When Linda first began attending a fibromyalgia (FM) support group, she noticed that every month the two ladies conducting the meeting stressed the importance of having a positive attitude. Linda says her first reaction was, They’re crazy. How can I possibly have a positive attitude when I’m in so much pain? But gradually she began applying their advice. Now she says, I can’t believe the difference a positive attitude has made in my life.
The pain Is still there but I feel so much better.” Today Linda has taken over leadership of that support group and every month she reminds them of the Importance of maintaining a positive attitude. Sometimes people are offended or even angry when you encourage them to have a positive attitude. They feel you are asking them to lie about their pain; or they think you are insinuating that their pain is all in their head and that if they would just think positively, it would go away. Therefore, It Is important to clarify just what a positive attitude is and is not.
A positive attitude is not…
- Being a Pollyanna, running around saying. everything is wonderful!”
- Ignoring or hiding from reality, pretending you’re not In pain.
- Substituting positive affirmations for sound medical treatment
- A cure for FM or any other illness.
A positive attitude is…
- Choosing to be optimistic rather than pessimistic.
- Accepting reality and finding ways to make the best of it.
- Educating yourself so you can choose the best treatment options for you.
- An important tool to reduce stress.
Multiple studies have shown that a positive attitude does make a physiological difference. Pessimistic people tend to have poorer health than those with more optimistic attitudes. And when optimistic people do get sick. they tend to get better faster. In one study, positive thinking people were shown to live up to 10 years longer than negative thinkers. But perhaps the most important physical factor for people with fibromyalgia is that pessimism creates stress In the body and stress can significantly aggravate FM symptoms.
Going beyond the physical advantages, optimism creates a greater emotional sense of happiness and wellbeing. A positive attitude will energize you emotionally, often resulting In a corresponding Increase In physical energy. A negative attitude, on the other hand, will quickly sap your energy both emotionally and physically.
In one study, positive thinking people were shown to live up to IO years longer than negative thinkers.
It’s all in the attitude:
Having a positive attitude was a choice I made as a small child. I was too young to understand all of the physiological and psychological benefits. I just knew that I liked being happy and hated being miserable so I determined that I would always find a way to be happy. Like everyone else, I have experienced my share of tragedies. I mourned when loved ones died, wallowed in self-pity when I could not work, and fought through depression following a car accident. But each time, I ultimately realized that I would rather be happy and set my mind to finding a way to move onward and upward. It was not always easy, but it was always worth it.
It is the age-old analogy of seeing the glass half full rather than half empty. It is seeing the possibilities instead of the impossibilities. It is being given lemons and making lemonade. Trite sayings, yes but packed with truth.
Do you see yourself as a victim or a survivor? If you find yourself in an uncertain situation, do you expect the best or the worst? When asked to describe yourself, do you stress your positive attributes or dwell on your negative characteristics? Your answers to these questions should give you a pretty good idea of whether you are an optimist or a pessimist. If you find yourself in the pessimist category, do not despair. You can change your attitude.
The first step is to monitor your self talk. Try to become aware of your negative thoughts and comments. Then take a sheet of paper and divide it into two columns. Label the left column
“Negative Thought” and the right column “Positive Restatement.” For several days, whenever you catch yourself thinking a negative thought or making a negative comment, write it in the left column. Then in the right column directly across from it, restate that thought in a more positive manner. For example, your negative thought might be, “I had to clean house today so I know I’m going to be miserable tomorrow.” You might restate it, “Since I had to clean house today, I know I will be a little more tired than usual tomorrow so I need to allow some extra time to rest.”
Pessimism is a habit and habits are not broken overnight, so do not be discouraged if it takes you awhile. If you have difficulty identifying negative thoughts, ask your family and friends to help you by bringing it to your attention whenever you make a negative comment. Just be sure you really want their help before asking – and do not get upset with them when they do as you have asked.
Change is rarely easy, but you will find the rewards of a positive attitude are well worth the effort. Negativity is a downward spiral – leading to depression and despair. Positive thinking, on the other hand, is uplifting – leading to hope and happiness.
“ Speaking of Attitude”
“The only disability in life is a bad attitude” – Scott Hamilton
“Always look at what you have left. Never look at what you have lost.” – Robert Schuller
“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.” – Martha Washington
“ To different minds, the same world is a hell , and a heaven.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity.” – Winston Churchill