Guest column/Need a boost? Take these tips

I needed a breather, but the Starbucks was crammed. All I wanted was a smoothie, but I was weary about the long wait. I live just a couple of blocks from the coffee house, which does a booming business, especially in the morning when everyone is looking for that quick jolt to rev them up to speed.

Leave or stay? It took me a few seconds, but I succumbed to my desire and got in line. I couldn’t help but hear the conversations around me, which were comprised of sharing doubts about the demanding work week, retirement and numerous health worries.

The intricacies of daily living, including the periods of ill health we experience seem an unavoidable consequence of the human experience – and can get us down. Unfortunately, there is nothing on the menu board that permanently sweetens life’s burdens.

But did you ever stop to think that it isn’t the caffeine imbibed or the sugar consumed that gives you the push you feel?

It turns out that the spark provided by a cup of coffee might have less to do with its chemical properties and more to do with our own expectations.

A study conducted by the University of East London suggests that the kick we get from caffeinated coffee is at least partially attributable to the expectation of the buzz. Yep … anticipating the kick produces the boost.

Participants in the study had the same improvement in attention and psychomotor speed whether having consumed caffeinated coffee or merely told they were drinking caffeinated coffee but actually downing a decaffeinated drink.

“Expectation enhanced self-reported vigor and reward responsivity,” according to the report, which also showed a boost in mood through positive expectancy. These results seem to confirm the Biblical proverb, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Positive expectation is also viewed as a plus when it comes to age-related health issues. There are some pretty undesirable symptoms associated with aging: slowing down, lack of vitality, feebleness and mental dullness, to mention a few.

An upbeat attitude helps to curb many of these problems. The development of frailty is one example.

A study published the American Psychological Association details a link between a person’s positive approach to life and his or her degree of feebleness.

Researchers observed older adults during a seven year time-frame and concluded: “High positive affect was found to significantly lower the risk of frailty.” Not just “sunny thinking,” but sound thoughtfulness, permeating one’s consciousness goes a long way in avoiding the pitfalls of fragility.

Memory is also affected by the quality of thought. One research study has concluded, “Results show memory performance in older adults was lower when they were primed with negative stereotypes than when they were primed with positive stereotypes.”

And still other studies show consistently better health outcomes from thought and lifestyles that incorporate spirituality or a significant tie to a religious community or practice. While the term “spirituality” can have a different meaning for each of us, many define it as a life practice connecting one to God in such a way as to enrich the clarity of thought and enhance physical health.

Hmmmm … quality of thought affects quality of life. It’s not new, but it is a refreshing approach to health concerns. And more researchers are getting in line to study this phenomenon as well as the association between an individual’s spirituality and his sense of wellbeing.

Mindfulness, positive expectation and attitude, all mental qualities, are active elements in experiencing healthy physical and mental outcomes. They provide the needed boost in meeting today’s demands and are immediately available to everyone. No waiting – always on the menu.

(Salt is a writer and blogger covering health, spirituality and thought. He is a Christian Science practitioner.)