Focusing on the Positive

By definition (and experience) chronic pain is not going anywhere soon…it might, there is always hope, and of course science, but in the meantime learning to live with pain is key.

An essential key for, as we know,

“Mental health can be disrupted when living with a chronic illness — even more so when it involves chronic pain. Anxiety, depression, isolation, and feelings of hopelessness and helplessness can increase to dangerous levels — particularly for people who have been suffering with a pain condition for a long period of time.”

~ Barby Ingle, Pain News Network

Positive thinking skills are a powerful tool, and with a little time and practice can reap a significant sense of empowering and strengthening hope and control, when learning to cope with chronic pain….

According to the American Psychological Association , for those living with chronic pain “talking to yourself constructively” or positive thinking is one of the best coping skills:

By focusing on the improvements you are making (i.e., the pain is less today than yesterday or you feel better than you did a week ago) you can make a difference in your perceived comfort level. For example, instead of considering yourself powerless and thinking that you absolutely cannot deal with the pain”

you can learn to focus on the good where and when it can be found. With some practice a shift in outlook can become more readily accessible giving you the empowering sense of choice and control over your health as well as the ability to utilize the body’s natural feel-good systems, including such things as endorphin and serotonin levels, that positivity release.

A lot of promising work is being done that firmly establishes the capabilities and possibilities for positive thinking.

 Positive Psychology is a relatively new field, but a great resource, with all manner of positive thinking activities, is the Greater Good in Action group out of the University of Berkeley, California.

A pragmatic activity they recommend, that you can do right now, is entitled “Three Good Things” :

“By giving you the space to focus on the positive, this practice teaches you to notice, remember, and savor the better things in life. It may prompt you to pay closer attention to positive events down the road and engage in them more fully—both in the moment and later on, when you can reminisce and share these experiences with others. Reflecting on the cause of the event may help attune you to the deeper sources of goodness in your life, fostering a mindset of gratitude.

In our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to get caught up in the things that go wrong and feel like we’re living under our own private rain cloud; at the same time, we tend to adapt to the good things and people in our lives, taking them for granted. As a result, we often overlook everyday beauty and goodness–a kind gesture from a stranger, say, or the warmth of our heater on a chilly morning. In the process, we frequently miss opportunities for happiness and connection.

This practice guards against those tendencies. By remembering and listing three positive things that have happened in your day–and considering what caused them–you tune into the sources of goodness in your life. It’s a habit that can change the emotional tone of your life, replacing feelings of disappointment or entitlement with those of gratitude–which may be why this practice is associated with significant increases in happiness’.


A significant positive psychology resource is the work of Martin Seligsman at the University of Pennsylvania, and their “Authentic Happiness” web-site which is full of resources, research, and helpful questionnaires. Another good resource is the work of Shawn Achor, a highly dynamic and charismatic speaker who has written best-selling books on the topic, easy and up-lifting reads you can put to use immediately. He also has a 21-day course, through Oprah Winfrey’s Life Classes series, that can help bring positive thinking to life (although at a bit of a pricey rate).

Author: ChronicPainDailyReflections

I manage a web-site, Chronic Pain Daily, created for and in support of those living in chronic pain. The site helps with the day-to-day spiritual, mental, emotional and physical needs of those with constant pain, whatever its source.