Evidence of the positive effect of various creative activities comes both from well-controlled, scientific investigations and from what might be described as New Age research. Evaluations of the validity of the work must be stringent.
OPTIMISM Avery Weisman is well known for his clinical observations of cancer patients who demonstrated the life-enhancing importance of optimism. His findings of increased survival for optimistic cancer patients as compared with others without that outlook have been supported by other cancer researchers.Reports of cancer patients who lived far longer than expected for someone with their stage of disease frequently reveal a positive life plan with particular, and sometimes peculiar, significance for the person. One cancer patient decided that by eating full meals and working long days on his farm he would be able to avoid developing the cachexia typical of others with his disease. Over the five years that he faithfully followed the plan his well-documented, far-advanced carcinoma of the lung underwent complete remission.
WORK Work exerts an enormous influence on how persons value themselves and how they relate to others. Work reflects a person's social status, level of achievement in life, and even buying power. Satisfactions at work, and how those satisfactions pertain to health, have been the subject of several research groups. When workers feel that they can influence the pace and structure of their work, and when they believe that communications with their superiors are clear and supportive, work satisfactions are high and unhealthy psychophysiological responses are low.Cross-cultural comparisons of workers in the United States and in Japan found that the Japanese emphasis on job security and participatory management, along with substantial employee benefits, appears to be positively related to worker satisfaction, productivity, and health. In contrast, guilt and censure over job failure, along with extremely long work hours, were negatively associated with job satisfaction and health in Japan. Many firms in the United States are rated low for job security and participatory management, with resulting worker perceptions of low self-esteem and lack of value to the organization.
FAMILY Strong satisfactions with home and family have been demonstrated repeatedly to mitigate the influences of life stress. In one large study of Israeli men who had survived a myocardial infarction those reporting a supportive spouse developed significantly less post infarction angina pectoris than did other survivors with identical heart disease but without that asset.
NATURE An acquaintanceship with the inspiration and beauty found in nature is a powerful source of life satisfaction. Outward Bound, for one, has made an industry of that approach to managing life stress. Much of the shamanic tradition practiced by Native Americans emphasizes an intimate relation with nature. Hikes and outings may inspire interests in ecology and possibly commitment to helping preserve the natural environment. Joining organizations that sponsor such activities also can provide an important source of social support and lead to enhanced feelings of self-worth.
ARTS Former prisoners-of-war and hostages returning after years of captivity have reported the enormous coping benefits through reciting poetry, either to themselves or in a group. Many also wrote poetry and short stories as a coping activity. Group singing was an especially inspirational activity.Recent reports on group activities for patients with cancer emphasize the powerful effects of reading and writing poetry. In addition, the creation of drawings and paintings has proved a successful coping activity in those groups. In a one-year group treatment program for survivors of myocardial infarction visits to an art museum were part of the therapy.A renewed interest in the role music can play in coping has broadened its emphasis to include its calming as well as its inspirational effects for a wide variety of patient groups. Music combined with photography has been made part of some television programming for general hospital patients.
HUMOR The writer Norman Cousins' insistence that humor is an underemployed coping activity has made a lasting impression on many people. Although not carefully investigated it has been proposed that laughter may release brain peptides, such as the endorphins, which may help to account for after-laughter feelings of well-being.In reports dealing with the extreme stresses of captivity the use of humor was described as an essential coping activity. A technique that proved particularly important, it was said, was to develop the ability to laugh at oneself. When that was achieved feelings of loneliness and self-pity were greatly alleviated.
SPIRITUALITY The term "spirituality" encompasses more than conventional religious faith. Although it is clear that religious faith is an enormous source of inspiration and comfort for many people, spirituality implies a nondenominational universal interconnectedness and love. Such ideas and beliefs were the norm for most Native Americans, generally expressed through the tribal activities of their shamans. The ideas of Carl Jung concerning the collective unconscious, synchronicity, commonalties across cultures, and the Self are often cited in writings on the subject. Interests in unconscious processes, such as dream analysis and symbolic communication, are also prominent in the field. Meditation is invoked as a method for learning to live in the present and as a source of inspiration.