08 Apr Hope in the Healing Process
Recovering from surgery is a process requiring purposeful rest, physical therapy, exercise, pain management, and self-care. Recent studies are now shedding light on an additional facet to the healing process. The World Health Organization defines health as:
“…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”
Based on this definition, it is important to factor in not merely physical, but psychological components during the surgical recovery process. Research has long supported the link between anxiety, depression, social isolation, and anger to negative physical health conditions including migraines, an increased risk of heart disease, and a decreased immune system. Surgery, anxiety, loneliness, etc. have been shown to increase the need for post-operative pain medications, creating a greater susceptibility to dependence. In addition, the risk of mortality and extended hospital stays are notably increased in patients experiencing psychological distress.
Conversely, new research is supporting the correlation between positivity and improved health and longevity. This makes sense, as hopefulness, positivity, and strong social connectivity are the mirrored opposite of their negative counterparts.
It is important to note that hope is not the same thing as denial. Where denial pretends challenges don’t exist, hope acknowledges them and maintains that the future holds better outcomes than the past. For this reason, hope is not passive but active. It seeks opportunity and willful thinking rather than wishing for specific results. This largely contributes to the importance of hope in the healing process, as it promotes goal-making and positive post-operative practices. Overall, a hopeful attitude can help decrease surgery-related anxiety and stress. Research is still underway in this field to determine the physiological results of hopefulness and positivity in surgical recovery. Thus far, the evidence is promising.
Ways of propelling hope can be simple. Patient education and perioperative preparation have been shown to decrease anxiety and increase surgical recovery rates. Additionally, strong support from family and friends, as well as intentional acknowledgment of simple things such as time with family, good food, or nature, have been shown to increase hopefulness. Hope and optimism are some of the greatest tools patients can use to help both their psychological and physical healing process succeed.