Fibromyalgia feels like a never-ending cycle of feeling stressed because of pain, the stress causing me to spiral with anxiety, and that anxiety makes my pain feel more intense. Then, in turn, like some sick joke, the pain increases my stress. Pain, stress, and anxiety are all impacting me and leaving me feeling unhappy. Perhaps unhappy is an understatement, but I'm feeling confident that you know what I mean if you are reading this.
I understand that being happy doesn't take away our fibromyalgia pain; it can make it more bearable, make stress more manageable, and help reduce anxiety.
So how do we turn things around and start living a happier life despite Fibromyalgia?
Here are five ways that have helped me and may also help you be happy despite living with Fibromyalgia.
1. Put Your Needs First
Ever notice that you feel worse when you let other people down rather than when you let ourself down? I think it's a pretty familiar feeling. Living with fibromyalgia often means that our lives change quite dramatically, and it can happen at a fast pace. We quickly see that we aren't able to live like we use to; we might have to cut back on work hours or stop working. We notice that we are catching up with friends less, less involved in social events, and less active community members.
Even though most people in our lives try to understand our situation, and I know more often than not, those who care about us do feel for us when we are unable to keep appointments or unable to do things we had intended to do because of our fibromyalgia. Nevertheless, it can still leave us feeling horrible about canceling plans or simply not being there for others. I often find myself carrying around the guilt of not taking phone calls, emails not returned, canceling meet-ups with friends when I am suffering from Fibromyalgia flare, or too exhausted to spend time with others.
So what do we do when we experience intrusive feelings of guilt and shame?
☞ Try to stop yourself at this moment when those feelings and thoughts come over you. At that moment try to look at the expectations you have of yourself and ask yourself, "Are these expectations balanced and fair given my current health situation?"
It's natural for us to still hold high expectations for ourselves despite living with life-altering symptoms of Fibromyalgia. Read that again, life-altering symptoms. Our lives are now significantly altered. Yet we still beat ourselves up mentally, thinking we let someone down or we should be able to do more things for others.
9/10 times I need to remind myself that I am doing my best given my situation. I try to remind myself that I did not choose to have this painful condition, which is a constant battle, day in and day out, to get through. I remind myself that despite all the horrible symptoms of fibromyalgia, I keep moving forward. You are too. You are moving forward. How do I know? Well, you are here reading this blog post; you are searching to find out how you can be happy despite Fibromyalgia. You are willing to learn ways to live better despite your chronic illness. Please take time to look at your situation with kindness and compassion, as you would if it was your friend having this condition.
Remember that you do not have to please everyone and that not everyone is expecting everything from you. When I started adopting that attitude, it truly has helped me feel less burdened and happier.
2. Take Action to Feel Happy
I'm guessing that I'm not the only one that as hoped as I go to sleep at night, I'd wake up feeling free of pain and all the stresses it causes, that then I'd be happy again in an instance. And perhaps like me, you've also thought to yourself, "I'm just going to fake it until I make it, I'm going to smile through the pain, and that will lead me to feel happier. I'll feel more positive and reap the benefits". Spoiler alert - that approach hasn't worked for me.
There are benefits to a positive approach to life; positivity is widely studied and shows that positive thinking can help lessen stress, anxiety, and even the pain itself. These incredible-sounding side effects of positivity can give us more opportunities for happiness. Therefore, it makes sense that to help cultivate happiness, we need to become more positive, right.
I know it sounds hard. In reality, yes, it is super hard to stay focused on the positives in our life when we might feel overwhelmed by the negatives; as with all things fibromyalgia-related, take things slowly. Take small steps every day. Changing mindset when facing fibromyalgia is a challenge, I wish it would be an easier road, but it's not. We have to take action to take the first steps to change our mindset and attitude towards the positive.
Try these strategies -
Utilise Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are phrases you can repeat to yourself that focus on positive things about life or about yourself. Affirmations only take a couple of minutes to do and can be used for more than just positive thinking; they can also help reduce anxiety and stress and even boost your self-confidence.
