Why not learn to see life as ‘wonderful?’

July 6, 2000 was like any ordinary summer day in Kansas. Always fairly cool in the morning but hot in the afternoon.
I got up early for my 6:30 a.m. yoga class. Relax . . . meditate . . . stretch. And as usual, I felt wonderful after that hour of stretching.
Breakfast was leisurely—a bagel and coffee—sitting in easy chairs, watching The Weather Channel with my husband and my daughter. After breakfast, I stood by the kitchen sink rinsing the dishes when suddenly I became extremely dizzy.
I sat down by my computer to establish some normalcy, but flailed from side-to-side. Next, I staggered to the living room and flopped. The whole scenario took about 30 seconds—and it changed my life forever.
I was unable to speak and had very little use of my right side. I had had a stroke.
For the next week, I was in the hospital—most of the time in critical care. I remember very little of that first week, but my family tells me the first word I uttered was “wonderful.”
Followed by “stupid” because they couldn’t understand my gibberish.
Now after two years of hard work, I feel very healthy and optimistic. I can walk almost without a limp, I speak quite clearly, and I type very fast on the computer with only occasional errors.
I credit much of my remarkable recovery to my imaginative, supportive family. They were there for me every minute at first. They designed a list of words that I could point to when I couldn’t speak and they pushed me to work very hard when the therapy hurt.
I also credit a wonderful doctor and competent local therapists, a good local hospital, as well as a rehab hospital in a nearby city. And I was very fortunate that, although my stroke was quite severe, it was not devastating.
My persistence also helped. Even now, water aerobics every morning is my first priority.
But especially, I credit that first word I uttered—“wonderful.”
I’ve read that if people were optimistic before their strokes, they usually have a better recovery rate. Whether that is true or not, it can’t possibly hurt to have a positive attitude.
Everything in life goes better with an optimistic attitude—focusing on the good things rather than the bad. Attitude truly is everything!
Experts say longevity depends on how well you handle stress. When your brain is healthy, your body does a better job of resisting illness.
Recent research also found that while optimism may not prolong life for cancer patients, pessimism may shorten it. And the famed “Nun Study” by Dr. David Snowdon reported a negative correlation between happy thoughts and Alzheimer’s disease.
Commenting on this important research, Dr. Richard Suzman of the U.S. National Institute of Aging (NIA), said, “I believe this most recent finding that optimism can predict and even aid healthy longevity will lead to a lot of further study.”
So in the meantime, take the advice of the NIA—eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and “keep a positive attitude toward life. Do things that make you happy.”
When everything is “wonderful,” you may not live longer but you will surely live happier.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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