Tag Archives: sick

Can Positive Thinking Cure You?

MARCELA-POSITIVE-ATTITUDE-INS2Ever hear “you have to stay positive when you’re sick,” implying that positive thinking can make you better? Me too, a lot in fact. As a kid in the hospital, I heard that one plenty, so I wanted to investigate. Can positive thinking improve one’s physical health? Does the condition matter? Does stress come into the equation? First, I looked into studies that claimed positive thinking as a health benefit.

Study #1: Over five years, Steven Greer and his colleagues followed the physical and psychological conditions of 578 women who had enrolled in the study with early-stage breast cancer. Early on they classified women in “helplessness/hopelessness” or “fighting spirit” categories based on their answers to surveys. At the end, women with high “helpless/hopeless” scores were more likely to relapse or die within five years than women with a “fighting spirit.” Study #2: Next, men undergoing coronary artery bypass graft surgery were interviewed before the surgery, a few days after surgery, and then again months later. Researchers used the LOT (Life Orientation Test) to convert people’s statements about their expectations for their future health to scores to evaluate optimism. Men classified as “optimists” had fewer negative physiological changes in their electrocardiograms and fewer releases of enzymes into the bloodstream that could cause infections. Basically, the data showed that pessimists were more likely to suffer heart attacks during surgery. Pessimism also seemed to be related to slower recovery. Study #3: In 2001 researchers found that amongst war veterans, veterans determined by personality inventories to be optimists were less likely to develop heart disease than the veterans classified as pessimists. The researchers determined this result was independent (meaning not affected by) smoking habits.

In fact, further studies have found no significant data demonstrating that positive thinking improves health. The meta-analysis called “Positive Psychology in Cancer Care: Bad Science…,” reviewed 12 studies that examined the effect of “fighting spirit” on cancer progression and survival. The ten larger studies found negative results, and only the two smaller, flawed, and confounded studies found results that supported the claim that positivity improves health. They cite another meta-analysis that says positive thinking has no significant improvement effect on cardiovascular diseases or cancer. The American Cancer Society even discounts the health benefits of positive thinking.

How can we explain the results of the three studies and many others that say there is a link? First: most studies have a potential reverse causality—instead of positive thinking improving a person’s health, a person who becomes healthier could improve their attitude. Potential confounding variables (like lower SES and education) and small sample size influenced other results.  In  “Thinking differently about thinking positive,” Sue Wilkinson and Celia Kitzinger pointed out that especially in the world of breast cancer, patients feel a lot of pressure to think positively, which could coerce subjects to report more positivity than they actually feel. The questionnaires and surveys themselves can also be ambiguous, and the coding of patients’ answers is inconsistent. In one study the phrase “I try to see it in a different light, to make it seem more positive” was coded as positive thinking while “It’s best to be positive at all times. I try not to let myself get depressed, sad, or angry when things go wrong” was coded as the less positive “Type C personality” that allegedly increased risk of cancer. Inconsistent modes of measurement of positivity mean that the results are not reliable. Some also thought that stress influenced the results of conditions like heart disease and Alzheimer’s that are connected to stress. But data shows positive people are not necessarily less stressed than negative people, nor do coping methods of stress (good vs. bad) make a significant difference in physical health.

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           My Google search this week

So why do some still believe that positive thinking cures? Here’s my thought: when I was in the hospital as a kid, I liked to think that if I behaved and stayed positive I would get better. When facing terrifying illnesses, people want to do something, doctors want to as well, and the idea that positive thinking could help is comforting and within someone’s control. There might be perceptual bias like that of the doctors mentioned in class: Believers of positivity may think if they get healthier, it’s because they were positive, and if they don’t, it’s because the disease was really tough. All of that is understandable, I’ve been there, and no one likes to feel helpless. But the ACS sums it up well: Positive thinking therapy may improve quality of life, but it doesn’t prevent or cure disease. Take home message is wishing doesn’t make it so.

“Studies say 100% of Students Claiming to have the PSU Plague are Actually Lying.”

It’s inevitable here. People say getting sick in college is the worst, but I haven’t had any time here where I haven’t been sick. Last night, while my roommate was coughing up a lung, I quickly wondered if the Emergen-C in our drawer would help the disease from spreading to my side of the room. However, I went to sleep anyways and woke up this morning feeling awful. So here I am, left wondering if the huge amounts of Vitamin C found in Emergen-C or Vitamin C supplements actually make a difference when suffering from a cold.

According to this article, a lot of experts claim daily exposure to Vitamin C hasn’t been found to make much of a difference in sick days. It’s heavily debated over but what’s clear is that too much Vitamin C can be harmful to the body. It can cause nausea or other stomach issues, so it’s best to not consume more than 2,000 mg per day.

However, this doesn’t help me, because I’m still looking for a way to avoid getting sick.

Colorado State University says that it’s important to be physically healthy with what you can control– like your sleep habits, your physical activity, and the types of food you eat. Balancing all of these well, and also avoiding major stress, should help to make for a strong immune system.

