It is much easier to remain negative when life continuously throws challenges your way. Life is not fair – we don’t get to choose where we start out in life, but we can choose who we become. Two of the most valuable things we have to cherish are time and our relationships. Yes, it is tremendously difficult to deal with pain that is debilitating at times on a daily basis and to not have people understand that. But why would I choose to remain negative and feel sorry for myself, which is not only an ineffective coping mechanism for my pain, but will also negatively affect those around me? Time is limited, and we must make the best use of that time no matter how difficult our circumstances may be. It is undoubtedly easier said than done as I have struggled to remain positive during setbacks in the past, but I know I am growing as a person by not letting them affect me from maintaining the view of the big picture – that I will persevere in the end and to keep pushing forward towards that goal.
You have to be happy with yourself during the process of your recovery that can be attained through thinking positive thoughts. Remaining positive is the most useful coping skill you can use for any situation that comes your way. Your attitude reflects your thought process, which in turn affects how your body responds to stress. Here are seven reasons why you should continue to fight to stay positive if suffering from chronic pain or experiencing any setback in life.
1. It’s contagious.
Happiness and positive vibes are like a desirable virus that easily infects those that surround it. As hard as it may be to put a smile on your face and focus on the positive despite your pain and circumstances, you could be inspirational to others with your positive attitude and perseverance. How rewarding would it be to hear the words, “because of you I didn’t give up”?
I was immediately removed from any inclination to throw myself a pity party after hearing this encouraging story in the clip below featured on Ellen. Jackson Smith and Brian McKenna are best friends that met while attending Tulane University. Smith was going through the hardest time in his life to date while deployed in Afghanistan. McKenna showed his support for his friend by taking photos with a cardboard cutout of Smith along on all of his adventures including meeting their mutual hero, Drew Brees, quarterback of the New Orleans Saints that got him through that rough time. Tragically, McKenna was later paralyzed from the neck down in a mountain biking accident. Smith was right there by his friend’s side and showed his support in return by bringing a cardboard version of McKenna to a Saints’ game and posed with Drew Brees. It is truly inspiring to see both McKenna’s positive attitude after his life-altering accident in which he states, “being negative is a waste of time” and simply “just not any fun” along with the strength of their friendship.
You’re not alone in your hardships as everyone is fighting their own silent battle, so why not pay it forward with your positive attitude?
2. You’ve been through worse.
You learn to put your circumstances in perspective and be grateful for what you have. When I hit my lowest point in my recovery with all of my injuries flared up at the same time, I took that moment in to realize that this was what bottom felt like and I could only go up from there. Every step I take while walking and every turn I take while driving are two simple daily activities that most people take for granted, but not me. Whenever I experience a hiccup in my recovery, I look back at how far I’ve come and I know I can get through this too.
3. Be strong for your loved ones.
If you’re having a hard time being strong for yourself, instead think of being strong for those around you. I value all of my relationships with each of my family members and friends immensely. I feel incredibly lucky to be blessed with such a strong support system. When hitting my lowest point and being limited in my activity, my brother visited me weekly to engage in conversations full of laughing and playing cards just like we did growing up to keep my mind busy and spirits up. My parents are my lifelong cheerleaders who continuously encourage me to hold on to hope. My girlfriends would gladly come over with a bottle of wine if a night of dancing was not in the cards. My sister and friends in other cities show their support by lending an ear anytime I need to talk. The providers that I’ve sought out for alternative therapies encourage me on, telling me I’ll “get there little by little”, and thus far they have been right. They are all fighting for me to beat this, and I don’t intend on giving up!
4. It will help your body to heal.
A positive attitude is a healthy coping mechanism that decreases stress levels, lowers blood pressure, and combats depression. Being positive will boost your mood and energy to increase your activity to continue on in your recovery.
5. Increases confidence, and your motivation to keep moving forward.
In the wise words of Yoda from Star Wars, “fear is the path to the dark side”. You can’t be afraid to get back up after being knocked down, especially when all you can see is the bottom. You can break the pain cycle and take control of your pain by understanding why these setbacks happen. Focus on what you can control, which is your emotions and the actions you take to move forward. Eventually you will see progress, and take the time to celebrate these steps whether big or small as this will reinforce your ability to believe in yourself to keep going, creating a positive feedback loop. Just as I advise my patients with chronic conditions to modify their lifestyle with a healthy diet and exercise plan to decrease their need for taking medication, I need to take my own advice and control my reaction to my pain.
6. Improved relationships.
A positive attitude attracts positive people. With a positive attitude it is so much easier to see the positive qualities in others that will only enhance your ability to find more meaningful friendships and relationships. Besides, no one likes a Debbie downer!
The story in the clip above about the friendship between Smith and McKenna is an example where two people could have easily emotionally shutdown on account of their own negative life circumstances. However, they chose to remain positive and be present in support of one another, enhancing their own recovery and strengthening their bond.
7. To lead a fulfilling life.
When we are forced to change our perspective and view the big picture, we become more grateful and find a new sense of purpose. It is easier to see what is really important and what our true passion is. We only get one shot at this life and have to make the best of it with what hand we are dealt. How do you want to lead your life, and leave your mark? What’s important to you, and what’s stopping you from getting there?