I’m not sure if I've always been a glass-half-full kind of person. One thing's for certain, over the past 27 years I’ve learned to reprogram my perspective. It was a matter of survival. I determined to avoid wallowing in despair and experience joy in my life again, despite the circumstances.
I'd like to share a few tricks and tips for maintaining a positive attitude that I've picked up along the way.
1) Every coin has a flip side: In other words, there are offsetting blessings in the midst of every trial. It's important to take the time to identify those blessings. It isn’t easy. Trials are just that—trying—to our emotional, physical, and mental wellbeing. Some trials feel devastating, life threatening or inescapable. But every prism has a bright side (see blog post from 6/3/2019). I’ve found I identify the bright side in each situation by using two little words—AT LEAST.
Here are a few examples from a challenging day my husband and I experienced recently. Guy has been dealing with some unresolvable health challenges going on three weeks now. We had an all-day appointment scheduled to fit my van for a driver’s side lockdown system with my new wheelchair (especially needed now, so Guy doesn’t have to drive). We woke up to an unusual amount of snow in our area. When we reached the van service dealer (45 minutes away) they realized they’d ordered the wrong parts. In the meantime, Guy’s health was declining (it’s been very up and down lately). The day was full of "at least" moments.
At least the roads had been cleared of snow from the previous eight-inch dump three days earlier and we safely made our way through the icy side streets to the main highway.
At least the dealer had parts available to install a new system (more costly than retrofitting our current system, but probably needed).
At least Guy’s doctor was only a two-minute Uber ride away AND at least the doctor had an opening for a last-minute appointment.
On challenging days like that, those two little words save my sanity and help me see God’s hand in my life.
2) Try not to focus on the negative: It's easy to enumerate all of the hardships we’re facing during a particularly trying time. Instead of focusing on the problems, try to focus on the moments between the adversity. The blessings and lessons that arise from the adversity.
My father was very unexpectedly diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer a few years ago. The doctors gave him two weeks to three months to live. He stayed with us for six months. During that time our family cherished every extra moment we had with him. We drew closer as a family and my dad showed us how to come to the end of this life with dignity and grace. He instilled in us the importance of living life on our own terms and looking forward to the life we will someday enjoy together with our Heavenly family. I miss my dad and hated to see him suffering, but I’m grateful for those last six months we spent with him and all of the years he taught us to rely on our Father in Heaven for comfort and strength.
3) Look beyond ourselves: Remember, everyone is facing trials in some form or another. Service work or simply checking in with friends and family and listening to their needs is a great tool for seeing past our own problems. I often feel blessed in my circumstances when I see others facing challenges that seem beyond anything I’ve experienced. It’s a matter of keeping the right perspective.
Funny story – years ago, after I was newly diagnosed with TM, I befriended a neighbor who was the unfortunate recipient of terminal cancer. She frequently helped me with my wheelchair mishaps (this was pre-Guy) and I frequently visited her when she was bedridden. In the course of our discussions, I told her that her strength in dealing with her cancer inspired me and kept me going. She revealed to me that she felt the same way about how I was dealing with my TM and loss of mobility.
It goes to show that we never know how our attitudes can lift someone’s spirit or how heavy other people’s troubles might be.
4) Live in the moment: It’s really easy to “project”. And our minds often wander to the worst possible scenario. No one knows the future. Take each moment (sometimes each minute) as it unfolds before you. That’s the reality of your situation. Manage that moment then move on to the next, one step at a time. When you find your mind telling stories about your future again reel it back in to the reality in front of you.
I remember when the doctor told me he didn’t know if my condition would get worse or not, my mind projected all kinds of pictures of a bedridden life. During one of my prayers, I was reminded that just because it could happen didn’t mean it would happen. I had to focus on my life as it played out not drag myself down with maybes and what ifs.
5) Stay engaged in things that interest you: Idle time allows for idle thoughts. Hobbies, children, pets, anything you enjoy spending time with. Don’t shutdown. Take time for yourself. Keep your mind channeled into activities that provide fulfillment and a sense of productivity. Take up a new hobby if necessary. Stewing in our troubles and bemoaning losses only weigh us down.
One of my favorite activities has become horseback riding. Riding horses was never on my “bucket list” pre-TM. After the loss of my mobility, it wasn’t long before I started missing the outdoor activities I had previously enjoyed (hiking, biking, swimming, water-skiing). Through a little research I discovered equine therapy and, to my surprise, a therapeutic riding facility (see blog post from 9/17/2021) just 20 minutes from my house. It was only a matter of time before I started living and breathing horses.
The time I spend with horses supersedes every concern or sense of hopelessness I've ever had about losing my ability to join in on other activities.
6) ALWAYS look up: Last but not least, always look to our Heavenly Father for direction, strength, and comfort. Sometimes we forget to look up, especially when we're in the depths of despair. Placing our troubles in His hands allows us to let go. We can’t possibly know what the future holds for us, but He does. Never forget the sacrifice our Savior made on our behalf. He not only knows our hearts and minds, but He has experienced our pain. His arms are always around us even when we're not looking in His direction.
These are just a few of the tricks I use when the world feels like it’s falling around my ears. Do I cry? Do I worry? Of course I do. I’m human with human emotions. Emotions/feelings are a gift given to us for our enjoyment and our protection. That doesn’t mean we should dwell on them or let them rule our decisions. They are there to assist with our decision-making process.
If you have any well-worn tips for seeing life with a glass-half-full perspective, we would love to hear from you.
This post is not meant to minimize the impact of depression, anxiety, or chronic pain on an individual. These are real and excruciating conditions. If you are suffering from any of these conditions, please seek help from medical professionals.