I positive attitude does not necessarily mean positive thinking, although that can be a factor. More, a positive attitude suggests a mental attitude can see the good things in your life and your accomplishments, instead of focusing on the the negative aspects and the failures. It is a mindset can help you see and pursue opportunities. It suggests things are Possible.

Rather than, ‘Nothing will ever change, so why bother?’ ‘I am a failure, so why try?’ ‘I will always have pain, so what difference does it make?’ ‘Nothing I can do will ever make me feel better’

And I did think those things once upon a time. And that got me nowhere. Now I think it is Possible small changes, combined with other small changes, may make an impact. Maybe a small impact but a Meaningful one in terms of well-being or quality of life.

Can your positive attitude help you achieve lifestyle goals with chronic illness?

“Having a positive attitude isn’t wishy-washy, it’s a concrete and intelligent way to view problems, challenges, and obstacles.” 

Jeff Moore

I wonder sometimes why some people with chronic pain and chronic illness persist with lifestyle changes with a willpower and determination the likes I have never seen. And some of us just see obstacles and roadblocks and just… end up not doing it. And a lot of us sort of are in the middle- we are tired, fatigued, in pain, have low energy and it is hard to maintain the energy consistent to achieve any long-term goal.

I waffle between damn determined to achieve a goal… and, oh my god, I have no energy for this, I just have to exist right now.

Does a positive attitude help us with achieving our lifestyle goals and how?

There was a study on chronic coronary artery disease, asthma or hypertension that looked into helping people maintain a positive attitude to help them with lifestyle changes and managing their chronic conditions. It was in three linked studies, with 756 patients, published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

They were encouraged to cultivate a positive attitude and use positive affirmations.

The participants were encouraged to think of something in their lives that makes them feel good (such as a beautiful sunset) when they arose in the morning and throughout the day. They were also encouraged to use self-affirmation techniques whenever they encountered obstacles to sticking to their health plan – increased physical activity or regularly taking medication – by remembering something in their lives that had made them proud (a graduation, for example).

Columbia University

Results of the study

Results were measured at the completion of the year-long studies. For coronary artery disease patients, 55 percent who practiced a positive attitude, or “affect,” and self-affirmations increased their physical activity compared with 37 percent in the control group; the positive affect group walked an average of 3.4 miles a week more than the control group. In the same study of African-Americans with high blood pressure, 42 percent of the positive affirmation group adhered to their medication plan compared with 36 percent in the control group.

Columbia University

Personally, when I do when in my pursuits of achieving a lifestyle goal to help with my health I do have a positive attitude, I do use visualizations and affirmations. And I do this all intentionally. I call it ‘tricking my autopilot brain’. You see the brain just listens to what I think and say. And believes me. So when I do and think and say horrible things… it believes that. So I have learned to feed it the things I want it to learn and believe. And when I am trying to make a new habit, make a change, or achieve a goal I will quite intentionally set my mindset to make sure my brain is onboard with it… and stays onboard with it.

However, I find that the goals and changes Must be:
  1. Simple- so I can focus on them
  2. Broken down into smaller components- so I do not get overwhelmed by some massive goals or changes.
  3. Give myself time- don’t expect a habit to form right away.

“A positive attitude may not solve every problem but it makes solving any problem a more pleasant experience.”  

– Grant Fairly

A positive attitude, for me, is the catalyst for action. It helps me maintain the actions that get me to the outcome, or change, or goal I want to achieve. Can I achieve the goal without it? Yeah, but it is a real bitch because I am basically fighting my brain the whole way and struggling for the motivation every single day. But when I utilize the tool of a positive attitude it goes a long way. And I say Utilize the Tool because a positive attitude is Not innately within me. It is not a character trait I have. It is something I cultivate.

“This work builds on the growing body of evidence that links emotional and physical health,” said Allegrante. “More importantly, it suggests that doctors have an important role to play in supporting patients’ emotional well-being and focusing on helping their patients to be positive – something that physician training has not always sufficiently emphasized – and provides tools that can help them do so.”

Columbia University

Emotional toll and setbacks

 “Attitude is a way of life. We have a choice every day regarding the attitude we embrace for that day.”

– Puneet Sharma

We all know emotions play a fundamental roll in our physical health. But we also know chronic illness as a Massive emotional toll. And we have to constantly do things to maintain our emotional health. Therefore, the struggle for me has always been maintaining my emotional wellbeing to keep up with a positive attitude. Because … I lag. I get bad pain streaks. And massive fatigue bouts. And vertigo that exhausts me. And POOF goodbye motivation. Without motivation it doesn’t matter what my attitude is, I will not achieve my goal. I will have a setback. I allow for setbacks though. They happen all the time with chronic illness. With symptoms variables and with overall illness. But as long as I am moving More forward and Less backward then I am fine with that.

I have to choose the mindset of that mental attitude though. And Keep choosing it. And when I have a setback I have to not give up altogether – but rather get back to it and again choose that mindset.

This does not come easy for me at all. I am more the ‘glass is empty’ sort of person. And cynical. And I do have depression and that doesn’t help with motivation or thinking good things. But when I choose how to think about something and choose my attitude and choose to visualize a certain way and have certain affirmations to trick my brain to come along for the ride… it helps override my usual tendencies.

My problem with achieving lifestyle changes and goals

My problem is consistency over time. Motivation over time. And fluctuations in functionality that disrupt my progress for long durations in some lifestyle changes I want to make. So while I KNOW my attitude makes a difference in making changes to lifestyle and achieving new habits and goals… I can’t always Maintain this attitude for long term durations. I get mentally weary. Often when I hit long bouts of high pain and everything becomes so much effort to just BE.

So that is a constant struggle, I find. I may know how to trick my brain to get it to help me make the changes I want easier. But I struggle to keep that up. I struggle to keep up motivation. And that is why I have to give myself time to achieve even small changes. And enough time to make those small changes consistent habits before doing any other change. And any significant change Has to be broken up into teeny tiny parts as a result. But… forward progress, even if it is infinitely slow, is progress.

By no means should you feel guilty if you do not have a positive attitude. Like I said a waffle back and forth. And some Years are bad ones in this regard especially when my health has taken a bad turn. And besides we all do whatever works for us. I just mean to say that it helps me to manufacture a positive attitude and use visualization and affirmations to help my brain get onboard with what I want to achieve. What I want is that when I can’t maintain this attitude that I keep on keeping on with the new pattern of change I am trying to make a habit- That is tricky.

See more posts

Productivity and motivation hacks
Chronic illness: 2 limiting beliefs
Cult of positivity

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