and actual effort to make a great articleÖ but what can I sayÖ I hesitate a lot and don't manage to get anything done.

    http://www.ilovefeet.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=reviewnearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 20:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. firestone near me

    Hi, I do believe this is a great website. I stumbledupon it 😉 I may return 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.

    http://78rospotrebnadzor.ru/en/web/guest/557/-/asset_publisher/eLX6/content/20-декабря-в-информационном-агентстве-«интерфакс-северо-запад»-состоялась-пресс-конференция-на-тему:-«потребительские-риски-в-предновогоднии-период:-как-не-ошибиться-с-покупками»?redirect=http://hootnholler.net

    June 12, 2021 at 20:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. wings near me

    https://knitty.com/banner.php?id=587&url=http://bestshopnearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. keybank near me

    Hi! I just want to offer you a huge thumbs up for the excellent information you have got right here on this post. I am coming back to your blog for more soon.

    http://www.eground.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.reviewnearme.com

    June 12, 2021 at 21:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. ford dealer near me

    http://j-a-net.jp/top/redirect?url=http://reviewnearme.com/

    June 12, 2021 at 23:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. shoe store near me

    http://koshkaikot.ru/redirect?url=http://bulknearme.com

    June 13, 2021 at 01:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. abc store near me

    Great post. I'm going through some of these issues as well..

    http://www.twilightlimited.biz/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=bestlocalnearme.com

    June 13, 2021 at 02:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. restaurants near me now

    http://www.hyoito-fda.com/out.php?url=https://wholesalenearme.com

    June 13, 2021 at 02:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. pumpkin patch near me

    Having read this I thought it was rather informative. I appreciate you finding the time and effort to put this article 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://ebi-ar.info/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=hootnholler.net

    June 13, 2021 at 04:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. مدیر بیمه

    I have been surfing online greater than 3 hours lately, but I by no means discovered any attention-grabbing article like yours.
    It is beautiful price enough for me. In my opinion,
    if all webmasters and bloggers made excellent content as you did,
    the internet might be much more useful than ever before.

    June 13, 2021 at 05:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. rentals near me

    There's certainly a great deal to find out about this topic. I really like all of the points you have made.

    http://auhoney.net/link.php?url=bonus-books.com/

    June 13, 2021 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. massages near me

    http://dedisto.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.bestshopnearme.com/

    June 13, 2021 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. ford dealer near me

    https://bonus-books.com/reviewnearme/

    June 13, 2021 at 18:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. labcorp near me

    I like it whenever people get together and share views. Great site, stick with it!

    https://www.barrypopik.com/index.php?URL=http://benitezmodernconstruction.com/

    June 13, 2021 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. safeway near me

    http://www.rentwaster.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.fleetrepairshops.com/

    June 13, 2021 at 20:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. wineries near me

    There's definately a great deal to find out about this issue. I love all of the points you made.

    http://br.nate.com/diagnose.php?from=w&r_url=http3A2F2Fimmigrants.co

    June 13, 2021 at 20:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. wineries near me

    http://kimchipowder.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.zealouslifestyle.com

    June 13, 2021 at 21:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. protests near me

    Howdy! I could have sworn Iíve been to your blog before but after looking at some of the articles I realized itís new to me. Regardless, Iím certainly delighted I came across it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back often!

    http://www.delawarefederallitigation.net/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=www.postfallsphotographer.com

    June 13, 2021 at 21:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. soul food near me

    This is the right website for anybody who would like to find out about this topic. You know so much its almost hard to argue with you (not that I actually will need toÖHaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject which has been discussed for a long time. Excellent stuff, just great!

    https://www.jig.jp/redirect/?url=http://ocrvmotorsports.us/

    June 13, 2021 at 23:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. party city near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I really think this amazing site needs a great deal more attention. Iíll probably be back again to see more, thanks for the information!

    https://openforbusinessmagazine01.businesscatalyst.com/Redirect.aspx?destination=www.nearmyspot.com/

    June 14, 2021 at 00:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. drugstore near me

    Howdy! I just wish to give you a big thumbs up for the excellent information you have here on this post. I am returning to your site for more soon.

    http://findit.timesleader.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=https://www.ocrvcenter.org

    June 14, 2021 at 01:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. wells fargo atm near me

    Itís difficult to find educated people for this subject, however, you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks

    https://ww5.libdd.com/__media__/js/netsoltrademark.php?d=http://www.forkliftsafetyschool.com

    June 14, 2021 at 01:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. jobs near me

    Spot on with this write-up, I seriously think this website needs much more attention. Iíll probably be returning to read more, thanks for the information!

    http://telecom.uu.ru/?a%5B%5D=<a+href=postfallsbootcamp.com

    June 14, 2021 at 01:59 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

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.