It will seem silly, but it really can have an amazing impact on how you feel. Try practicing positive affirmations while looking in the mirror, telling yourself everything you love and appreciate about yourself. And yes, this requires looking into a mirror and talking to yourself.
It might help at first to write things down you want to say, so you aren't standing in front
of a mirror just feeling awkward trying to talk to yourself.
What should you say? Anything that says something positive about yourself, but not just your appearance. Here are some ideas:
You are strong and capable.
You can do this!
You are doing a fantastic job.
Wow, you look so beautiful.
It can also be specific to something you are struggling with or just a little boost of confidence. I like to write out positive affirmations and stick them on my bathroom mirror and fridge. I have become a cheerleader for myself, reminding myself of the positives in my life and about myself.
There are many websites where you can find positive affirmations and also apps with daily alerts available that you can use to discover and utilize positive affirmations.
Spent Time with Positive People
Spending time with positive people can help you learn to be positive through observation. You can observe how they talk about themselves, others, and life in general. You can watch how they act and how they live their life. You can ask them their motivation to stay positive or about their outlook on life as this might help you understand better ways you can be more positive.
Keep a Journal of Positive Thoughts
You can also start writing in your journal more positively, focusing on only good things to say about yourself. Every time you write in the journal, focus on only saying good things. Even if you made a mistake or are disappointed by something, just put a positive spin on it. Over time, you will learn how you can make just about anything
Listen to Motivational Speakers
I like to listen to podcasts and watch YouTube talks and interviews with "positive mindset gurus". They help jump-start overcoming a negative mindset when I feel like I don't have the energy or focus on doing it independently. Motivational and self-help experts can help us learn the skills for us to develop a mind that will, in time, naturally be drawn towards looking for the positives. I like to listen to Brendon Burchard, Joe Dispenza, Lewis Howes, to name a few.
I recommend checking out this article by Mayo Clinic, "Positive thinking: Stop negative thinking to reduce stress," to discover more about how to put positive thinking into practice.
3. Try Not to Compare Yourself To Other People
It is only human to be envious or make comparisons to others, especially those that don't have Fibromyalgia. But most of the time, it only makes us feel worse. As President Teddy Roosevelt famously quoted as saying, Comparison is the Thief of Joy.
In the search for my happiness, I've come to see that it doesn't matter what everyone else is doing and who they are – it only matters who I am. It took me a long time to accept this and understand, but once I did, I realized I could embrace life and my experience and make the very best of what I have and feel happier.
Of course, I still have bad days, and we are all completely entitled to our feelings; we are allowed to feel unhappy, especially about having Fibromyalgia. But I always find that when I compare myself to my peers, think about my life compared to theirs; it's easy to judge their lives as better, easier, or happier than mine. It's unfair on me; it allows for unreasonable expectations of myself to pop up. These expectations that invoke negative feelings can also create unnecessary pressure. This all, in turn, adds more stress which can result in feeling an increase in pain. It's not worth it, so as mentioned earlier, it's so essential to stop ourselves at that moment when we have those feelings and thoughts. It's precisely then we need to show ourselves compassion and remember the reality that we aren't all playing this game of life with the same cards, and you're doing the best you can.
4. Free Yourself Of The Need For Control
Although it is good to control our lives, when we have an unpredictable condition like Fibromyalgia, we can often feel the need to have control over everything. That need for control can make us feel anxious and stressed. When we let go of that need for control, not giving up but realizing that sometimes things simply aren't going our way – we can start to feel happier, no matter how much pain we are in; in a word, this is called acceptance.
5. Live For The Moment
It's easy to get caught up in thoughts about errors and mistakes, in life, with family and friends, in a job, or with our health. Holding on to things that have happened in the past often doesn't help us suffering from Fibromyalgia. It is more beneficial to learn from what we can and then try to make peace with the rest and lay it down as life experiences. It can benefit us to live in the now, be glad of what we have and any good things now. Staying in the moment, taking each day one day at a time, celebrating the small things that happen, these things are some of the best ways to improve our level of happiness every single day.
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