While it may not be sufficient, belief in one’s own ability to recover from serious illness certainly appears to be an important factor. I recently came across an interesting 2004 article by Stanford psychologist Alfred Bandura, Ph.D., in which he argues convincingly that:
“Belief in one’s efficacy to exercise control is a common pathway through which psychosocial influences affect health functioning. This core belief affects each of the basic processes of personal change—whether people even consider changing their health habits, whether they mobilize the motivation and perseverance needed to succeed should they do so, their ability to recover from setbacks and relapses, and how well they maintain the habit changes they have achieved.”
I know that my own recovery from a paralyzing stroke centered on my belief that I had the power to influence my health, and every patient I interviewed for my Own Your Health book said the same thing. Belief may not always work, but it sure gives us a fighting chance! Here is the citation for Bandura’s article, which is called “Health Promotion by Social Cognitive Means.” Health Education & Behavior, Vol. 31, No. 2, 143-164 (2004) DOI: 10.1177/1090198104263660.© 2004 Society for Public Health Education.
5 responses to “Believing is Seeing”
Since I have a chronic illness that often feels unrelenting, it is sometimes difficult to “mobilize the motivation” or to remember how hard I’ve worked for so many years to persevere. But philosophically I couldn’t agree more. And this article will be an important reminder!
Susan, you make an excellent point and Bandura’s view on this is a good one – which is that “Human health is a social matter, not just an individual one.” If we can create what I have come to think of as “a community of belief”in what is possible, then we can all support each other and draw courage from each other, giving strength to those of us who may falter along the way–and we all do!
I agree with this line of thinking completely. My mom found that caring for our houseplants after she came back from the hospital really helped her get through her tough recovery. There was something theraputic about caring for other living things that I think gave her a sense of purpose and control over her life that ultimately helped her recover more quickly. If you’re interested in other stories like this check out this place: http://medsocial.com
I love the idea of connecting to nature and other living things — whether through gardening, pets or caring for houseplants– as a way of healing. I know someone who recovered from a debilitating pain condition with the help of a very special and intuitive dog that her husband gave her. And one of the hospitals in my area has a regular “pet visiting” program on the inpatient wards.
I didn’t really believe that I would recover from a chronic pain condition, but I acted as if I did — just in case my pessimism didn’t prove correct. I did exercise, yoga, nutrition, research, etc. etc. And, most importantly, my husband had faith that I would get better. So when I became immobilized by fear and slacked off, his faith provided the encouragement I needed to continue to take better care of myself.