Wednesday, May 18, 2005 Lifestyle Lifestyle

Researchers advocate positive spin on health

. . . "There are pathways by which positive emotions influence health and well-being," says Chesney, deputy director of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Most of the mind-body research to date, she says, has focused on the effect of negative emotional states -- anger and depression, for example -- on bodily health.

Chesney, who conducted research on the power of positive thinking among 200 HIV/AIDS patients when she was a professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco, spoke recently at the University of Connecticut's Center for Health/HIV Intervention & Prevention.

Medicine mainly aims to fix what is broken, she says. The National Institutes of Health, of which her center is a part, could be called "the national institutes of disease" because of their focus on illness rather than on health. Even the world of clinical mind-body medicine focuses on the dark side of the force.

Chesney says the emerging field of "positive psychology" could learn from the work that has been done on the toxic physical effect of anger and depression, especially in identifying the pathways that link the mind and the body.

The field of brain imaging and emotions is still fairly new, she says, but there appear to be clear distinctions between the way negative states and positive states "light up" the brain in functional magnetic resonance imaging. Negative states are associated with right side activity, while positive states are linked to left-side activity.

How the brain interprets events, says Chesney, has everything to do . . .


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