Sunday, November 16, 2008

Pathway to a Positive Attitude

I'm not an expert on how to have a positive outlook on life. I haven't attended any seminars or read any books about the power of positive thinking. All I know about having a positive attitude I've found within myself.

Part of it has come from living with MS. It can be difficult to maintain a positive attitude when you're living with an illness, but it's necessary. Sometimes you have to try to stay upbeat for the sake of the people around you. Mostly, it's a matter of not letting your illness get you down.

I guess after my symptoms began to get worse, I saw it as a challenge. I discovered strength in myself that I never knew I had. And I'm amazed that from within me, a person who has always been very prone to thinking negatively and coming down on herself, a positive attitude was able to emerge.

It's not always easy to keep it positive. I have my moments. I receive treatment every month with a drug called Tysabri, which is administered through an IV. Last month I got very upset because the nurse was having trouble with my veins disappearing on her, and she had to keep sticking me. I ended up in tears, and all I could think was, "I don't want to do this anymore."

I didn't feel that way for long, though. Another nurse was able to find and hang onto a vein in my arm, so it all worked out. The IV was started, and life moved on. I didn't let that moment of feeling down about the treatment allow me to develop a negative attitude toward it that might have led me to discontinue the treatment altogether. I just came to the conclusion that while I can usually stay upbeat, there's only so much I can do when needles are involved!

I also sometimes find it hard to keep a positive outlook in other areas of my life, like not working, being in debt and knowing that I may have to move. Uncertainty can throw a monkey wrench in your efforts to stay positive about things.

I constantly remind myself that life is full of things we can't control, and even if things happen that upset us, it's up to us to turn things around. Sometimes we just have to make the best of things. We have to make a conscious choice to try to be happy even when things aren't going the way we want.

These steps help in keeping a positive frame of mind and projecting positive energy:

Squash negative thoughts. It's only natural for negative thoughts to pop into our heads. We think we won't do well enough at something. We think we're not good enough. We think that things won't work out.

Don't listen to those inner voices that make you doubt yourself by telling you there's something wrong with you or that you're not good enough. Focus on your strengths, not your weaknesses. If you find yourself getting upset about the things you can't do, think of all the things you can do.

Don't go into a new endeavor thinking things won't work out. While it's important to have realistic expectations, don't let your thoughts drift toward the negative. Thinking negatively can set you up for failure. If even after thinking positive you do fail at something, think of the old saying: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again.

Don't dwell on negative events. If something happens that had an outcome you didn't expect or want, deal with it, be upset about it for a little while, then let it go. Continuing to go over and over what happened in your mind won't undo anything. It's best to move on and, if possible, prevent the situation from happening again. Don't sweat your mistakes, learn from them.

Appreciate all the good things. Counting your blessings helps when things start to look dark. Being grateful for what you have and the people who are close to you enhances your overall outlook on life.

Find the good in people and situations. Let others know how much you appreciate the things they do for you. Appreciate the little things. Things that may not seem like a big deal can bring about positive feelings.

Find positive mantras. Make up a positive expression or find some that you like and use them often. One of my favorites is that Fernando Lamas quote Billy Crystal used to say in a skit on Saturday Night Live: It's better to look good than to feel good.

Humor is also very important in maintaining a positive attitude. Finding humor in everyday situations and laughing often increases positive feelings and lowers stress.

Focus on what makes you happy. Spend as much time as possible doing the things that make you happy. It makes the less enjoyable things more bearable making it easier to have a positive attitude.

Remember it comes from within. Whether or not you want to have a positive attitude ultimately is up to you. It takes work, but if you're willing to find it within yourself to take a positive approach in life, it is very rewarding. When you have a bright outlook, others will respond accordingly. People will want to be around you. Relationships with others can be better, and things will probably go better at work because your positive attitude won't go unnoticed.

If you make the determination to stay on a positive path, you can feel better, be happier and achieve more.

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