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October 17, 2012

The Power of Positive Thinking... for Older Adults

“Our happiness depends on the habit of mind we cultivate. So practice happy thinking every day. Cultivate the merry heart, develop the happiness habit, and life will become a continual feast.” – Norman Vincent Peale 

When The Power of Positive Thinking was published in 1952, mental health professionals derided its author, the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, as a con man and fraud. With the advent of pop psychology still decades in the future, Reverend Peale’s notion that you could think yourself happy and improve your life in the process was considered poppycock. It would be a quarter of a century before medical science would prove the reverend to be a man ahead of his time and begin to validate his beliefs. Today, the medical community recognizes the power of positive thinking, which psychologists call “dispositional optimism,” in speeding healing, managing pain, and boosting both mental and physical health. 

“We know why optimists do better than pessimists,” psychologist Michael Scheier told The Atlantic in an interview earlier this year. “Optimists are not simply being Pollyannas; they’'re problem solvers who try to improve the situation.” 

Medical sentiments began to change in 1985 when psychologists Michael Scheier and Charles Carver published the study “Optimism, Coping, and Health: Assessment and Implications of Generalized Outcome Expectations” in the journal Health Psychology. Bridging the gap between psychology and biology, the paper presented a method for evaluating the effect of positive thinking on healing and launched decades of studies into the interactions between mind and body that continue today. (Click here to read The Atlantic’s fascinating interview with Scheier about the ground-breaking research he and Carver have done on human motivation and where that research is leading.) 

Kendal helps residents of Kendal at Oberlin and members of Kendal at Home and Senior Independence maintain a positive outlook on life by encouraging a healthy, active lifestyle. Contact us today for more information.

Understanding Mental Health


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