Stay positive. Stay Positive. Everyone tells you to stay positive, They tell you the “what” but not the “how”. It’s frustrating, I know, because I have always struggled to stay positive myself despite the fact that everyone around me is saying “just be positive”. “Just be“. It’s that simple huh? I know what it’s like because I have been there and I will more than likely return there after some time. I’m not going to try to make you believe that everything is just dandy for me and that I am always a warm, fuzzy, bundle of joy inside sporting a huge smile where ever I go, I mean, I try to be like that as often as possible, but let’s face it, MS sucks, it makes life hard, so it’s just not realistic to think that someone could avoid ever having their down moments with this dreadful disease. I’m writing this article to tell you that it’s OK to be sad, frustrated, and angry but the key is to get it out of your system and get back to trying to stay positive as long as you can so that you can enjoy your life!
So as mentioned above everyone tells you the “what” but no one ever really tells you the “how” now do they? Well if you ask me the reason for that is simple. The “what” is universal, we should all try to be positive, but the “how” is unique to the individual. We will all have a different way of finding positivity in our life so what all these self help articles out there should really be explaining is how to find your “how”. Most people tell you the same thing, “There is always someone out there who has it worse than you” or “You need to try to appreciate what you do have”. Though this may be true it doesn’t make you feel any better does it? Well that’s because these statement can’t be truly appreciated until after you have reached a state of positivity. They help you stay positive not get positive.
Again, everyone is different, we all grew up differently, we all developed different personalities and attitudes, we have all gone through different hardships in life, and Multiple Sclerosis has effected all of us differently so it would be foolish to believe that the same recipe would work for us all when it comes to reaching a state of positivity. Most of what people will tell you will have some truth to it but what most people don’t realize is that everything needs to be custom fitted to your situation.
What you need to do is identify what you are most pessimistic about and then try to think of why. Write it all down if it helps. Make a list of things that make you sad or angry and then try to come up with the “why” for each of those things. You may not be able to come up with an answer right away but that is good because they key is to get you thinking about it. Now it’s time to try to find your “how”. You may have wrote down;
“I am miserable because I feel cooped up. Why? Because I never get out of the house anymore.”
So like a simple math equation what would the “how” be to this as in “how can I make this better?”. Go outside! Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how to make your “how” possible! When your feeling down this can be hard because you are more than likely not feeling motivated but if you have it all written down and you know what you need to do then it’s just a matter of getting over that first bump in the road that’s keeping you from getting the process going. Use your list as a “to-do” list and even if your not feeling up for it mentally make yourself just do it like it’s a task. Once you get yourself out there you will probably start feeling glad that you went for it! You just have to take that first step no matter what, just do it!
Now we are going to take the above example and mix it with the “exercise answer” that everyone always gives you. People always tell you to exercise because “When you exercise endorphins are released and they make you feel better”. This is true to an extent. First of all the effects of exercise are not immediate, you don’t usually feel the effects of all the endorphins until the next day! So exercise has to be a long term and consistent means of feeling better. Secondly most of us hate exercising, I do, I hate it with a passion! So if you are like me, how is exercising supposed to make you feel more positive if you are doing something you hate? It doesn’t work! You have to do something you enjoy doing.
So perhaps walking is something you might enjoy? That is what I do! I don’t like to exercise because all I am thinking about while I exercise is how I hate exercising but walking in itself is exercising especially if you have MS! The thing is, when I’m walking, I’m not thinking about walking. I use it as a time to think about my life and clear my mind or to simply look at the trees, the birds, the clouds, everything! It let’s me get away if even just for just for 15 minutes! Do this everyday and I’m pretty sure you won’t feel as bad especially if your problem is that you feel cooped up! Which leads me to my next point, a lot of us are too disabled to walk! I know I can walk right now but that is not always the case! So hop in your wheelchair or your scooter and get out anyways! You don’t need to rely on the endorphins from exercising to feel better because if you can just get out and get away from your negativity at home, you will feel a million times better then a few extra hormones will make you! Walk alone or with a walking buddy! Maybe a little of both! Just remember to use that time to clear your mind or think about positive things. It may be tough at first but after a couple of walks you’ll find that it can be very much like a therapy for you and pretty soon you will crave your walking time!
I think another issue with staying positive is most of us have a lot of free time on our hands which causes us to start to think. With all the complications and limitation you may have do to MS you more then likely will start thinking about negative factors not positive. So stay busy to keep your mind from going in that direction! What do you enjoy doing? What would you like to learn how to do? Do you like to read? Do arts and crafts? Write? Find a hobby no matter how simple or stupid it may seem at the time. At one point, I spent my time making an “amusement park” out of toilet paper rolls and cardboard boxes buried under pet bedding in a large plastic bin for my hamster. I know it sounds stupid but it kept me busy and I got into it to the point where I was constantly looking around at everyday objects wondering how I could use it in my 5 star hamster amusement park. Silly, silly, silly, but guess what? It kept my mind away from negativity!
Now I spend most my time writing whether it is working on this blog, my photo blog, or my novel! I also practice photography on a regular basis which is something a lot of people enjoy! You don’t need some fancy camera, just use an old point and shoot or even a cell phone camera to start a collection of flower pictures, bugs, birds, lamp posts, anything! Once you start your collection your mind will start thinking about what you can do to better it and before you know it your not thinking about how life sucks anymore! Your thinking about where you can find the next interesting flower around the block! Find a hobby, no matter how silly it may seem, find one and get into it!
It will take some time to figure out your “how” but once you find it everything will just sort of click. It’s hard to explain, it’s like when you find it you will start to see life through a different lens that changes the colors of everything around you! Once you find your way to this point your new goal is to stay positive. Remember all those things that people were constantly telling you that might have even ticked you off at one point?
“You need to appreciate what you do have in life”
“There is always someone else out there who has it worse than you”
Well now is the time to start thinking about that. I have lost my ability to walk several times and was even stuck in a wheel chair at one point. I can assure you that I was extremely pessimistic during these times because I wanted to walk and use my legs but I couldn’t. Now I can and now I can appreciate something as simple as walking down the street to the park. I could have lost that for ever but I got it back so now I will appreciate that while I can for as long as I can because I know what it’s like to loose it and at the same time I now realize that there is someone else out there who wants that same thing but can’t have it. They can’t walk or maybe they don’t even have legs at all… So yes, I am lucky, because there is always someone else out there who has it worse than we do which is why we must learn to appreciate everything that we do have and can do no matter how simple it may be; the roof we live under, the family we have, the clothing on our backs, our ability to dress ourselves, speak, write, what ever it is that you can do, there is someone out there who can’t.
And yes, the other side of that coin is that there is always someone out there who has it better than you do, who has more than you do, but thinking that way is what leads to negativity, thinking about what you don’t have. The thing is, no matter how much you do have there will always be someone else out there who has more even if you are a billionaire! So that kind of thinking really isn’t important, you need to let go of that in order for things to just click for you, because it’s true what they say, you don’t know what you have until you loose it. MS can cause you to loose a lot, so find a way to enjoy everything you do have because it could be gone just like that which is why it’s good to try to appreciate all the little things that you do have because those little things are what become huge things once you loose them.
Go back to that list you created about all the things that you feel are the source of your negativity. Now flip it over and start a new list, on this one, think about everything you do have or can do, all the little things even if it’s just the ability to button your shirt! This list should be long and maybe even take up several pages of paper! Now whenever you feel yourself slipping back into a state of negativity look at this list. Read it thoroughly and remember, it’s OK to get upset, just get it out of your system and then get back to staying positive!