For me, self-help is all about taking responsibility for my own well-being. It means making choices and taking actions with the aim of bringing about improvements to my health and happiness.
I first made the choice to help myself when it became clear that my doctors didn’t really understand what was wrong with me and had very little help to offer. Knowing that my life wasn’t going to get better unless I did something about it was a strong motivation. However I’ve since come to realise that whether or not appropriate help is on offer, the only way to optimise our health and happiness is if we recognise that they are ultimately our responsibility and nobody else’s.
I’m not saying we don’t need help, we all do, and accepting help is extremely good for our wellbeing. However, it’s important that any help is seen as a resource that we choose because it is right for us and fits our needs at the time. Sometimes we might choose to allow others to inform our decision making and we might even allow a trusted person to make a decision for us. However we stay in control by assessing its impact and making adjustments if and when we feel it’s necessary.
We are all unique; we have all experienced the world in different ways; we all have different unique talents, different DNA and we make different choices about what to eat, when to sleep, how to exercise and how to have fun etc. Because of this, the precise formula for what will make us happy and healthy is going to be different for each of us. We need to become the expert in our own wellbeing.
There are many things we can learn from others. There are some very general tools for optimising happiness and health, for example meditation, mindfulness, eating well, taking pleasure in the little things etc. There are also some more specific things that apply to challenges you might share with certain others, for example approaches to improving your immune functioning or techniques for managing pain. We can learn a lot from others who are successfully overcoming similar challenges to our own. However, successful self-help results from recognising our individuality. Deciding on which outside models make the most sense to our particular experience, listening to our body, our heart and our intuition.
ME/CFS and fibromyalgia are conditions that affect each and every one of us differently. I believe that the reason that research has been so unsuccessful in nailing these conditions is that there are many factors involved, and for each individual, each illness mechanism plays a role of different magnitude. Because their combination is never exactly the same, most of these illness mechanisms have been recognised but not sufficiently confirmed to convince the medical profession as a whole. As individuals we can take what has been learned (even if not consistently confirmed) and use it as a model to see how it fits with our own experience. If we think it’s a good enough fit, we can choose to experiment with the resources available that may offer a solution, always listening to our bodies feedback and trusting our inner experience.
Our bodies come fully equipped with self-healing mechanisms. Even when these break down they will give us messages about what they need to fix the problem. When we recognise the individuality of our experience and listen and respond carefully to those messages, we empower our self-healing. Similarly, by recognising and expressing our individuality; by choosing to listen to our inner wisdom above all external messages, we will succeed in cultivating happiness.
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