A Positive Outlook
Health problems can be so disheartening. Even minor problems like a sprained joint or a flu can temporarily shake your confidence. Recently, I strained my wrist in yoga. The pain got bad enough that I had to take 10 days off from practice. When I got back, I had lost flexibility in the rest of my body. Even worse, I found myself so afraid of re-injury that I was doing only a shadow of my previous practice. It took only ten days to recover from the pain, but the climb back to my previous level of health will take much longer. However, the best thing I can do to speed up my recovery is maintain a positive attitude.
Studies show that our attitude during healing dramatically effects how quickly and how completely we heal. In 16 studies done over 30 years which looked at patients recovery after surgery, researchers consistently found that “In each case the better a patient’s expectations about how they would do after surgery or some health procedure, the better they did.” Positive thinking reliably predicts a faster and more complete recovery.
A positive outlook also has a well established link to longer life and better health, as evidenced by an article published in the Chicago Tribune in 2013: “Thousand of articles in virtually all popular, medical, health and news journals tout the benefits of PMA [Positive Mental Attitude] on longevity and many other positive aspects of aging,” says Dr. Peter Norvid, a geriatric specialist treating patients at Adventist Hinsdale and La Grange Memorial hospitals and medical director for Heartland Hospice. “Optimistic people live longer, have closer personal relationships and are able to deal with the negative things that happen to them in a way that allows them to continue to be able to be there for others so that others can help them.”
However, maintaining a positive outlook in the face of illness, injury or chronic pain is much easier said than done. It’s on par with looking at an empty bank account saying “I will be financially stable one day” or having the perspective during the despair of heartbreak to say and believe “one day I will fall in love again and will be truly happy.” It is a tall order to be surrounded by ill health and to somehow summon the mental strength to look at the path of healing optimistically.
A Journey of Many Steps
When I coach people healing from chronic pain or illness, our first milestone is to firmly entrench a belief that they can and will (eventually) heal. The healing process is a journey of many steps. If you’re driving from Maine to California, you can buy a map to show you the route. You may doubt what you hear about California, but you will have no doubt that it exists. Traveling to known places can be scary but it’s pretty easy because the route is well worn and already mapped. Now, there may be someone in Maine who doesn’t believe California is a real place, in which case he is very unlikely ever to take to journey to get there.
The path of healing unfolds for us individually. There are healers and friends who can show you part of your route, but there is no one map that applies to everyone. That is why believing that you can heal is of tantamount importance. It is impossible to find a place you don’t believe exists. The world is rich with doctors and healers, but to find the right help in the right timing you have to have the faith to step out of your comfort zone and try and try until you get it right. This faith starts with the simple belief that “I can heal, there is a way out of this for me, I don’t see it now, but other people have found their way and I will too.”
Find Your Compass
If you are dealing with chronic pain, injury or illness, look up stories of people that have healed. Do whatever it takes to realize that you can heal, that there is a pathway out, and that you (too) can do it. There may not be a map to healing, but faith that you can heal is a powerful compass and will help you find your way.
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photo credits:Believe Sign on flickr by rikomatic, Healing Springs Sign on flickr by qf2frfbf, Square Rays on flickr byJames Wheeler
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