How To Reprogram Your Mind (for Positive Thinking)
How to Keep a Positive Outlook With RA: Bill’s Story
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The challenge of staying positive isn’t foreign to Bill Riter, now 74, who faced a steep rheumatoid arthritis (RA) learning curve when he was finally diagnosed in 2002. Until then, he had never heard of a rheumatologist and had never considered the possibility that he might have RA.
Prior to his RA diagnosis, Riter was told he had “some sort of arthritis,” which at the time resulted in the first of three hip replacement surgeries. Riter adopted a grin-and-bear it attitude. But just five years after the right hip replacement, he began to feel pain throughout his body. At first, he thought it was physical pain from his long commute to work and days spent walking a warehouse floor.
“I had a lot of neck, back, and foot pain,” Riter recalls. X-rays showed signs of arthritis deterioration in his neck. Frustrated with what was happening, he turned to the Arthritis Foundation for information. They directed him to a rheumatologist, who gave him a concrete diagnosis of RA and helped him find effective RA treatment and develop a positive outlook.
“I continued to work past 65 — I worked every day, six days a week, and continued to consult for a few years after retirement,” Riter says. In 2013, he had to have his artificial hip replaced, followed in 2015 by a replacement of his left hip. “You can’t feel sorry for yourself," he says. "That is the big thing."
Still, Riter admits that flares can cause emotional distress. “You get concerned and worried — I did," he says. "Once you figure it out, it’s easier." Learning about RA and how his body responded to the disease has helped Riter stay positive, despite flares.
Cultivating a positive outlook may also help keep rheumatoid arthritis pain at bay, according to a Pennsylvania State University study published in the February 2019 issue of theAnnals of Behavioral Medicine, in which researchers tracked mood and pain in 31 people with rheumatoid arthritis.
“I just keep moving, keep positive, and try to help some people who don’t have it as good as I do,” Riter says.
Here, Riter shares his tried-and-true approaches to help you stay positive and upbeat, despite RA:
- Try to laugh.Riter says his sense of humor helps him through the tough times. Call that funny friend or watch a funny movie or favorite sitcom.
- Open up to your doctor.“It’s hard to get people to talk sometimes,” says rheumatologist James K. Smith, Jr., MD, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. However, your physician can help you find ways to care for yourself. Dr. Smith advises preparing in advance to make the best use of your time with your doctor. For example, make a list of questions or topics you want to discuss and bring the list to your appointment.
- Treat depression.As many as 40 percent of people with RA experience significant symptoms of depression, according to the Arthritis Foundation. And it’s not just a matter of feeling blue. Depression can contribute to additional problems with physical function, increased disease activity, and it can have a negative impact on overall health. If you’re experiencing depression, talk to your doctor or therapist about the different treatment options that are available.
- Get involved.Riter spends two days a week at the Cleveland office of the Arthritis Foundation, near his home. There he fields phone calls from people with arthritis looking for information and support. He also participates in community education events and advocates with state legislators for policy changes concerning arthritis.
- Take care of your whole self.Riter, a fisherman who loves the outdoors, stresses the importance of getting enough rest, staying physically active, and eating healthfully. Living well with RA requires taking care of every aspect of your health and well-being, says Smith.
- Invest in positive relationships.“I have a supportive wife — she understands what’s going on when I’m not feeling well,” Riter says. Joining a support group, in person or online, can broaden your support network. People with chronic conditions such as arthritis tend to have a more optimistic outlook if they feel socially connected, according to research published in 2014 inPsychology & Health.
- Do what you love.Listen to music, paint, cook, hang out with friends — whatever brings you pleasure, outside of work or life with RA, Smith advises.
- Explore cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).“None of these therapies can take away pain, but the idea is to help people manage their pain in a much better way than they currently are,” says psychologist Laurence Bradley, PhD, a professor of medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, whose research focuses on the psychosocial factors related to pain. He says that eight to 12 sessions with a therapist specializing in CBT for pain can help you develop better strategies for coping, and, as a result, improve your mood and level of optimism.
Video: 7 Ways to Keep a Positive Mindset (No Matter what Problems You Have) - #7Ways
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