One of the most annoying pieces of advice, and something that really feels unnatural when life in general sucks... as it often does when you're living with a chronic disease: "Think positive!"
But... it works. Being able to train your mind to adopt an optimistic attitude significantly reduces the experience of pain, and there is research showing that positive thinking can have as strong pain reducing effect as a shot of morphine. If you think this is strange, just consider this; even though there is concrete physical damage to the body, it's the brain and nervous system that interprets this and produces the pain signals. It's obvious that what happens to the brain and nervous system affects your perception of pain, the two can never be fully "separate".
So if you're born an optimist, that's great for you, but if you're like most people, keeping a positive outlook is something you have to choose to exercise and maintain just like any other capacity. Making a conscious choice to change your thinking is the first step, and from there on you can train and gradually build a strong positive way of thinking,which will help you in all areas of life.
Here's a step by step guide to help making the change:
- Observe and gradually turn around any negative inner dialogue. When you observe yourself going into a spiral of negative thoughts, don't judge yourself, just say "Ok, I'm repeating my pattern" then counter the negative thoughts with positive statements that promote your recovery.
- Send yourself a steady stream of affirmations. An affirmation is a phrase or sentence that sends strong, positive statements to your mind about yourself, such as "I am a good person" or "My joints are strong and flexible." Need inspiration? Check out the !Think Positive! blog for a daily positive affirmation.
- Visualize health and healing. Add mental images that support your positive affirmations.
- Don't feel guilty. There is no value in feeling guilty about health problems. While there is a lot you can do to reduce your risk for health problems and improve your chances of recovery, some illnesses may develop and persist no matter what you do. Some things just are. Accept that you are doing the best you can and applaud yourself for that.