There’s power in the P word!

Posted on June 12, 2013 ยท Posted in Health

A diagnosis, a heartbreak, a job termination… Do you turn your challenges into opportunities, or allow them to create barriers in your life? One thing I know for sure is that difficult situations will occur, but here is a juicy P word that you won’t want to forget: Perception. Affirmative perception will give you wings even in the worse circumstances. Perception is your self-created view of your daily experiences. The right perception will move you forward while a negative one will keep you stuck. Perception is so powerful that some research related to “perception of illness” suggests that how a person views his or her illness may play a bigger role in determining health outcome than the actual severity of the disease does.

I can attest to this from personal experience. As someone living with an autoimmune disorder, I have decided to perceive my illness as a gift. But my messages to myself were certainly not always positive and constructive. For many years, I dreaded everything related to my condition: the doctor visits, the ongoing blood work, the limitations it placed on my life, the way it changed my physical appearance, and of course my symptoms. I would say to myself: “I have Lupus and my immune system is chaotic and confused,” or “This disease is robbing me of my life.” The majority of my illness perceptions were negative, angry, and victimizing. How did I ever expect to heal?

Then one day I realized that my condition was part of me and that whatever negative messages I was creating about it would inevitably continue to affect my mind, body and spirit. How could I detest something that was such a deep part of me? And from that realization, conscious thoughts and affirmative perception were born. I began to change my thoughts, and to change my story from one of victimization to empowerment. Instead of describing my immune system as chaotic and confused, I chose positively to affirm: “I have Lupus and my immune system becomes overactive in an attempt to protect me, because it adores me that much. It is overprotective, so I must feel safe.” I chose a different perception. Now don’t get me wrong – this was not an overnight process! Like any good ole’ habit and skill it took practice, patience, and time.

Here are 5 practices to support you in changing your perceptions.

1. Acknowledge your pain. Do some self-inquiry about what it’s costing you to live in your current perceptions. Read up on the current research regarding illness perception so that you can begin to gain greater perspective on how your current thinking processes may be affecting you negatively. Ask yourself the following questions: How will my life change if the quality of my thoughts change? How will it remain the same? What are the pros and cons of retaining my current negative perceptions? How will my behaviors change when my thoughts change?

2. Write it down – Journal. This makes your ideas more clear and focuses you on the end result. Putting your thoughts down on paper is a powerful exercise. For a more specific exercise, draw two columns; in the first column write down your current perception and in the second a transformed, more productive one.

3. Be Imperfect. Be Flexible. Be Kind. Become the observer of your thoughts. When you catch yourself in negative self-talk, or viewing a situation in a way that does not serve your internal peace purpose, ask yourself questions instead of judging. Ask yourself, Is this real? What is my proof that this is actually true? The goal is always to practice self love.

4. Seek accountability. Find someone who will go along with you and keep you motivated if you feel like quitting. Run your thoughts by that person on a regular basis. Find someone who will not only support you lovingly, but will tell you the truth and then hold you accountable. In the process of changing behaviors and habits, accountability is perhaps one of the most important needs, its absence is one of the main reasons why some people don’t sustain change.

5. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Go through these steps over and over until you have mastered the skill.

Lorena P. Lues