The Gallup organization queries the population for vital statistics yearly. In this survey, one of the key measures is the Wellbeing Index. This series of questions includes those pertaining to physical, emotional, financial, spiritual and social health. West Virginia is again last in the country as a self-reported index.
The perception of health and wellbeing may be the single most important one that determines real health.
The Nobel laureate Elizabeth Blackburn, and her collaborator Elyssa Eppel, performed a study compared subjective feelings of chronic stress from mothers who had chronically ill children to mothers with normal children.
As expected, mothers with chronically ill children felt more subjective chronic stress than did mothers with normal children.
Importantly, these mothers feeling chronic stress were aging faster than their normal peers as evidenced by changes in telomere length, which is a part of our DNA that recedes based on age.
Of interest, a subsequent study suggests that the key to eliminating this negative outcome from stressful feelings is to embrace whatever is causing stress with gratitude and a belief of trust that things are working out as they should and that all things experienced add meaning to our lives.
That is, we see stress positively as part of our rich life experiences.
It is our perception that counts.
Not what it is, but how we see it.
This brings me to the issues of scarcity mindsets.
Think about feeling stressed about a deadline for a paper or work report. We tend to focus on the task at hand in lieu of everything else.
We develop cognitive constriction, which is just a term that says we process anything outside of what we are focused on poorly.
Like too many computer programs opened at once – our brains get slow.
Specifically, research shows that if we are operating under cognitive constriction, our IQ scores will be 15 to 20 points lower than if we are not.
How does this affect our health?
Well, I believe that if we are constantly in scarcity mindsets, where we feel things are chronically lacking in our lives, then we cannot and will not uptake the instructions on how to live healthy, happy lives.
In fact, we only focus on what we are missing.
The cure? Help people understand that they possess all the resources to live great lives.
They just need to believe in this and see a brighter, more abundant future for themselves.
For the greatest gifts, we all possess.
However, for many of us in West Virginia and beyond, we do not see it yet.
Our job is to help people find a place of love, safety, positive connections, purpose and abundance.
We need to help them find– community, beauty and human caring.
Then we will really be almost heaven.