Living with fibromyalgia can be a challenge. There are days when it feels like you can't do anything right, and every little thing is a struggle.
Fibromyalgia can feel like a never-ending cycle of stress because of pain; the stress causes anxiety or depression to develop, amplifying the pain. Then, like some sick joke, the pain increases the stress.
Pain, stress, anxiety, and depression all contribute to unhappiness.
Being happy doesn't take away our fibromyalgia pain, but it can make it more bearable. It can make stress more manageable and help reduce anxiety. Here are 5 ways to be happy despite your diagnosis.
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1. PUT YOUR NEEDS FIRST
Do you ever feel worse when you let other people down rather than when you let yourself down? It's a pretty familiar feeling.
Unfortunately, living with fibromyalgia often means that our lives change dramatically, and it can happen quickly.
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.
It can leave us feeling horrible about canceling plans or simply not being there for others. We can carry around the guilt of not taking phone calls, returning emails, and canceling meet-ups with friends.
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. 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 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.
Remind yourself that you are doing your best, given your situation. Remind yourself that you didn't choose to have this painful condition, this constant battle, day in and day out.
Most importantly, remember that you keep moving forward despite all the horrible symptoms of fibromyalgia. You're here reading this blog post; you're searching to find out how you can be happy despite fibromyalgia. You're 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 your friend had this condition.
Remember that you do not have to please everyone and that not everyone expects everything from you. When you adopt that attitude, you'll begin to feel less burdened and happier.
2. TAKE ACTION TO FEEL HAPPY
I'm guessing that I'm not the only one who has hoped that as I go to sleep at night, I'd wake up free of pain and all the stresses it causes, that then I'd be happy again in an instant.
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 make me happier. I'll feel more positive and reap the benefits". Spoiler alert - that approach doesn't work very well.
The benefits of a positive approach to life are widely studied and show 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?
It can be very 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, we wish it would be an easier road, but it's not. We must take the first steps to change our mindset and attitude toward the positive.
▶︎ Utilize positive affirmations
Positive affirmations are phrases you repeat to yourself that help you focus on positive things about life and 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.
Using affirmations can feel strange and silly at first, but with practice, they can significantly impact how you think and 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 down what 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, not just your appearance. Here are some ideas:
You are strong and capable.
Today is going to be a good day.
You can do this!
You are doing a great job dealing with a horrible situation.
Wow, you look so beautiful.
It can also be specific about something you're struggling with or just a little something to boost your confidence.
Try this ► Write positive affirmations on post-it notes and stick them on your mirror and fridge. Become a cheerleader for yourself; remind yourself every day about the positives in your life and yourself.
There are numerous websites where you can find positive affirmations and also apps with daily alerts available that you can use to discover and utilize positive affirmations.
▶︎ Spend 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 about 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
Listen to podcasts and watch YouTube talks and interviews with "positive mindset gurus." Their insights can help jump-start overcoming a negative mindset when you feel like you don't have the mental energy or focus on doing it independently.
Motivational and self-help experts also can teach us the skills to develop a mind that will, in time, naturally look for the positives in life.
Recommend reading ►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, Comparison is the Thief of Joy.
It doesn't matter what everyone else is doing and who they are searching for happiness; it only matters who you are. It can take time to accept this and understand, but once you do, you'll be able to embrace life and your life experience for what it is and make the very best of what you have, and feel happier.
Of course, you'll have bad days, and we are all completely entitled to our feelings; we are allowed to feel unhappy, especially about having fibromyalgia.
When you find yourself comparing yourself to your peers, your life compared to theirs, it's easy to judge their lives as better, easier, or happier than yours.
As a result, unreasonable expectations of yourself can pop up. These expectations invoke negative feelings and can also create unnecessary pressure.
This all, in turn, adds more stress which can result in feeling an increase in pain. So, it's essential to stop ourselves at that moment when we have those feelings and thoughts.
It's precisely right then when we need to show ourselves compassion the most. We must 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's natural to want control over our lives, when we have an unpredictable condition like fibromyalgia, we can often feel the need to control everything around us to manage our symptoms. However, that need for control can make us feel anxious and stressed.
When we loosen the grip on 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 natural to get caught up in our thoughts; about faults and mistakes; in life, with family, friends, work, or health. But unfortunately, holding on to things that have happened in the past often doesn't help us suffering from fibromyalgia.
Instead, it is more beneficial to learn from what we can and try to make peace with everything else or lay it down as life experiences.
It can benefit us to live in the moment, being grateful for what we have and any good things happening right now.
Take each day one day at a time and celebrate the small things, this can be some of the best ways to improve our happiness level every day. Don't let fibromyalgia get you down! Keep fighting, beautiful!
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