You’ve heard the saying “I’ll believe it when I see it”. What’s more accurate is that you’ll see it when you believe it. Perception and perspective make all the difference in how you experience life. Choosing your perspective is a key practice for cultivating resilience.
Every day, I try to publish at least one thought on Twitter that encourages people to use positive thinking to manage their chronic pain. To some, that may come across as “goody-goody”, “unrealistic” nonsense. Let me explain why it’s not.
Western society has adopted the notion that the mind and body are separate. While that can be a useful idea when you are trying to understand someone’s health or behaviour, it is not literally true. What happens with your body affects your mind and vice versa. What’s more, science has demonstrated this to be true and research is guiding the development of treatments to make better use of this feature.
Fibromyalgia, for example, is known to worsen with stress, and stress may even play a causal role in its development. One way of managing stress involves noticing negative thoughts and reframing them in more positive, often more realistic, ways. This is the basic process of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
How do you choose perspective? One way to do it is to be mindful about the words you use to express your thoughts and to challenge words that indicate an extreme. For example, let’s say you had a tense interaction with your boss. You might think:
“What a catastrophe that was! It was horrible! If I didn’t screw up so much, my boss wouldn’t chew me out like that…”
Challenging that thought, you might think:
“Was it really a catastrophe? I didn’t get fired, I just got told to do better. Maybe it wasn’t THAT horrible. I’ve come through worse situations.”
Reframing it, you might think:
“My boss was critiquing my performance to help me see where I need to improve. While I don’t feel great about that, I understand I have some things to learn and I now know what my next steps will be. I’ll do much better next time.”
The more you can make this process habitual, the more positive your thoughts become, the lower your stress will be and this may result in lower pain levels, depending on the nature of your condition(s). Just look on the bright side to give it a try.