Pat Killingsworth Pat Killingsworth

Affirmation is the key to a positive attitude

Yesterday I promised to share some tips on ways to stay positive in the face of adversity.

This is certainly something that I–along with many other multiple myeloma survivors–face nearly everyday.

Let me start by admitting that I’m not an “over -the-top, read self help books and always think positive” kind of guy.

I don’t meditate–at least not officially–and I don’t watch or listen to inspirational tapes or DVDs.

Even though I have worked in a number of different sales jobs, I have always hated the rah-rah approach to sales.  And don’t get me started about how much I hate those “you can do it!” sales tapes–you know–the ones that expect you to talk to yourself in the mirror every morning.

But people use these tapes because they work.  The principle is this:  If you repeat something out-loud often enough, sooner or later you start to believe it.

Now I’m not suggesting all of us go out and buy some “How to become a top sales producer” sales tapes.

But affirmation–hearing yourself say something positive out-loud–can help a person stay positive.

For me, the key to a positive attitude has always been taking the good with the bad–and then not taking the good things for granted.

I try to appreciate the good things and then verbalize them–either to myself or my wife, Pattie, when I notice something went right.  That way I’m not always complaining.

For example, we will be walking the dog together–in the dark after she gets home from work–and I might say “Hey!  My stomach feels much better tonight!” Or “I always feel better when I can get-out and walk!”

Sometimes I will get specific and say things like “My hip feels pretty good today.”  Or “I’ve been stretching more and I think it is helping my back.”

Get the idea?  It’s easy to complain about the aches, pains and side-effects caused by our cancer and/or the meds we take to try and keep it at bay.

That’s OK.  Just don’t forget to stop and appreciate the good moments, too.

And whatever else you do, please, please don’t forget to express your appreciation to your caregiver, friends and family members who help you and put-up with the constant wining–whether it’s justified or not.

One of the most difficult things is trying to stay positive in a negative environment.  Sometimes fixing this is as easy as surrounding yourself with more positive people.  Cutting ties and avoiding those with toxic attitudes can be a truly liberating experience!

One test I use is this:  If the person that you are with is more down and negative than you are–and you’re the one with cancer–then maybe it’s time to part ways!

By staying positive, smiling and caring about others, you may find that more positive people will want to spend time with you.

I understand how difficult this can be if you don’t feel good.  But let me give you a specific example about how well this can work.

As some of you may already know, Pattie works in a dialysis clinic.  During a recent staff meeting, employees of the clinic openly complained about how some patients weren’t following the clinic rules and guidelines.

When someone mentioned how one of the patients “broke that rule all of the time,” two staff members chimed-in “That’s alright, we like her…”

Really?  You bet!  The discussion had to do with whether clinic staff should–or could–help patients out to their vehicles.

But while it clearly wasn’t a dialysis tech’s job to do this–it is even discouraged in company policy–the rules were not being followed fairly.

Patients that were liked by staff members were often helped to their vehicles, while more surly patrons were forced to wait for outside help.

So instead of complaining about how unfair this is, why not try this:

If you can’t beat them, join them!

Want better care?  Want medical staffers to pay more attention to you?  Work hard to turn yourself info one of the patients everyone likes!

Remember the old saying “You catch more bees with honey.”  It’s true!  Don’t be afraid to thank the receptionist and the tech who draws your blood for their help.

Want the best care?  Go out of your way to try and be a good patient.  

And imagine the affect this change can have on your life.  If you are like me, we spend a great deal of time waiting for medical services.  Heck, it’s like having a part time job!

Turn that part of your life into a more positive experience, and it will spill-over into the rest of your life.

Consider the clinicians at your local cancer center to be part of your family.  Take an interest in them.  Share something fun that happened to you that day.  Ask about their family.  Empathize about how difficult it is to do their job, especially now when workers are expected to do more and more for fewer benefits and less pay.

You will be amazed how the quality and level of your care will rise.  Need a specific appointment time?  No problem!  Is it icy outside and you need help getting into your friend’s vehicle?  Establish this type of appreciative, caring relationship, and I bet you can get help with that, too.

I actually look forward to clinic days.  I get to greet and catch-up with a number of different friends–of all different ages, races and backgrounds.

Sure, I like some more than others.  But I’ll never let them know that–especially the person drawing my blood or starting my IV.

That’s Pat’s extra special clinic rule #1:  Be especially nice to someone who is going to stick you with a needle!

Staying positive may not cure your multiple myeloma, but I can definitely improve your quality of life.

So don’t wait!  Start right now.  Make a list of all of the good things that you have experienced today:  Noticing a colorful sunrise.  Appreciating an unseasonably warm day.  Watching song birds feed joyfully at the bird feeder.  What about paying attention to things that aren’t there.  Maybe a chronic ache or pain feels a bit better right now.  Or you aren’t as fatigued as you were yesterday…

Concentrate on the positive things.  Pay attention to what went right and not always what is going wrong.

COME ON!  YOU CAN DO THIS!

Now you need to practice.  Practice being a good patient.  Go out of your way to thank the receptionist at the doctor’s office or clinic–or the person bringing you your lunch in your hospital room.  Everyone complains about hospital food.  But you aren’t going to do that today!  Instead, focus on the one or two things you like.  They can’t screw-up an apple or the oatmeal, right?

Get the idea?

AGAIN…  YOU CAN DO THIS!

And like everything else in life, the important thing is to practice.  Practice, practice, practice.  Practice being nice.  Practice noticing and appreciating the little things that make life worth living.

Sometimes it helps to have a catch phrase; a mantra you repeat to yourself over and over.

I have an idea…  You can borrow mine.  Repeat after me:

Feel good and keep smiling!  Pat