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Redefining Life Goals Can Foster Better Health

By Senior News Editor
Reviewed by John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on April 24, 2012

Redefining Life Goals Can Foster Better HealthLife is full of lemons, and as the cliché suggests, successful people learn to make lemonade and move on. A new research study found that breast cancer survivors who were able to let go of old goals and set new ones showed an improved well-being overall.

Concordia University’s Carsten Wrosch, Ph.D., and Catherine Sabiston, Ph.D., of McGill University discovered that when the breast cancer survivors redirected their goals, the self-imposed pressure of now unrealistic goals was lifted. As a result, individuals’ quality of life improved, as did their level of physical activity.

In the study, Wronsch and Sabiston were interested in looking at how to encourage breast cancer survivors to become more active. Some 48 per cent of breast cancer survivors are overweight or obese, and they also tend to be more sedentary than women who have not been diagnosed with breast cancer.

The researchers studied 176 breast cancer survivors between the ages of 28 and 79, who were, on average, approximately 11 months past their diagnosis and close to three months post-treatment.

Researchers assessed each individual’s capacity to adjust their goals at the start of the study. At the same time, researchers also measured self-report of physical activity, sedentary activity, emotional well-being, and daily physical symptoms such as nausea and pain.

Three months later, they took a look at another round of self-reports. The study found that goal re-engagement (being able to set new goals) was associated with more physical activity, increased emotional well-being and fewer physical symptoms.

Researchers learned that breast cancer survivors who were able to let go of old goals and to find new ones were less sedentary — a factor that contributed to an improved well-being. These findings support earlier research showing that goal adjustment can influence better well-being and health.

“By engaging in new goals a person can reduce the distress that arises from the desire to attain the unattainable, while continuing to derive a sense of purpose in life by finding other pursuits of value,” says Wrosch.

“Abandoning old goals allows someone to invest sufficient time and energy in effectively addressing their new realities.”

Activity experts say that breast cancer survivors should engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous-intensity physical activity every week to gain health benefits. “It is safe, feasible and effective for enhancing well-being and health among breast cancer survivors,” said Sabiston. “Unfortunately, few survivors are engaging in the recommended levels of activity.”

“Our research reveals that the capacity to adjust goals plays a pivotal role in facilitating not only high physical activity but also low sedentary activity and thereby contributing to overall improved well-being,” said Wrosch.

“Given that it is possible to influence adjustment to specific goals; it may be beneficial to integrate goal adjustment processes into clinical practice.”

Source: Concordia University

 

APA Reference
Nauert, R. (2012). Redefining Life Goals Can Foster Better Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 25, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/04/24/redefining-life-goals-can-foster-better-health/37740.html