When life is good, having a positive mindset comes pretty naturally. But life is not always good. Bad things happen. Illness, disappointment, and challenges can arise at any moment. So who could blame you for indulging in the comfort of why me? When it feels like everything is going wrong in life, the go-to mindset we often shift to is in the negative – plain and simple. Worse of all, it’s highly unlikely to have the superpower to reverse your downs to ups overnight, or sometimes ever, and that can be really discouraging.
So it’s common to have these reactive tendencies when life throws us the proverbial wrench. But all is not lost. There is something within your power. It’s time to shift your focus to what you can control and let go of what you cannot.
The best thing you can do is arm yourself with a positive, growth mindset from the beginning. But, if you’re a little late to the mindfulness party, no worries.
I had a late start myself. Yet I learned that it’s never too late to lift up and throw out the crushing weight of mental or emotional burden.
Harnessing the power of your rogue mind is critical in maintaining a forward moving and positive attitude. Empowering yourself emotionally first is what will afford you the ability to manage your life during painful or uncertain times.
The What’s Wrong With Me Years
One of the most challenging periods of my life occurred as a result of an undiagnosed tumor. It took over two years to uncover that I was suffering from a pheochromocytoma (pheo to keep it short).
A pheo is a rare tumor that usually develops in the cells of one of the two adrenal glands. Mine was on my right. We have an adrenal gland above each of our kidneys. These glands are vital to our well-being and they play a critical role in producing the hormones that we need, particularly during times of stress. The adrenals also regulate metabolism, immune system, blood pressure and other essential functions.
Pheos are challenging to diagnose because the symptoms usually mimic anxiety and high blood pressure. When a pheochromocytoma is suspected, it can be extremely small making it difficult to locate even with the best technology. Hence its nickname: the autopsy tumor.
During the years of suffering, I became my own medical mystery. While I felt like something was systemically wrong with me, a variety of doctors wrote me off as a hypochondriac (because I appeared to be healthy) and anxiety sufferer. Eventually, I took medications for anxiety and high blood pressure.
My life was a proverbial mess. I wasn’t able to focus on work, family or much else. Negative thoughts consumed me. I was equal parts scared, depressed and angry.
Truth is, when you suffer from chronic physical or emotional pain, it transcends itself in to the nucleus of your well-being — your mindset. Once we succumb to a negative mindset, we stop growing and worse, give up hope. It’s like giving yourself permission to say, “My life sucks, I feel like crap all the time, so I’m entitled to act accordingly.”
How to Break the Habit of Excessive Thinking
The best thing I ever did was watch a YouTube video with Eckhart Tolle. Tolle is one of the greatest spiritual thinkers and teachers of our time. His simple yet profound teachings on inner peace and the power of the present moment shifted my life. Of course Eckhart didn’t diagnosis my tumor; I still needed answers. But he did set me on a new and empowered trajectory. One that helped me to take ownership of my thoughts, attitude and resolve.
While this was still an agonizing time, I slowly began to demand more from myself. Proactively and consciously, I opened my mind further through many other positivity and well-being influencers.
I learned that the more I practiced staying in the moment, the less I allowed my suffering to control my mindset. It was difficult enough dealing with the physical effects of an unknown illness, once I gained more control over my emotional well-being, I was able to tap into a lot more strength than I was giving myself credit.
You May Still Feel Like….
So this isn’t a quick fix. But if you’re looking for that place where what you fear no longer controls who you are, then it’s crucial to practice inhabiting the present moment. Not, “life was so much better last year at this time,” and not, “I dread what’s in store for me tomorrow.”
Focus. On. The. Now.
Becoming an expert present moment liver doesn’t happen overnight. (Okay or maybe not at all.) But to benefit from being present, commitment to practice is critical. I do promise that with a heightened level of self awareness, you will become better and better at it…and more positive.
Are you entitled to feel any way you chose? Sure, of course you are. However, the goal is to rest in the knowledge that negative thinking will not move you forward. It doesn’t solve a damn thing, except add more drama to life. Negative thinking robs you of emotional abundance. If you can accept this, then you will empower yourself with the superpowers of positivity and a balanced well-being.
There are many ways to stay present and positive when you feel like you’re being relentlessly tested. It’s not a one-size fits all technique, so keep dipping your feet in to one or more streams until you find things that work best for you!
Consider these widely suggested and manageable ideas and explore.
These are effective ways to help you tap into a positive and empowering mindset when you need it most. But wait, there’s more…next is the overarching message that will change your life…
#MindsetIsEverything is Really a Thing
Chose activities, above or not, that truly resonate with you. Just know that with any positivity seeking strategy, commitment to a proactive, healthy, growth-mindset is everything. So here’s advice to keep in mind as you work hard to maintain an optimistic, positive outlook (because I know it’s not easy):
|Stop carrying the burden alone: Find courage to ask for help. You’d be surprised how many people in your life don’t offer it but want to. They may fear you’ll feel inadequate or insulted. Maybe they just don’t know what you specifically need. Tell them. By reaching out, you allow others the gift of giving support and friendship.
|Know you’re not an expert: So if you need one, get one. No one has all of the answers but there are plenty of people out there with the tools and knowledge to help you cope and navigate through your journey.
|It’s okay to not be okay: Be gentle with yourself. Gift yourself with the compassion you deserve. This peace of mind will help you open a new space for things that will serve you so much better than negativity.
|Be teachable: Again, since we agree we are not experts at everything, make room for those who can help you nurture your strengths and grow in ways you never thought possible. You were born capable.
|Help others: Studies show that volunteering in some form is beneficial in a variety of ways. Making a difference in someone else’s life raises confidence, improves physical and mental health, allows you reflect on what matters — these are to just name a few.
Staying Positive Is A Labor of Love
I was lucky. In my persistence, I eventually found a doctor that connected with my determination. She listened, did some research and kept digging (and testing) on her hunch that I had the pheochromocytoma. Even my doctor’s superior advised her to discontinue testing — “it’s so rare, the odds are 8-in-1-million-slim.
My experience left me with one less adrenal gland, some physical and emotional scars, and a handful of lessons. It may sound cliché, but my story continues now as a forward moving journey of self-awareness. And I’m also armed with some grit and perspective. I value the fact that others know more than me and I want to know more about that. And I’m so much more aware of and humbled by the silent struggles of others and that I may never be privy to them, even possibly by those of whom I am closest.
A Positive Pursuit
The most critical thing you can do is to continually work on and practice self-awareness. And that goes for when things are pretty damn good too. Don’t underestimate the value of mindful self-awareness in your happiest, most joyful moments.
Do your best to recognize when you are drifting into a negative mindset. You’ve allowed that to enter your house, so you control how long it’s welcome to sit on your couch. The power and influence of wallowing in negative thinking must not be underestimated. You have no choice but to turn that power and attention over to self-care, hope and positivity. Do this and you take back your life.
Okay, so a positive mindset may not eliminate feeling like crap all of the time, I get it. But it is the only thing you can control. So once you grab hold of it, don’t let go.
Originally published in part at OwnYourBest.com