Monday, December 5, 2016

Perceptions of Positive Attitudes

Below is my monthly message from Focus. You can view December's edition of Focus on StarPort.


Dear Friends and Colleagues,

December 21st is going to be the shortest day of the year.

Stop. Take a few seconds and gauge your reaction to that statement.

Yes, many of us cherish the sun and may find a short day as a gloomy prospect. But others may be excited about the start of winter that day or the prospect of extended time to take in the holiday lights. Or perhaps it may be as simple as recognizing that December 21st is the Wednesday prior to a long holiday weekend and that brings a smile to your face. All of a sudden, it’s not sounding so bad, is it?

This scenario reminds me of the phrase that the ‘glass is half full or half empty.’ However, wouldn’t it be nice if the glass is neither half empty nor half full, but rather always full? Truth be told, if a glass is partially filled with any liquid then the other part must be filled with air. This suggests that even when the glass looks half-empty or looks half-full, whichever your mood is making you think at the time, it doesn’t actually change the reality that it is always full.  I like when objective reality can help shape our perception and serve us to be better.

And why does a positive attitude serve us better? Well, let’s turn to the research! A series of studies by psychologist Suzanne Segerstrom found that people with positive attitude have enhanced cell-mediated immunity and improved health. And if health is not a motivator, then perhaps you will be interested in her study that found law students who were optimistic earned more money than those who were negative within 10 years of  graduation! Now, how can that be possible? Well, expecting good things to happen led to taking action that produced positive results, and while expecting only negative experiences kept those students from doing the very things that might have minimized or avoided those outcomes! Amazing!

So why am I writing about having a positive attitude and seeing what’s possible? Because I witnessed it first-hand last week at our MedStar-Georgetown Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) meeting in Annapolis. About 30 lead scientists from across our community came together to discuss what is possible. We started the day with a video by DeWitt Jones, a National Geographic photographer, entitled “Celebrate What’s Right with the World.

One of my favorite scenes was when he was asked to film a field of dandelions. While the field was in full bloom, he just was not into it that day and said he would come back tomorrow. Tomorrow became next week and when he returned, all he had was puff balls. That wasn’t the way he planned it. He was just about to leave when a little voice inside said “come on DeWitt, what is here to celebrate?” Perception controls our reality and if we don’t believe it, we certainly will never see it. So he took pictures of puff balls, and before he knew it, he was into puffballs; looking at them from above and from the side and all over them until……   he found it - the most magnificent photograph  (below) of the puffball with the sun shining through the fuzz. 


http://dewittjones.com/puffball.htm


The Georgetown-MedStar SAB identified several areas of opportunity across our research community that we can work together on to add value to our collective success. These areas are far-reaching, from academics to population health. Members of the SAB volunteered to work on each new initiative. It is seeing what is possible and working toward it for the collective good.

I could not have asked for a better way to start the holiday season – it excites me to look forward to the next season and 2017. Yes, December 21st is the winter solstice and the start of an exciting new chapter for research, academics and advancing health at MedStar and Georgetown!

Happy Holidays everyone and I can’t wait to see what exciting new things 2017 brings!

Neil

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