Can a Positive Perspective Help Post-Stroke Depression?

The answer is yes. But if you think a positive perspective is just thinking happy thoughts, you are wrong. If you or a loved one are experiencing post-stroke depression, keep reading to learn about the character traits that can lead to life satisfaction, even in difficult circumstances.

First, if you are experiencing post-stroke depression, you aren’t alone. About 25-30% of stroke survivors experience depression, usually within the first year after stroke. Symptoms can vary. However, common symptoms include1:

  • low mood
  • loss of interest
  • difficulty concentrating
  • eating more or less than usual
  • sleeping more or less than usual.
picture of person experiencing post-stroke depression

Second, if you are experiencing post-stroke depression, it’s important to manage it. If depression persists, it can affect recovery from stroke. For example, depression can cause a loss of interest in activities or increased sleepiness. Both symptoms may prevent you or a loved one from fully participating in exercise and therapy.1

So, if you or a loved one are experiencing post-stroke depression, what can you do?

Managing Post-Stroke Depression

The first step is to be honest about what you are feeling and talk to your doctor.

If appropriate, your doctor may prescribe anti-depressant medication. In fact, research has shown that using anti-depressants at the start of depression symptoms, “appears to enhance both physical and cognitive recovery from stroke and might increase survival up to 10 years following stroke.”2

In addition, your doctor may encourage you to address your mental and social well-being. Social and mental health are often impacted by stroke. For example, social circles may shrink, leaving you feeling isolated from family or friends. In the same way, mental health can suffer. For instance, you may worry about finances after stroke. You may feel frustrated over a lack of progress. Or, you may be irritable from poor sleep. Before long, you may find yourself in a negative spiral.

So, how can you stop that negative spiral? One option is to create a different perspective. However, changing perspective is more than just thinking happy thoughts when you are depressed or stressed. Changing perspective is the intentional effort of developing a positive mindset. And why is a positive mindset important? It can help you build resilience and cope better with stressful situations.

Positive Psychology – A Change In Perspective

But what if you feel you cannot overcome negative circumstances? Or, you consider yourself a glass half-empty person? Can you train your mind to think more positively?

Positive psychology would say yes.

What is postitive psychology? It can be described as, “the scientific study of what makes life most worth living.”3 Positive psychology encourages people to stop focusing on the bad. Instead, positive psychology emphasizes those things that bring joy or fulfillment to life. It teaches people to grow in character traits that lead to life satisfaction. These traits include3:

  • optimism
  • gratitude
  • hope
  • happiness
  • and self-confidence, among other things.

The good news is, even if these traits do not come to you easily or naturally, you can train your mind to think differently. Developing a positive mindset is the result of practice and repetition. Essentially, you can develop new habits that improve your outlook on life.

For example, Martin Seligman, the father of Positive Psychology, teaches his students and clients the daily exercise of What Went Well.4 According to Seligman, too often we think about the things that went wrong each day. What Went Well is the intentional practice of looking for what went right. He suggests taking 10 minutes each day to write down or record those things that went well and why. Practice this simple activity for 30 days or more, and you will create a habit that contibutes to a positive outlook.

Conclusion

If this sounds interesting to you, I encourage you to read the full article on positive psychology. As the article states, “…the greatest potential benefit of positive psychology is that it teaches us the power of shifting one’s perspective.”3 What power could be unleashed in your life if you had a different perspective?

Do you believe that you can find optimism in your current circumstances? What about gratitude and hope? Are you ready to move forward in a more positive way?

If changing perspective sounds difficult, consider working with someone. For example, positive psychologists, licensed counselors, and wellness coaches can help improve mental and social well-being and foster a more positive outlook. Improving well-being and developing a positive perspective can help mange post-stroke depression. So, if you need help creating a more positive mindset after stroke, email me to set up a free consultation.

References:

  1. Depression Trumps Recovery | American Stroke Association
  2. Post-Stroke Depression: A Review | American Journal of Psychiatry (psychiatryonline.org)
  3. What is Positive Psychology & Why is It Important? [2020 Update]
  4. Seligman, Martin E.P. 2013. Flourish. New York, NY; Simon & Schuster.

Disclaimer: This blog is a resource through which you may obtain information regarding your health and wellness.  Information is intended for the general reader and is not a substitute for medical advice.  The content in this blog is intended to be informational only and not interpreted as specific advice for you.  There may be delays, omissions, or inaccuracies in information contained in this blog. You should always consult with a licensed healthcare professional who is familiar with your health and past medical history before making any changes you may read about in this blog.

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