Realistic optimism fuels the body's immune system and triggers natural painkillers.
Tips for Staying Positive When You Have Rheumatoid Arthritis
Kaslow and Raison offer these tips for staying positive when you have rheumatoid arthritis:
Get adequate sleep. "The sleep-deprived person has more pain," says Raison.
Exercise as much as you can. "There is much research showing that exercise is great for improving mood, decreasing anxiety, treating depression," Raison tells WebMD. "Regular ongoing exercise produces long-term changes in the nervous system that promote well-being." Exercise is also a great treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. It helps relieve pain and prevent disability.
Practice mind-body exercises. Yoga and meditation are excellent for this, says Raison, "but these are best done under guidance of an expert."
Nurture supportive relationships. "Research shows that material possessions and status don't make people happy," says Raison. "It's clear that happiness comes from nurturing relationships that are supportive and that have as little conflict as possible. Our bonds are a very powerful source. They are essential for health and for working out internal conflicts."
Get counseling if you need it. "Or find a truly wise confidante," suggests Raison. "People who have one person they can talk to are known to live longer. It doesn't have to be a health care professional. But if you can talk to someone about your emotional baggage, it can help your physical pain, too."
Put the disease into perspective. "Don't let it run your life," says Kaslow. "When you need to focus on it, focus on it. But find ways to quit focusing on it."
Do things that you enjoy. "It's absolutely important to take inventory of those people and activities that bring pleasure, and build those into your life," says Raison. "If you love foreign movies, make an effort to see a foreign movie once a week. Look for those things that give you relaxation and satisfaction, and nurture them. They are beneficial for developing an optimistic, realistic, hopeful attitude."
Learn to relax. "Relaxation training is a process that involves deep breathing and systematically tensing and releasing different muscle groups," Kaslow explains. "Once you're relaxed, create a very positive mental image. You're laying on the beach, with the sand under you, the ocean air flowing over you. Or place yourself in the mountains, or in a gathering with friends -- anything that is peaceful, calming. Stay in that very comforting place for awhile."
Learn more about the disease. Join a support group. Read information from reliable sources. "Learn as much as you can about what you've got," says Kaslow. "That alone will help you feel more in control, better able to make decisions."
Talk to your doctor. "Good communication with your health care team is important," says Kaslow. "When you have flare-ups, you'll know what to do. It's called collaborative family health care. You and the members of your social support network work with your medical team to help you maintain your positive mental outlook."
SOURCES: Carla Guillory, rheumatoid arthritis patient.
Charles L. Raison, MD, psychiatrist; director, behavioral immunology clinic,
Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta. Nadine Kaslow, PhD, professor of
psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Emory University; chief psychologist, Grady
Health System, Atlanta. WebMD A-Z: "Mind-Body Wellness." Cleveland
Clinic, "Depression Basics." WebMD Symptom Finder: "Physical
Symptoms of Depression." WebMD Guide: "Recognizing the Symptoms of