Updated: Sep 27
Fibromyalgia feels like a never-ending cycle of feeling stressed because of pain; the stress, causing anxiety or depression to develop, amplifying the pain. Then, in turn, like some sick joke, the pain increases the stress. Pain, stress, anxiety, and depression all contributing to unhappiness. Perhaps being unhappy is an understatement.
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.
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 cannot live like we used to; we might have to cut back on work hours or stop working. We notice that we catch up with friends less, are less involved in social events, and are less active community members.
Even though most people in our lives are trying to understand our situation, and I know more often than not, those who care about us feel for us when we cannot keep appointments or 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, returning emails, canceling meet-ups with friends when I suffer from Fibromyalgia, or being too exhausted to spend time with others.
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. Then, 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 fibromyalgia symptoms. 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. Would you please take time to look at your situation with kindness and compassion, as you would if your friend had 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 pain. In addition, 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 the first steps to change our mindset and attitude towards the positive.
▶︎Utilize positive affirmations
Positive affirmations are phrases you can repeat to yourself that focus on positive things about life or 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.