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Taking moments to enjoy life helps patients make better health decisions
Date:1/23/2012

NEW YORK -- The experience of daily positive affect -- a mild, happy feeling -- and self-affirmation helps some patients with chronic diseases, including coronary artery disease, high blood pressure and asthma, make better decisions about their health.

These findings are detailed in three studies of 756 patients published online in the Jan. 23 edition of the Archives of Internal Medicine -- the first large, randomized controlled trials to show that people can use positive affect and self-affirmation to help them make and sustain behavior change. The research was funded by a $9.5 million contract from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by Dr. Mary Charlson, executive director of the Center for Integrative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College and the William T. Foley Distinguished Professor of Medicine and professor of integrative medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. She is also chief of the Division of Clinical Epidemiology and Evaluative Sciences Research in the Department of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College.

The same intervention was used in all three studies. Patients were encouraged to think of small things in their lives that make them feel good (such as seeing a beautiful sunset) when they get up in the morning and throughout their day. Patients were also asked to use self-affirmation to help them overcome obstacles to their plan by recalling moments in their lives they are proud of, such as a graduation (see script excerpt below). The script, created by Dr. Charlson, is now in the public domain and free to use.

"This simple approach gives patients the tools that help them fulfill their promise to themselves that they will do what's needed for their health," says Dr. Charlson. "For example, if it's raining and they don't feel like exercising, these strategies can help them get past this mental block and into their sneakers."

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Contact: Linda Kamateh
lib9027@med.cornell.edu
212-821-0560
New York- Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center/Weill Cornell Medical College
Source:Eurekalert

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