Thanks to a recent comment from a reader, I was encouraged to write a positive piece about living with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I often find it easy to vent about RA, hence the title of this blog; KStew Vents about RA. Staying positive, being thankful and having hope take a lot more practice.
We can see the light at the end of the tunnel (ie. end of a flare) more clearly when we focus on things that bring us joy. It may sound strange, but try looking at the positive aspects of having RA. For instance, there are many things I’m thankful for, that I wouldn’t have experienced without RA. I’ve learned to be tougher and more courageous after facing enormous physical and emotional obstacles thrown at me by RA. I’m grateful for an amazing support system filled with family, friends and medical experts who care about my health and happiness. Really, I’m thankful for all of the people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting throughout my journey with RA; folks at the Arthritis Foundation, the Arthritis National Research Foundation, my yoga family and the awesome teacher I met during water aerobics at Lifetime Fitness South Austin on Friday. Last but certainly not least, I’m inspired by readers of my blog like Richard Hoover who reached out and encouraged me to write this very post.
Someone once said you can’t find happiness, you have to create it. Creating happiness starts with being positive which is how I want to start this new decade. Forbes says that “the real obstacle to positivity is that our brains are hard-wired to look for and focus on threats. This survival mechanism served humankind well back when we were hunters and gatherers, living each day with the very real threat of being killed by someone or something in our immediate surroundings”. When we focus on these threats or life problems, negativity manifests and achieving positive happiness is nearly impossible. My recommendation to combat these negative thoughts and feelings is to find some distractions, focus on the positive and be thankful for all of the great things life has to offer; despite your disease.
- Smile. Science has shown that the mere act of smiling can lift your mood, lower stress, boost your immune system and possibly even prolong your life. So sit back, find a comedy on netflix, call your best friend who can always make you laugh, google “dad jokes”, or make a game out of smiling at random strangers on the street, just to see if they’ll smile back. It works!
- Write a gratitude journal. If you can jot down 1-2 things that you’re thankful for each day and reflect back from time to time, you may start to appreciate some things that you would have otherwise missed. Perhaps you’re thankful for a gorgeous sunset, a walk around the block, a friend who helped you carry something heavy when you were flaring, or the epson salts that made your bath and body feel so much more lovely. Today I’m most thankful for the things and people I referenced in the 2nd paragraph above.
- Meditate. According to Healthline, regular meditation can reduce stress, lower anxiety, promote emotional health, improve sleep and reduce pain. There are a ton of free apps that provide guided meditation practices. A few of my favorites are Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm.
- Regularly tell yourself “today will be amazing”. The illusory truth effect says that if we repeat something enough, we can trick our minds to convince ourselves that it’s true. So make every day amazing! Make “amazing” your daily mantra. Seize the day and if things don’t work out the way you want them to, know that you can start over again tomorrow.
- Make someone else happy. Ever find sheer joy watching a loved one open the perfect gift you searched so hard to find? Be selfless and know that happiness is contagious. Go ahead and compliment a stranger, write your spouse a letter of gratitude, bake cookies for a neighbor or let someone go in front of you in line.
How do you distract yourself during a RA flare up?