Advice For Newly Diagnosed: Live, Love, Laugh
But it was also the time of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll. There was the British Invasion, the counterculture, Woodstock, the second-wave of feminism, the Civil Rights Movement and The Great Society.
It was in the spirit of peace and love that my parents bought me a cherished silver necklace. I always felt happy wearing it, wanting to live up to the three words it said:
Live. Love. Laugh.
They were three words to live by; and my childhood was a dream of living in a Utopian universe.
But everything changed when I turned 28 and was diagnosed with a chronic illness. That was not supposed to happen. Yet somehow I retained my positive spirit through it all, and today, when I speak to newly diagnosed patients, I urge them to hold on to those three little words despite their new reality.
I firmly believe that a positive attitude helps toward creating better health. There’s plenty of literature to back me up.
The Mayo Clinic says a positive attitude:
- Increases life span
- Lowers the rate of depression
- Lowers levels of distress
- Creates a greater resistance to the common cold
- Reduces the risk of death from cardiovascular disease
- Creates better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
Dr. Andrew Weil offers this advice:
“I have long recommended using positive thoughts as a way to lessen or prevent the effects of illness and disease. Pessimism has been linked to a higher risk of dying before age 65, while expressing positive emotions, such as optimism, is associated with lowered production of the stress hormone cortisol, better immune function.”
Here are a few other ways of maintaining a positive attitude while living with MS:
Catch and reframe your thoughts: Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches us to replace negative thoughts with positive ones. For example, let’s say you’re angry about not feeling well. Try to catch yourself in mid-thought, stop a moment, then focus on something positive. Perhaps you’re looking forward to doing stretches with your physical therapist, or looking forward to a visit from a friend. Focus on positive thoughts, and after some practice it will become routine.
Don’t believe everything your mind tells you: What your mind is telling you is not always reality. A judgment or belief may “cross your mind” but most likely it’s untrue. Try to notice your thoughts, and then put some separation between you and your reactions.
Let go of fear: I know this is a hard one, especially when you’re living with an unpredictable disease. But living in an aura of fear about what might happen in the future is not only negative but also a waste of valuable time. Close your eyes, focus on the fear, take a deep cleansing breath and replace it with a better thought. If possible try to meditate at least five minutes (or more) every day. I try to meditate daily and I can tell you it works to calm my mind and makes me feel emotionally better.
Surround yourself with things that make you happy: I love having framed photos of loved ones nearby. Looking at them makes me feel good. Beautiful paintings, beloved books, and even the rainbow of color in my yarn stash makes me happy. Soak yourself in things that will put an instant smile on your face.
Reach out and touch someone: Talk to people who love you unconditionally. They are the ones who will keep your positive spirit flowing. It could be a visit with someone in person, a conversation on the telephone, on the Internet, in a support group or perhaps a club you’ve joined. Remove toxic people in your life and spend time nurturing relationships with loved ones. They are the ones who will help make your spirits soar.
You are so worth it!!
Does anyone else in your family have MS?