If you have PCOS or any other chronic disease or serious health condition, you have doubtless heard a litany of well-meaning suggestions from friends, family, and nosy strangers about the importance of positive thinking:
“Remember to keep a positive mindset.”
“Just think positively.”
“Focus on the positive, not the negative.”
“Trust the Universe!”
And maybe, like me, you get really tired of hearing it! Sure, the idea of thinking positively is great, but does it really work? And is it even possible to change your outlook?
In Barbara Ehrenreich’s bestselling book Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking is Undermining America, she lays out some potential pitfalls and downsides to our cultural obsession with positivity, such as a refusal to consider negative outcomes, denial, self-blame, and counterproductive magical thinking. Applied to a condition like PCOS, this could look like a tendency to ignore the disease’s real ramifications on one’s health, a refusal to make the necessary lifestyle adjustments, shaming and blaming one’s self for struggling to cope, or throwing time, money, and hope at snake oil “cures” that are unsupported by science.
On the other hand, we know from research that when it comes to chronic diseases that are controllable with rigorous self-care, like PCOS, optimism is a crucial component to successful adaptation. In particular, a positive and optimistic sense of one’s ability to cope is crucial. There is also a large volume of research documenting the beneficial effects of a positive state of mind on a person’s happiness. But where’s the line between helpful and unrealistic positivity? Where should you start? Does this mean you have to put flowers in your hair and talk only about peace and universal love?! What if we have a bad day and just want to mope?!
Fear not! Here is a list of easy positive thinking strategies that research, as well as my clinical experience, proves are helpful in cultivating happiness and positive coping:
de Ridder, D., Geenen, R., Kuijer, R., & van Middendorp, H. (2008). Psychological adjustment to chronic disease. Lancet (London, England), 372(9634), 246–55. http://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(08)61078-8
Fournier, M., Ridder, D., & Bensing, J. (2002). Optimism and adaptation to chronic disease: The role of optimism in relation to self-care options of type 1 diabetes mellitus, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. British Journal of Health Psychology, 7(4), 409–432. http://doi.org/10.1348/135910702320645390
Lyubomirsky, S. (2001). Why Are Some People Happier Than Others? American Psychologist, 56(3), 239–249. http://doi.org/1O.1O37//0OO3-O66X.56.3.239
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