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Your Chronic Pain Might Be Caused By Your Negative Mindset, New Study Finds

Going abroad on a military assignment is always a very tough experience for soldiers, but a new study has discovered that those soldiers who leave with a high level of optimism tend to experience lesser chronic pains on their assignments compared to those of their colleagues who leave with a more pessimistic mindset.

According to this study which observed soldiers who had been sent to either Iraq or Afghanistan in the past, the proportion of soldiers who reported to have left for deployment with a pessimistic mindset were 35% more inclined to report pain issues after returning from their assignments, including back pain (which they had seldom experienced before), pain in their joints, or headaches on a frequent basis.

Even After Injury

Further support for this argument comes from the fact that the soldiers who left with a positive frame of mind, and who also experienced injury in combat or at least fought in combat, still reported that they did not experience such chronic pains upon their return.

When American soldiers leave US soil to answer the call of duty, naturally not all of them go with an optimistic mindset considering the hardships and uncertainty of war

The study controlled for various other factors such as demographics of the soldiers, their background in education, their marital status, and also the rank of the solider in the military. Regardless of these factors, the study still reached the conclusion that the impact of having a positive and optimistic mindset could not be ignored considering the significant impact it seemed to have on the post-assignment lives of soldiers.

Where Does This Optimism Come From?

While you may think that such optimism comes from the soldiers due to their innate qualities and personalities, these are not necessary prerequisites.

According to Afton Hassett, who is one of the lead researchers on this study and also an associate researcher at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, while it is completely natural for some soldiers to not be entirely positive when it comes to the idea of deployment, perhaps they can be trained to have a more positive outlook of the kind of experience they will have there.

According to Hassett, the recommended way forward is to perhaps first identify soldiers who have a low level of optimism about their upcoming assignment, and then to possibly enroll them in programs designed to instill a more optimistic outlook within them.

This recommendation comes from Hassett’s belief that cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective in teaching positivity to otherwise negative-thinking people, because, as per her analysis, false beliefs which are negative in nature give birth to a pessimistic mindset, and the only way to counter such pessimism is to counter such false beliefs.

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Although soldiers cannot be promised that they would return home, they can be trained to think optimistically, something that would benefit them after they come back

An Extensive Study

The study worked with data obtained from around 20,734 soldiers enlisted in the US Army, and a staggering 37% of the sample audience reported that they had developed a new pain area within their body after returning from their assignment.

To check for the level of optimism within soldiers, all of them were provided with questionnaires before they departed to their assignment, and the questions were structured in a 5-point rating scale format to analyze the level of optimistic viewpoints they held before leaving.

To ensure that the results of this study remained accurate, those soldiers who reported to having already-existent chronic pains were not included as part of the study. Also, researchers also took into account other factors which could possibly contribute to chronic pain in soldiers, including the level of combat and the intensity they faced and the number of traumatic experiences they had.

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Although happy to be reunited with their families, many soldiers complain about experiencing chronic pains after they come back home from an international assignment

Keeping all of these factors in check, the resulting figures showed that out of all the deployed soldiers, upon returning, 25% reported a back pain they did not have before, 24% said they had a joint pain which did not exist prior to their assignment, and 12% said they were experiencing headaches rather frequently which did not use to happen before.

But the findings of this study are not limited to the military. According to Hassett, there seems to be a universal connection between chronic pain and the level of pessimism in a person, an argument which has found support in the scientific community. Addressing these underlying factors which are causing pessimism can certainly become part of the treatment for chronic pains, however, more research into that is certainly needed.

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