People with chronic illnesses and pain cannot afford to indulge in negativity.
Sorry (not sorry) to be so blunt, but there it is. Yes, you are exhausted from chronic pain or illness. Yes, it’s hard not to feel angry or sorry for yourself when no one seems to believe what you say about your symptoms or have any empathy for you. Even with all of that, you cannot afford to be negative.
Apart from the pain and fatigue, chronic illness can create changes in your nervous system that predispose you to anxiety and depression. “Support” groups that become venues for symptom one-upmanship, memes that illustrate pain, frequent complaining to anyone who will listen – all of these reinforce your awareness of your pain and make it worse. Heightened awareness of pain makes it more likely you will become (and stay) depressed. Guess what depression does for pain? Right – it makes it worse.
Promoting positivity does not mean you ignore what’s bad. It means you don’t ignore what is good because you are overly focussed on your problems. Think about that.
Cognitive behavioural therapy is a form of treatment for anxiety and depression that teaches you how to reality-test your thoughts. It can help you build the skills needed to adjust your own attitude. Staying in a positive but realistic frame of mind helps you to become more resilient. Greater resilience enables you to cope better. CBT has been shown to be helpful for people living with chronic pain conditions such as fibromyalgia.
Here are 3 simple suggestions for curbing negative tendencies and cultivating a positive attitude:
Go on a news media diet. Limit your exposure to news in print, on radio or TV. News is often negative, sometimes in an exaggerated way. If the information is truly important, your family and friends will tell you about it.
Do not feed trolls. Trolls lurk on social media sites. Trolls also exist in your life as people who always see the down side. They love to make you feel angry or inadequate. Do not engage with them no matter how much they taunt you. They steal your energy and infect you with negativity.
Don’t allow yourself to think like a troll. Trolls live on negativity. Negativity can cast a spell on you. Fight it by challenging your thoughts. Thoughts that are biased are known as cognitive distortions. The image below lists some simple questions you can use to challenge cognitive distortions.
Using cognitive therapy techniques to manage negative thinking has been shown in research to contribute to reductions in symptom intensity. It’s easy to use and is an effect “spell blocker” when you fight trolls. Give it a try!