Training your mind requires time and effort and at times that may seem like an impossible task – but there are techniques you can incorporate into your daily life that can help you to calm your thoughts and generate a more ‘positive mental attitude’ as a counterbalance to those darker moments.
Keeping an open mind is important. Don’t write things off as ‘mumbo jumbo or hippy’ - positive affirmations, brain training, cognitive reframing/therapy, sleep schools, audio hypnotherapy and spiritual meditation and exercise, such as yoga have become far more mainstream in the last few – and that’s because they have been proven to work.
Positive steps towards a positive mind
First off, all the experts say that you don't always have to be positive. Occasionally allowing yourself time to off-load, vent your anger, frustration, and fears with a good friend is just as important as finding ways to stay positive. You need both.
We have gathered together a few tips and hope this article will help you see the glass as half full - not half empty. We’re not saying you’re going to suddenly turn into the sunniest person on the planet – but there are things you can do and situations to avoid that will make you feel better.
- Surround Yourself with Positive People and Positive Energy
Invite people round who come with their own inbuilt positive mental attitude – because some of that will rub off on you. You're probably already thinking of those friends and family members who bring a smile to your face, lighten your spirits and give you a boost simply by being present.
- Minimize the Time You Spend with Negative People and Eliminate Toxic Relationships
Conversely, we all know people who have nothing good to say about anyone or any situation – the perpetual moaners. Right now, you don’t need them in your life, and if you can’t get away completely, try to limit your time spent in their presence. If necessary, ask one of your positive people to act as your gatekeeper – ask them to say 'no' on your behalf.
- Stop saying, “I can’t.”
If you hear it too often, you’ll convince yourself it’s true
Instead, use terms like 'I'll try my hardest' or 'I'll do my best' – and see each milestone as a personal success. You got through it, you’re stronger than you think, you can do this.
- Train your mind to look at a situation in a different way (Cognitive reframing)
This is shifting your perspective about the way you see things – although the situation doesn't change, your interpretation of it does. For instance, you may be partway through your chemo treatment – but rather than thinking about how many more sessions you have to go, turn it around 'I've made it through four sessions and I only have four left".
- Visualize positive situations and outcomes
Stop your mind wondering towards darker thoughts. Instead push them away by creating images in your mind that can help you relax, feel less anxious, sleep better, and reduce pain. For example, you may want to think of a place or activity that made you happy in the past and imagine yourself there again. Alternatively, visualize happy outcomes in your life – the day you finish chemo, the holiday you've promised yourself once it's all over, the moment the doctor gives you the all-clear. Visiting a therapist is a good way to get you started with this technique, they will guide you through scenarios, processes and the types of images to use or you can practice visualization at home using a music file, CD or app.
- Learn how to use a mantra meditation for stress relief (positive affirmations)
Self-affirmations can help when an illness threatens our very integrity. You may joke about people "chanting” positive mantra’s – but when the storm clouds gather and negativity starts to overwhelm, repeated positive statements can help to reprogram your subconscious. For example, the simplest of positive statements repeated every morning ‘It’s going to be a good day’ or ‘I feel good today’ and try, ‘I am strong, I can do this’ just before another chemo session.
- Join a yoga class
Yoga is proven to be positive for your mind, body and spirit. It increases strength and flexibility, it lowers your blood pressure, reduces anxiety and because your mind is calmer, it helps you sleep. It's not all about contorting yourself into weird and wonderful shapes, depending on which style you choose, breathing and meditation are key components. So do your research and find a class that suits you and your level. To find out more check out our blog The Benefits of Yoga for Cancer Patients
- Nurture yourself by doing things you enjoy and make you happy
Take a moment to step back from the world of cancer and think about things you enjoy doing or things you would like to do but never got around to. For some that might be learning a new language, for others playing or learning the piano, painting a picture, or taking up astronomy. Find things that interest you, will focus your mind, take you away from cancer and nurture your soul
- Don’t forget your sensual side – nurture it
Don’t lose your sensual self to cancer – you are still you, not the disease. This doesn't necessarily have anything to do with sex, it’s about nurturing you - your sensual being. Take a bath with scented candles and evocative music, slip into a beautiful silk nightgown that feels cool and slinky against your skin, buy lingerie because it looks beautiful and not because it does the job. Feel sexy, treat yourself … you deserve it.
- Find some silver linings
Even in the worst of circumstances, there are usually a few silver linings. New friends, you would never have met had it not been for the cancer, a rekindled closeness to existing friends and family, a greater sense of compassion for others, a different lifestyle, maybe a new job. Or maybe you’re experiencing joy in the smaller things in life; finding the time to read a good book, watching a film or box set or simply pottering around in the garden.
- Give back to others
There is no better way to make yourself feel better than doing something for others. You may not feel up to doing a charity hike up Kilimanjaro– but there are things you will be able to do. If you're popping to the shops, ask your elderly neighbor if there's anything you can get for them, knit bonnets for your hospital's premature baby unit, make something – a card, cookies and give to friends or family. Whatever you do, don't push yourself too hard – do whatever you feel is within your limits.
- Join a support group
A good way to stay positive is by finding a support group with people who understand what you are going through. Ask your medical team about groups near you – but also look online. The Chemotherapy Support Group on Facebook members from across the globe – most are fighting cancer right now, Ask questions, offer advice and reach out for help in your darkest moments. Even if it's three in the morning – there will be someone online.
These are all things you can do for yourself – but it's important if you feel you can't cope on your own, go and see your medical team or doctor for help. They may suggest other techniques, arrange for you to see a therapist or prescribe medication. Don't struggle on your own – make sure you ask for the help you need.
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