mug saying eternal optimist

Earlier this year, research presented at the International Stroke Conference provided yet more evidence that attitude makes a difference when it comes to healing.

The research team analyzed data from 49 stroke survivors, including their levels of optimism, stroke severity, physical recovery, and inflammatory markers. Three months after stroke,

optimistic stroke survivors showed lower inflammation, less stroke severity, and less physical disability.

The reduced inflammation is particularly key, as “post-stroke inflammation is detrimental to the brain and impairs recovery.”

“Our results suggest that optimistic people have a better disease outcome, thus boosting morale may be an ideal way to improve mental health and recovery after a stroke,” said Yun-Ju Lai, Ph.D., M.S., R.N., the study’s first author and a postdoctoral fellow in the neurology department at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Of course, it’s not just stroke patients who may benefit from keeping optimistic. Studies have shown that all kinds of positive emotions seem to keep chronic inflammation in check. Yet chronic inflammation is a problem for many, many people. As one overview of the problem puts it,

Chronic inflammatory diseases are the most significant cause of death in the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) ranks chronic diseases as the greatest threat to human health. The prevalence of diseases associated with chronic inflammation is anticipated to increase persistently for the next 30 years in the United States. In 2000, nearly 125 million Americans were living with chronic conditions and 61 million (21%) had more than one. In recent estimates by Rand Corporation, in 2014 nearly 60% of Americans had at least one chronic condition, 42% had more than one and 12% of adults had 5 or more chronic conditions. Worldwide, 3 of 5 people die due to chronic inflammatory diseases like stroke, chronic respiratory diseases, heart disorders, cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

Yet feelings like optimism and hope can seem harder than ever to cultivate in these days of our global pandemic. As ever, though, “hard” does not mean “impossible.” There are things we can all do to make the positive outweigh the negative even in the most challenging times.

Here are five articles we’ve recently run across that offer some excellent advice – and motivation – for getting started. There are certainly more out there – Psychology Today blogs and the Greater Good are both excellent resources on positive psychology – but these are some of the best we’ve read lately.

  1. The Perspective Less Taken: Opportunity in Difficulty (Psychology Today)
  2. The Perspective Less Taken: 10 Ways to See the Possibilities (Psychology Today)
  3. How to Stop Feeling So Helpless During Quarantine (Greater Good)
  4. 10 Things You Can Do to Stay Positive During COVID-19 (Thrive Global)
  5. Hope Is a Risk that Must Be Run – Particularly in Our Darkest Days (Forbes)

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