If you’re like me, there are times when you’re full of optimism, excited about your future and almost forget that you have a chronic illness. Other times, you’re depressed, agitated and full of negativity when you realize that your chronic illness has definitely changed your life and that you’ll now have to adjust. Feelings of happiness one minute and utter despair the next are often experienced by chronic illness warriors and are completely normal. To be honest, I experience these shifting emotions on a daily basis. However, by learning to control my negative mindset, I have been able to lessen the length and severity of these negative states.
This isn’t to say that I don’t feel negative emotions – I do. However, I feel a lot less sadness, frustration, and depression than I used to and I don’t wallow in these negative feelings for very long. Instead, I allow myself a few seconds (sometimes minutes, if I’m really in a mood) and then I move on. For me, this helps keep negative feelings in check and helps me achieve more happiness and joy.
I may make it sound easy but getting to this point wasn’t easy. In fact, it took years for me to learn how to change my negative mindset. It took practice and a strong will to experience more joy and less pain. If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are some proven strategies to help you experience happier days, too.
First of all, you must realize when negative emotions occur. Be mindful of when your mood changes from positive to negative. Was there something that caused your mood to change? Did someone do something to upset you? Did a pain flare or another symptom cause your mood to shift? Whatever it was, make a mental note of what happened.
Second, after you learn to recognize and identify the emotions and thought, then you will have a choice on how to react. For instance, if your previous way of dealing with negative emotions was to get into bed and get into a depressed state, try something new. Watch a funny movie or sit outside and enjoy nature instead. Do something that can turn your negative emotions into positive ones. By doing this, you will feel more hopeful and joyous.
Third, allow yourself to feel the negative emotion without allowing it to consume you. Don’t bury your head in the sand and try to ignore it. Start paying attention to the emotions or thoughts that are happening in your head. What triggered you to feel this way? Pay attention to patterns of negative emotions and thoughts. Observe what goes on in your inner environment to cause the negative emotions or thoughts. If you do not have an awareness of what is going on inside, the mind will simply keep replaying the emotion or thoughts over and over again. Direct your attention to something that will calm you. Talk with someone about your negative feelings. Having someone you can vent to about how you are feeling is a good way to release negative emotions and thoughts.
After you’ve felt the negative emotion, give yourself a time limit to feel them and then move on to more positive feelings. Typically, I tend to review the negative thought and then drop it by saying, “cancel, cancel.” This allows me to acknowledge it but then move on. By becoming more aware of my negative feelings and then choosing to redirect my attention out of the negative zone, I am able to change my mood pretty quickly.
Fourth, practice being aware of negative emotions every day for at least 21 days. After all, it takes at least 21 days for a new habit to become permanent. Therefore, the more you practice recognizing negative emotions, the faster you’ll be at acknowledging them and then redirecting those negative thoughts into positive ones. In time, you will become mentally strong and the negative emotions and thoughts will be worn away. You’ll feel better about yourself and your medical condition as well.
Fifth, make a conscious effort to do the little things that make you feel happy and content. You are not your illness, and you can’t allow it to define your life. You have the power to change your life and accomplish your goals. Your life will be whatever you make it. If you focus on negativity, you’ll get more negativity. However, if you focus on positivity, you’ll get more of it. Make an effort to focus on positive things and your life will become more positive.