Rolf had nothing to smile about after cracking his pelvis, but he did anyway! Rolf, 82, was with friends for a Veteran Ski Instructors Reunion when he was hit by an out of control skier and suffered a cracked pelvis. As I followed his progress on Facebook over the winter, I could not help but notice how optimistic he was. He said it was bad luck but could be worse. He was grateful to the ski patrol and his friends that came to his aid, the medical staff that treated him, the hotel that was flexible with the change of plans, the airport sky caps who pushed him in a wheelchair (at both airports), the airline staff who got him safely onto the plane and improved his seat assignments. He was thankful for the good friends who insisted on meeting him with a wheelchair and thought of everything possible to make the return home as easy and comfortable as possible. He was happy when he graduated to a walker and by Easter he was in good shape and back on the snow. Rolf’s daughter said it best, “Nothing stops this guy and his optimistic attitude and zest for life… Love and admire him!”
I’ve seen injuries like Rolf’s spell the end of skiing for people. There is no shortage of people (usually non skiers) telling you it might be time to hang ‘em up. I wondered how much Rolf’s attitude played in his good outcome. I found a study funded by the British Heart Foundation carried out at the University College London that supported the old adage that looking at the glass half full can be good for your health. “Scientists surveyed the mental attitudes of 369 patients, who were admitted to hospital with unstable angina and heart attacks and monitored their health over the next 46 months. The research found after suffering a heart attack or angina, the most pessimistic patients were twice as likely to suffer a more serious health condition in the next four years, compared with the most optimistic patients. These conditions include a more severe heart attack, heart surgery or death. Lead author of the research, Professor Steptoe, said: ‘Our research shows that optimistic people are more likely to take advice about lifestyle changes on board, like quitting smoking and eating more healthily – this results in better outcomes after a patient suffers from unstable angina or a heart attack. Half of the most pessimistic patients who smoked were still smoking one year after going into hospital. In contrast, 85% of the optimistic smokers had quit their habit entirely, a year on. The study also showed that optimistic patients are more likely to increase their consumption of fruit and vegetables, a year after their heart attack or angina. 40% with a positive outlook were eating the recommended five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day. Meanwhile only 20% of the most pessimistic patients were eating the required amounts, 12 months after their hospital admission.” Other research showed optimists tend to have good social networks and strong social relationships which help cope them with stress. Maybe you can find another group of scientists who will say being a pessimist is better for your health, but I have no doubt that Rolf’s optimism and persistence had to be better than focusing on everything that went wrong.