People with this personality trait believe they can control their lives and make improvements.
Optimism aids the recovery of stroke survivors, a study finds.
More optimistic stroke survivors have lower levels of inflammation and less physical disability after three months.
In general, the personality trait of optimism is linked to a very much longer life.
Being optimistic — a trait that can be boosted — can increase the odds of reaching 85-years-old by up to 70 percent.
The power of optimism to lengthen life may be partly down to its enhancing effect on the immune system.
Optimistic people tend to expect positive outcomes in the future.
Critically, optimists believe they can control their lives and make improvements.
Being optimistic is frequently linked to improved health outcomes.
For example, optimism has been previously linked to better heart health.
Dr Yun-Ju Lai, the study’s first author, said:
“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.”
The study included 49 people who had had strokes.
They were asked about their levels of optimism and these were compared with their recovery.
The results showed that more optimistic people tended to have lower levels of bodily inflammation, as evidenced by interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein levels.
The more optimistic people were, the lower their levels of these inflammatory markers.
Chronic inflammation tends to harm the brain and impairs the body’s ability to recover.
Dr Lai said:
“Patients and their families should know the importance of a positive environment that could benefit the patient.
Mental health does affect recovery after a stroke.”
Increase your optimism
Exercises such as visualizing your ‘best possible self‘ have been shown to increase optimism.
Visualizing your best possible self may sound like an exercise in fantasy but, crucially, it does have to be realistic.
Carrying out this exercise typically involves imagining your life in the future, but a future where everything that could go well, has gone well.
You have reached those realistic goals that you have set for yourself.
Then, to help cement your visualization, you commit your best possible self to paper.
The study was published in the journal Stroke (Lai et al., 2020).