Illnesses, injuries, setbacks – they’re simple facts of life. We may have a plan for how we think our lives should go and then something happens to take us in a different direction. How do we deal with that? We have the choice to fall into a “woe is me” cycle and lament the unfairness of whatever happened, or we can choose to view it as an opportunity, our eyes opened to a different world of possibilities we may not have seen before.
I have been reflecting on this a lot lately and thought I’d share a few lessons I’ve learned to help keep things in perspective and stay positive.
1. Look for that silver lining
This has been a big one for me. Two years ago, I was on one path and it didn’t include daily stretching or meditation. If it hadn’t been for my chronic pain and injury issues, I wouldn’t have started my healing journey. I wouldn’t have developed a passion for mindfulness and holistic health, and I most definitely would not be sitting here writing this blog. If I hadn’t had the hip surgery at 16 that derailed my competitive tennis career, I probably wouldn’t have met the people I did in college including my most amazing friend and current roommate. We met in a women’s weight training class that I would have been exempt from had I been on the tennis team.
2. Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude
Neuroscience reveals that gratitude literally rewires our brains so integrating gratitude into our daily lives is a very valuable coping mechanism. Granted this can be easier said than done if you are in a state of severe pain, whether physical or emotional, but expressing gratitude doesn’t have to be big. Try an exercise or informal meditation when waking or before going to bed of writing down three things you are grateful for right now. It could be as simple as gratitude for a comfy bed, a cup of tea, or a hot shower. Studies also show there’s power in writing something down vs. just thinking about it in our heads – so write on!
3. It’s ok to not be ok
Contrary to what you may have heard, it’s ok not to be ok. We don’t have to be “positive” all the time. The so-called “negative” emotions of sadness, anger and fear are a fact of life and without them the “positive” emotions of joy, peace and courage could not exist. The trick is to embrace and feel all emotions without letting them overwhelm you completely or pushing them aside. How? By simply showing yourself some self-compassion and kindness just like you would a dear friend. What do you need right now to soothe yourself in a healthy way? Maybe it’s a hot bubble bath or an exquisite piece of dark chocolate or curling up with a good book or an entertaining show. Whatever form it takes, be good to yourself!