I’m mad as hell, and I’m not gonna take it any more!

I don’t know about you, but I’m mad as hell about our national politics, and I’m not gonna take it any more!

Well, it felt good to get that off my chest! But I also felt my pulse and blood pressure go up, and my stress level shot through the roof.

Regardless of what your political colors, maybe we could all agree that recent national politics have been annoying for some and downright infuriating for others. It’s crazy-making and we have to deal with it.

It turns out that our positive or negative attitudes about life can influence our physical and mental health. How we deal with events, like national politics or a fight with a spouse, can make us sick or keep us healthy. Researchers are learning that optimists have lower risks of developing health problems and have greater chances of living longer.

Researchers at Harvard took a look at data from the Nurses’ Health Study* and found that women who were optimistic had a 16% lower risk of dying from cancer; 38% lower risk of dying from heart disease; 39% lower risk of dying from stroke; 38% lower risk of dying from respiratory disease; and 52% lower risk of dying from infection.

That sounds pretty good to me. Other researchers have identified five ways to remain optimistic – even in this troubled political climate.

Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative. Be like Johnny Mercer and The Pied Pipers and ac-cen-tu-ate the positive and eliminate the negative. Try positive self-talk or doing something to short-circuit your negative thoughts, like calling a friend. (Yes, I had to look up that old song from the 1940s. Here’s a YouTube version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f3jdbFOidds

Write it down. It turns out that keeping a journal that focuses on the good things that happen and then concentrating on them can help you keep a positive attitude.

Do what you can and forget the rest. Don’t worry if you can’t change the world. Instead, do something you can do that makes a small positive change, like volunteering or visiting your aging parents.

Go easy on yourself. Take care of yourself by eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep. Move on from past mistakes, and keep in mind the good things in your life.

Learn mindfulness. Mindfulness is getting a lot of press these days, and for good reason. The practice of focusing on the present moment and accepting it without judgment can go a long way in helping you deal with unpleasant events in a healthy way.

So, I am still mad as hell about our national politics, but I’m gonna make time to take a walk, breathe deeply, and make a list of all of the great things in my life. (Also, I think I’ll call my Senators and let them know what I think.)

*By the way, if you’re interested in public health research, the Nurses’ Health Studies are pretty cool. The original Nurses’ Health Study started in 1976, and now the studies are in the third round of research. Altogether the three sets of Nurses’ Health Studies included more than 275,000 participants. With those numbers, we can have confidence in some of the findings about the research on risk factors for chronic diseases in women. You can find out more about the Nurses’ Health Study here http://www.nurseshealthstudy.org 

Alison Webb

About Alison Webb

Alison Webb is a public health consultant with over 20 years experience in community outreach, grassroots organizing, implementing and evaluating evidence-based programs, and advocating for healthy policies at the Maine State Legislature. Alison is especially interested in what science tells us about promoting health and wellness and how we can apply that to live well in Maine. The blog describes recent public health research and give readers insights into how to use that knowledge to lead healthy lives.