Why is mindset so important?
Do you focus on wellness or illness?
I’ve decided that I focus too much on illness and pain, and that kind of thinking can keep one feeling sick.
So instead I’ve decided to focus on wellness, health, vitality, my energy, emotional wellbeing.
Law of Attraction people would say you create more of what you are putting out in the world. If you focus on pain, the Universe will give you more pain – because that is what you are attracting. At the height of my elbow pain, I spoke with a LOA coach, who said I needed to focus on a better feeling thought. Let me tell you, that sounded pretty hollow to me when I was in extreme pain. My reaction (on the inside) was WTF do you know about chronic pain.
But there I was again, focusing on the pain, even identifying it as CHRONIC. Do you know the definition of “chronic?” Not the medical definition, which is just pain that has lasted for than 3 months.
- (of an illness) persisting for a long time or constantly recurring.
- (of a problem) long-lasting and difficult to eradicate.
I was identifying my issue as one that would constantly recur, that would be difficult to eradicate. Why would I do that to myself?
I know. I know. Unlike that coach, I know that when you are feeling a lot of pain, it is difficult to focus on anything else. You can logically try and tell yourself to “think happy thoughts,” but in reality, you are still feeling the pain. Sure, my daily gratitude practice got me through the tough times (and still does), but underneath, I felt like I was failing at the whole attracting what I wanted thing, since I was stuck in pain.
But I was missing the point. I was still identifying myself as a chronic pain patient. My elbow was the first thing I thought of before making any decisions, even as I went about my life. I restricted my diet to help with pain (that’s different than improving my diet to live more healthfully). I spent so much time reading about pain and illness, searching for and trying new “cures,” going to doctors who just reinforced the intractable nature of my pain and forced new labels on me and what I was feeling – such as Rheumatoid Arthritis – life sentence, deterioration, decline, spreading, worsening, no control over my body or immune system.
Those were the messages I was constantly getting and feeding to myself. This decline definitely reached a nadir when I had stopped practicing yoga. I felt betrayed by my body. I couldn’t do the things I loved, couldn’t practice yoga the same way I once had, didn’t teach for awhile because I felt like a fraud. How could I help someone else when my body betrayed me?
Or so I thought at the time.
Fortunately, I slowly got back to my yoga practice and meditation. I can’t even remember what finally got me back on my mat and started to shift my point of view.
I began to subtly shift seeing myself as a victim, as totally dependent on my pain and subject to its whims, to a more empowered viewpoint.
Maybe my ex-husband helped. He complained (how ironic) that I was always tired, always complaining. In fact, I kept most of my feelings inside (not a good strategy, FYI). I started ignoring my pain, just to not hear him complain about it. (Finally leaving him also did my health a world of good – no surprise there.) I also saw myself reflected in my young daughter’s eyes. One day she mimicked me sitting on the couch, holding my arm, and looking despondent. I didn’t want to be that person.
We need to be very aware of our language around illness and also aging. One of the things I hate to hear is, “Well, I guess that’s just part of getting older,” or “getting old is hell!” No, it isn’t! Especially when you are only in your 30s or 40s when your symptoms begin.
Pain and dysfunction are not an inevitable results of natural aging.
You can still live vibrantly into your 60s, 70s, and more. Yes, there are natural changes that happen as we get older, but that is different from thinking you need to go downhill fast into decline – and just accept that. It’s almost like shifting the blame, or not accepting responsibility for lifestyle factors that might be contributing to your issues.
Are you sleeping enough? Are you feeding yourself nourishing food? Are you moving your body every day? Are you continuing to learn new things? Are your nurturing the important relationships in your life and spending time in community with friends? Do you have a support system? Do you have healthy ways to deal with negative emotions? Do you really love yourself – and if not, how can you develop that relationship? Are you limiting your exposure to toxins in your environment – including toxic relationships, toxic images, and toxic thoughts? Do you have goals for yourself that you are working towards accomplishing? Are you doing the things you love?
These are the things that keep us youthful and in vibrant health. But if you have answered “no” to any of those questions, don’t despair. It isn’t over. And if you are already chronically ill, don’t give up. By working on the areas of your life that you may have neglected, you can see improvements in your health, your energy, and your general satisfaction with life – in spite of your illness.
You can learn to live better and enjoy life even if you have chronic pain or a chronic illness. Let the illness be your wake up call to start living better, living your truth, putting your priorities in order.
Let your illness empower you, not defeat you.
A note of caution: I would also advise being careful with having a battle mentality– including the language you use — around illness or pain. My approach is to love yourself, nurture yourself. Your body isn’t your enemy. Hold yourself dear. Cherish yourself. The difference can be quite stark. Focus on caring for yourself for the sake of your total wellness, not because you want to defeat your diagnosis.
I realize that many people will be rolling their eyes or getting angry with me here. Always I advocate doing what you feel to be true and right for you. Many people like to embrace the model of fighting an illness (esp. cancer) like it’s war. If that works for you, who am I to tell you differently? I am advocating what I feel to be right for me.
Always defer to your own judgment, just be sure to allow yourself time to get quiet enough to listen to the inner whispers of your soul.
In order to change your health and your happiness, you need to believe that change, that improving your situation is possible. Do you believe that? If not, why? Can you change that belief? What needs to change in order for you to believe that you and your situation can change? Get to work.