When I am asked what I do to manage the symptoms of fibromyalgia I usually list several things like; I changed my diet, I exercise, trigger point massage, the supplements I take, etc. But I have come to realize these are only the physical things I do. There is something much more important that has to happen. You have to change the way you think -about yourself, your life, and your expectations.
When you are living with chronic pain and illness you are faced with a harsh reality -you are no longer the person you used to be. Chronic illness has robbed you of your sense of identity and purpose in life which can lead to feelings of failure.
Change your thoughts and you change your world. ~ Norman Vincent Peale
The way you think about yourself and your life circumstances can make your response to pain and other symptoms worse. People who have an optimistic, positive outlook seem to cope better with their illness. People who think negatively often feel helpless when faced with the challenges of chronic illness.
Thought patterns tend to start early in life. Many beliefs you hold today reflect messages you received from parents, siblings, peers and other important people in your life. Some thoughts are based on fact and logic. Others may be misconceptions or from other people’s opinions and beliefs.
Thoughts have a powerful impact on your emotional, behavioral, and physical reactions to situations and circumstances. Studies show that a positive outlook helps relieve stress and improves your ability to cope with challenges. People who feel good about themselves are more likely to make healthy choices.
Negative thinking has the opposite effect. People who focus on the negative are more likely to become depressed and physically inactive. It is easy to develop negative thoughts when you live with a chronic illness like fibromyalgia. Distorted views of chronic pain and other symptoms can increase stress, worsen pain, and limit your ability to cope effectively.
We can always choose to perceive things differently. You can focus on what’s wrong in your life or you can focus on what’s right. ~Marianne Williamson
Fortunately, since thoughts are learned, they can be unlearned. As a former negative thinker, coming from a long line of negative thinkers, I know it’s possible to change the way you think.
How To Change The Way You Think
The truth is, having fibromyalgia sucks. It can trigger a lot of negative emotions about yourself, your life, and with the people around you. Negative thoughts come easy, especially when thinking negatively is an ingrained habit.
Fortunately, we are not doomed by our natural disposition to think negatively. We have the power to retrain our brain to think positively. It’s really very simple. It just takes practice.
- You have to become aware of negative thoughts.
- Every time you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, replace the thought with a positive one.
Even though the process is simple, it doesn’t mean it is easy to change the way you think. It’s hard work. And it won’t happen overnight. Eventually, with practice, positive thinking becomes a habit.
I am not saying that I have a positive outlook all the time. I definitely have bad days when the pain is relentless and exhausting. On the worst of days, I would get very frustrated with myself, which only made it worse. Now I allow myself to wallow in a short bout of self-pity. I may cry and wail. Then I try to let it go. I have come to realize these times are necessary to deal with the effects fibromyalgia has on my life.
Has fibromyalgia changed the way you think?