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
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
Practice mind-body exercises. Yoga and meditation are
excellent for this, says Raison, "but these are best done under guidance of
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
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