Another way to avoid getting sick and missing class is by getting the flu shot. Dr. Mark Hyman claims that it doesn’t actually do much for people outside of the very elderly and infants whom  for them, the flu could be fatal. However, using my newfound scientist skills, I will follow the majority of doctors recommendations by getting the flu shot this year to give myself the best chance possible. It isn’t too hard to stop by the HUB and get one, that is of course unless I’d be late to class..



Hand Sanitizer or Soap?


As many a student across campus knows, illness and disease can spread like a wildfire. If you were to walk into any classroom larger than 100 people in size, chances are that you’ll hear a symphony of coughing and people hacking up lungs all around you. Now, what I’ve overheard many a person on campus call “Penn State Plague,” is sweeping the campus, there are two simple ways that it can be prevented. These happen to be, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer.

While washing your hands seems like a relatively simple task, not too many people seem to do it properly. Only 5% of people wash their hands correctly, leaving the majority of people washing their hands incorrectly (Jaslow).  People have been known to run their hands under water without soap, or completely avoid cleaning up after themselves at all. Yet one of the biggest problems is the fact that people are not washing their hands for a long enough time period. The recommended time is that of “20 seconds … singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice” (Jaslow).

We as a whole live in a society that is forever on the go, so what exactly do those who can’t spare the “20 seconds” to wash their hands, do? Well this, my friends, is where the handy Hand Sanitizer comes into play. Hand Sanitizer is basically an alcohol-based product that is supposed to kill bacteria on your hands (Jaslow). Most leading products state that they kill 99.9% of all bacteria. 99.9% seems like a great number…until you get more information on the product.

This 99.9% turns out to be more of a cover than the full truth. According to About Biology, these products are tested on “inanimate surfaces” instead of a hand itself. On these inanimate surfaces, they were able to kill 99.9% of bacteria, but without testing it on the human hand, there is no way to claim that these products will accurately kill germs on your own two hands (Bailey).

So what is your safest bet? Should you dance around in the communal bathrooms singing Happy Birthday to yourself two times, every time you need to wash your hands, or simply use hand sanitizer?  The Connecticut Department of Public Health states, “Washing your hands with soap and water is the best defense against germs.”

So ultimately, your best bet is to wash your hands and sing that song. Yet we all know that sometimes if you sneeze twelve times during a test, you can’t get up to wash your hands every single time. So to compensate, the second best thing is to use hand sanitizer. In order for the sanitizer to be effective, it would have to be made up of at least 60% alcohol, but it really won’t be beneficial to you if your hands have visible dirt on them (“Hand Sanitizers…”). So the choice is yours, but remember not to be fooled by labels that tell you they’ll kill pretty much all of the bacteria, because it might kill that bacteria but not so much on the areas you might think it will.





Bailey, Regina. “Do Hand Sanitizers Work Better Than Soap and Water?”About. About Group, n.d. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

“Hand Sanitizers: Advice for Using Gels, Foams and Wipes.” (n.d.): n. pag. Connecticut Department of Public Health, Sept. 2012. Web.

Harper, Elly Pretzel And Jane. Which Soap Is Best? – Minnesota Dept of Health (n.d.): n. pag. Minnesota Dept of Health. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.

Jaslow, Ryan. “95 Percent of People Wash Their Hands Improperly: Are You One of Them?” CBSNews. CBS Interactive, 12 June 2013. Web. 18 Sept. 2014.


Penn State Plague

I know for a fact I am not the only person waking up in the morning with a sore throat unable to swallow, the only one popping Sudafed every four hours or the only one taking extra Nyquil to make it through the night. The Penn State “Plague” is among us and it all started with one person. A cold is spread either through direct contact of a contaminated area or by breathing in the virus after a person sneezes, coughs, ect. Person to person contact increases your chances of catching a cold or sickness. The first three days is when a person is most contagious.

I don’t think we realize how often we touch our noses or our mouths then touch something or someone else. This contaminates both our bodies, and the surfaces that we touched. There are many ways to avoid getting a cold, and many ways to get rid of one but we all know it sucks just to have it. Although wiping out the Big O’s orange juice selection will amp up your vitamin c, theres plenty of other options. For example, taking an antibiotic, getting enough sleep, (believe it or not) chicken soup, vitamin intake, and drinking water… lots and lots of water.

Like I said, having a cold sucks and we all want to do whatever we can to avoid catching one. Washing your hands is a HUGE thing. The more you wash your hands the less likely you are to catch a cold. You can also lessen your chances of catching a cold through covering your nose and mouth, don’t share drinks, sleep and disinfect everything…and i mean everything. All the way from your desk top, to your computer, to your door knobs, to your phone… anything helps. Please, for the sake of Penn State and your fellow students make an effort to be sanitary and lets figure out a way to make this cold chill out.


but if being sick looked like that then maybe i wouldn’t mind so much.