How to Have a Positive Mindset While Living with ALS
I have a good friend who also lives with a life-threatening illness; mine is ALS, her’s is cancer. Recently we visited, and I asked how things were going. Smiling broadly, she replied, “Oh, I’m still just one banana peel away from dropping the other shoe! So, hide the bananas!”
We enjoy making each other laugh, and we share the same mindset. We also enjoy poking fun at life’s banana peels… you know, those speed bumps, curve balls or ups-and-downs that flow into and out of everyone’s life.
Ours is an optimistic mindset based on letting go of worry, and not waiting anxiously for the next worst thing to happen.
Worries and anxiety — I had those and more during the dark months that followed my diagnosis of ALS. I felt stuck in a mental holding pattern, circling and circling, finding no safe place to land.
It was only when I mustered up the courage to face my emotions — the feelings of fear, anger, sadness, and loss — that my thoughts finally settled down. I followed up by using several tips offered by experts from the Positive Psychology movement. Positive Psychology is the science of happiness and an essential part of everyone’s well-being. And my well-being depends on finding the balance between feeling happy and having a rational understanding of my future.
Here are a few steps that worked for me:
Learn all you can about your illness: Knowledge helps dispel irrational fears about the future. Know what to expect and what your options are. Having several contingency plans in place and knowing whom to contact will help dodge many of life’s banana peels.
Practice mindfulness and gratitude: Learning to be mindful helps keep your thoughts in the now, preventing you from wallowing in the past or creating “what-if” scenarios. Thoughts of gratitude don’t have to be just an end-of-day practice. Be on the lookout for spontaneous “this is good” moments. Noticing and acknowledging these moments will automatically bring you into the present.
Surround yourself with optimistic people: Caregivers, family, and friends all have an influence on your mood. Spend time with those who share your mindset and who radiate positive energy.
Check in with yourself: Establish the habit of asking yourself these three questions: How do I feel? What do I need? and Who can help me? For example, I feel thirsty, I need a drink. I will let my caregiver know. Or, I feel lonely, I need conversation. I will call my friend. Checking in often throughout the day keeps your thoughts in the present, and prevents ignoring important health signals from your body.
We all know that change is inevitable. However, rather than waste precious time waiting for the other shoe to drop, try a few of my tips, adopt an optimistic mindset, and live life fully. And then, have a good laugh at life’s banana peels.
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