For me, being positive when I can is empowering. I know that it helps me create a better life for myself despite chronic illness. I’ve learned a lot about the things that can help me be positive more of the time, but one of the most important things I’ve learned is that trying to force it doesn’t help. There are moments when chronic illness will get to us, there are times when we just feel down and grumpy, it never helps to expect yourself to be positive at those times, so don’t let anybody else make you feel that you should! That said, here are my tips for being able to more positive more of the time, when YOU want to choose it:
Create a gratitude practice
Gratitude is such a powerful tool. Taking some time every day to actively recognise things that you can be grateful for can transform your experience. With regular practise you’ll start to spontaneously notice more things that you can appreciate and you soon find that gratitude isn’t just present during your practice, it’s infused into your life. My current practice is to count off 10 things (using my fingers) at the end of my meditation practice. But you could write things that you’re grateful for in a journal, share them on social media, take pictures or create some art to represent them. Anything that regular connects you to your feeling of gratitude will help you become more appreciative of life.
Put together the little moments
Positivity with chronic illness is all about the little moments of joy that you can find. Instead of living a life of struggles and highlights, we can enjoy life (possibly even more than before) by putting together lots and lots of little moment. It’s all about choosing what you pay attention to and staying present to the moment. I aim to pay attention to all the pleasure from my senses. The joy of watching a robin take a bath outside my window; hearing the rain on the skylight while I felt cosy and warm; the aroma of my essential oils; the taste of my food; the softness of my fleecy pyjamas, a moment of appreciating that I am loved.
Pay attention to love
It’s so easy to take the love that’s around us for granted, but we can choose to improve our experience (and that of our loved ones) by being more present and attentive to the fact that we love the person we’re spending time with. I even do this with strangers too, aiming to send people I pass on the street silent wishes of happiness, joy and laughter. Sometimes chronic illness can be very lonely and isolating, but I’ve found that the best way to counter feeling unloved is to send out love to others even if it’s just in your imagination. Love is infinite and if you send it out, you open up to experience it’s flow. Try it, it feels god!
Recalibrate your idea of achievement
It can be hard to feel positive without a sense of achievement, but we can often find ourselves judging achievement based on what we used to be able to do and finding ourselves lacking. I like to use the analogy of the marathon runner and the strong man. Both amazing achievements even though one achieves and distance of 26 miles and the other only 100m. With the strong man we recognise that short distances are amazing when you’re pulling the weight of a truck and we need to do that too. Chronic illness is our truck! Make sure you recognise all the little things you manage as an achievement even if that’s just getting through your basic self-care on a bad day. I also recognise what an achievement it is to be positive (most of the time) despite chronic illness so that’s another win!
Don’t resist the lows
Being positive with chronic illness all the time is impossible. In fact, if you try to be positive all the time, you’ll end up feeling a huge failure. Being positive with chronic illness is about making the most of the moments when positivity is possible, and trusting that the moments when it’s not will pass. We’re going to have lots of difficult feelings, lots of low moods, lots of frustration and disappointment. But if we can accept ourselves with compassion for all the unpleasant feelings we experience, they will flow and change faster and soon enough we’ll be free to find another moment of joy.
Let go of thoughts of the past and the future
Although we need to grieve our losses in order to move on. It’s important to aim to keep our thoughts out of the past. When we can accept that life has to be lived differently, we can make the most of how it is now. Worries about the future can also keep us away from positivity. I like to tell myself that I can have the most positive effect on my future by doing the best I possible can for myself in the here and now. I remind myself that allowing my thoughts to stray to worries about the future doesn’t serve me in anyway. If I can be happy and relaxed in the moment, the future will take care of itself.
In order to really be able to enjoy the little moments it’s important to be able to appreciate them for what they are and not compare them to something else that might have seemed better. Comparing yourself to others or to how you were in the past doesn’t help either. You are experiencing a whole different set of circumstances. Thriving in adversity is something to be incredibly proud of so focus on that instead!
What helps you be more positive?
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