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Susan C Rempel

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I've been called a "Pollyanna" over and over again. Somehow the term carries a slightly negative connotation, but if you read the actual story of Pollyanna you might think differently. Even in the worst of all situations that little girl gleened the one positive piece of the puzzle. I think the world would be a better place if everyone decided to be a bit more like her.

Do you play the Glad Game? If you don't, it's time to start today! Read this article to get into the game!

Do you play “The Glad Game”? That describes the philosophy of that the main character, Pollyanna Whittier, of the book Pollyanna[i]. Pollyanna was taught by her father to find the good side in every situation. Her optimism was so entrenched that she found something good to focus on she was struck by a car and faced with the possibility of never walking again. She eventually taught a whole town to look on the bright side of life.

If you think that positive thinking does not impact your health, think again! Trindle et al[ii] studied almost 100,000 women for approximately 8 years. The researchers found that women who were judged to be the most cynical and hostile were at an increased risk to develop cancer, cardiovascular disease, or die during the research period. Interestingly, the researchers found that the effect of cynical hostility (which might also be thought of as the level of anger toward others) and optimism were independent of one another. In other words, you may think brightly about the future, but you can also harm yourself by choosing to carry anger, resentment, and even rage toward those around you. Conversano et al.[iii] reviewed the literature and found a wealth of studies validating the positive impact of optimism on mental and physical health. Interestingly, I came across a fair amount of research and editorials in the medical literature which carried the tone that people “better face reality” in relation to illness, but that is the subject for a future article. Gilhooly et al[iv] compared “healthy” and “unhealthy” pairs of people who were 70 to 90 years of age. The total sample size was more than 200 individuals. They found that people who “endorse an internal locus of control” (believe that they have some control over the course of events) and were less neurotic tended to be categorized as being more healthy. They concluded that personality traits were linked to health status.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I wholeheartedly embrace pollyannaism. When I have found myself in the darkest moments of my life, it seemed to me that it was obviously the time to look up and go forward. That is not to say that I never experience anger, frustration, or those negative feelings that can dim the brightness of life. However, I decided long ago that I am going to search for the bright side of every situation. To me it is really the only choice. “Choice” is the key word in that sentence. My parents and brother all died after developing cancer. In retrospect, each one of them had long term battles with the demons of frustration, anger, anxiety, or depression. Of course, some people have chemically based disorders, and there has been research indicating that personality traits are genetically influenced. However, I am living proof that you can choose to be an upbeat, optimistic, and positively focused person. I choose to play the Glad Game as much and as often as possible!

Do you play the Glad Game? If so, great! Keep it up!! Would you like to start playing the glad game? Let me help you. Begin by ending your day with a review what has “gone right” today.  Your challenge should be to increase the number of things you have on your list until you can routinely get over 20 items on the list. Focus on the little things. Did your alarm go off on time? Was the sun shining? Did the kids remember to brush their teeth on their own? Was traffic just a bit lighter? The possibilities are endless! Make a list for a minimum of 14 days, and then assess whether you have begun to notice the little things that are going right during the day. If so, then it’s on to the next Glad Game exercise. If not, continue to create a list until you notice a change in your perspective.  I will be posting more glad game exercises via my blog (Seek THE Positive: In order for you to create a more positive outlook on life, play the Glad Game today and every day. I’m committed to being a life-long Glad Game player. Won’t you join me?

[i] Porter, Eleanor. (1913) Pollyanna. L.C. Page publisher.


[ii] Trindle, et al. (2009). Optimism, cynical hostility, and incident coronary heart disease and mortality in the Women’s Health Initiative. Circulation. 2009 Aug 25;120(8):656-62. Epub 2009 Aug 10. 

[iii] Conversano, et  al. (2010) Optimism and Its Impact on Mental and Physical Well-Being. Clin Pract Epidemiol Ment Health. 2010; 6: 25–29. Published online 2010 May 14. doi: 10.2174/1745017901006010025.  

 [iv] Gilhooly et al. (2007) Successful ageing in an area of deprivation: part 2–a quantitative exploration of the role of personality and beliefs in good health in old age. Public Health. 2007 Nov;121(11):814-21. Epub 2007 Jul 2.

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