Saturday, 21 February 2009

Banish negative thoughts associated with small illness and boost your well being

How to persuade yourself that having a cold or stomach bug is an opportunity to feel good.

I was struck with a cold yesterday. A brutal man sized cold. Head spinning, lethargy inducing, gut-wrenching man cold. The sort I would call a flu except certain tough and perceptive women remind me that the flu is usually much more debilitating.

I admitted to walking the dog and sweeping the yard clear of snow in the morning. Just those two activities tired me out and I regard myself as a fit and healthy individual. Anyway, the point of this post is that I began telling myself I was ill and shuffling around like a 112 year old. Not a good choice of action when you want to recover quickly and enjoy the weekend. I realised that we can lose a little flexibility in our beliefs about ourselves and inadvertently promote feelings or environments that are not to our benefit. Unless of course you do want to chill out in bed, snoozing and watching DVDs on a laptop. Anyway, I didn't feel like I was progressing to better health. I was allowing other things to consume my attention and they were restful but not recuperative.

When you're ill you know it because your brain and body tells you so by producing sensations not normally associated with feeling fit and healthy. I see no sensible reason to compound it by repeatedly telling yourself you're sick and exaggerating a problem instead of positively creating a new scenario to help yourself recover. Unless you want to convince the boss you should have the day off work.

It's your health and it's your choice

The words ill and sick lose their usefulness when they are no longer required for their descriptive purposes. When it is obvious you are 'ill' or 'unwell', use the word 'unwell'. It has a more positive connotation than 'sick' or 'ill'. It suggests a prior time when you were 'well' and therefore the possibility of being 'well' again. It's a good place to start your recovery, as it's something you can use with conventional medicine that only has positive side-effects.

I had to be vigilant whenever someone asked me "how are you?" "are you still feeling ill?" "Ooh you look rough!" (as opposed to "you look like a nice bit of rough"). Otherwise I found myself descending into the ill-feelings their questions were provoking in me. In contrast, when someone asked "are you getting better?" or "how much better are you feeling?" I found the feelings I had were less 'ill'. This made me curious and I explored how I could help myself recover or at least feel much better right now. I found the following helped enormously.

You can do this now
  • When I noticed that I was picturing myself being 'ill' I would make that picture smaller. Then drain all colour from it and whiten it completely. The last thing I would do is move it far, far away into the distance until it automatically disappears.
  • When I heard myself repeating in a sickly voice: " I feel rough" "This is bad" I would make the voices ridiculous so it was difficult to take them seriously. Then I would reduce the volume until they were barely audible then move them far, far away into the distance until they disappear. You may prefer to reduce the volume until the sound disappears. Remember to use whatever feels best for you.
When you've happily removed the unnecessary negative stuff you can begin to add more positivity to your experience of being unwell or ill. It's very achievable too.
  • Remember a time when you were healthy and happy. Clearly see yourself moving around doing the things you do when you are healthy. Exaggerate the activity. See yourself with amazing, limitless energy.
  • Find some words or phrases that represent health and well being to you. For example, " I feel great" "I'm fantastic and wonderful". In an energetic, powerful voice say them to yourself. Make it a surround sound experience if the effect is better.
I recommend you experiment with the two suggestions and find what works best. Tell yourself to remember and practice this the next time you are 'ill' or 'unwell'.

As a final point I will add that relaxation is often a cool place from which to think well and feel better. Click on Relaxation to explore clear step-by-step suggestions for you to deeply relax.

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