Living Like You | The importance of positive thinking with MS

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Tiles spelling “Be positive”

It is not always easy to hear this sentence: “Stay Positive!” 

We all experience dark times and struggle sometimes to stay positive and optimistic. Life with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is not always shiny and positive, in fact, it can be the complete opposite sometimes. The big question is how to stay positive and see the little good things in the bad situation. 

It is about learning to see the positive 

The person who taught me to see the positive was an old, very wise lady living in my neighborhood. One day, we started to talk about the power of positivity and she said: “You lose something, but if you are open-minded, you can win something too. And sometimes this can be very unexpected.” 

She recommended to start with simple, easily achievable things or small successes. This isn’t simple in a society like ours. Often, we tend to dismiss or pass by small successes, such as regular exercise or preparing a meal. We are too focused on the principle of higher, better ‘wins’ and striving for perfection. We don’t remember to recognize small successes, but these things help us to move forward in a positive way. Only focusing on things we haven’t achieved can bring negativity and impact our lives more than necessary. 

A good start is to see the things we have. For me, it includes things like: I have a lovely husband, I am creative and well educated and there are endless possibilities for me in life. It can also help to start new things, maybe something new to learn like a language or a hobby. These things cheer you up and give you a fresh perspective. One new ritual I introduced is to have a cup of my favorite tea in the morning after I tick the first thing off my to-do list. There are many good things right in front of us, we just have to be open to see them. 

Time to face negative things 

Step one is to face the negative things. It was, and is, one of the hardest things I’d ever done. It is about positive thinking and staying optimistic in dark times.

The key message is, (and, by the way, I didn’t believe it either in the beginning) a bad thing, such as being diagnosed with MS, can bring chances and new perspectives in our lives. It is about finding the courage to face up to the negativity and change the perspective. Mostly, when I tend to be too negative, I step back, and try to see it differently, which helps to redirect my mood.

It is about understanding the situation and experience

Use your previous experience to see a different perspective. You are not a victim of circumstances or fate forever. It is OK to cry, moan or let your negative emotions take hold of you, especially when receiving news like your diagnosis or MS progression becoming worse. Just ensure that your negativity doesn’t take control. Better to try to learn about your options and find ways how to make the best of things. 

Be less self-critical

Start being friendlier to yourself, and to others. The best advice for me was that we should be able to laugh about ourselves, not take ourselves too seriously and not be too critical. You are great just as you are and we all make mistakes. Not trying to be perfect all the time helps to balance time and energy.

Positivity: challenging but healthy

I find things particularly difficult when my MS symptoms are worse than usual. But being negative is more exhausting, tiring and it can make us more sick or depressed. That’s the reason why I do my best to focus on the good things in life. Sometimes it helps to dive into a good book, listen to music or exercise. When we are feeling positive, we have more energy, feel stronger and more resilient. This is especially important in tough times. And if there is a need for more support, ask for it. A coach or a psychologist can help in a professional way to come back to positivity.

You can practice positivity very easily, for example, through a gratitude diary. Every evening, before you go to bed, write three things down which made you happy or that you’re grateful for today. You could even do this with friends or family members, send them a WhatsApp or text message about the positive things you have experienced. Alternatively, you could use a mood-board to write down all your positive experiences during the day. This can help keep you connected and inspired.

So, stay optimistic and focus on the positive little things in your life, they can brighten your day and help you in many ways. 

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