10 Steps to Hopeful Living
1. Connect with others
We crave feeling loved, supported and cared for. Your friends gets all your zany joke. Your co-worker and classmates are there to give you hard won congratulations when you've made it over another hurdle. Your spouse or significant other is there to give you a hug and gentle kisses. Why not seek out a new social group at your library, at your house of worship, on Meetup.com, or at a local coffee shop? You'll meet more people who like similar things and widen your circle of support, friends and positive energy.
2. Stay positive
Being more optimistic doesn't mean you ignore the less than rosy sides of life. It just means that, by focusing on the positive as much as possible, it gets easier with practice and you'll feel better about each day as it comes. Want to feel like, no matter the challenge, you can handle anything? Start with the small things and shift those negative nagging thoughts into positive power. Envision your goals and dreams coming true. Write about them! Draw them, do a vision board that focus your positive path forward.
3. Get physically active
It doesn't matter if you may not be able to jog, do hand wiggles or marathon push ups like you were in boot camp. Millions of people have found that any kind of physical activity decreases stress, anger and tension. It reduces anxiety and depression, and offers a greater sense of well-being.
Do you like birds? Why not go with someone to an accessible nature trail, the park on in yours or your neighbors backyard and look for birds? Roll or walk around enjoying the sunshine, soaking in some Vitamin D and getting some fresh air. Even if you're on bed rest, you can use hand weights, do gentle leg raises and sit ups, but don't forget to ask your doctor the best activities for your body and abilities. Anyone can be a little more active.
4. Help others
When you have a disability, sometimes you feel like your the object of charity. And sometimes you do need an extra boost from the community, but how about being a boost to others as well? Volunteer at a blood drive, sit at a fundraising phone line and take donations for a worthy cause, work with a food drive at your school, house of worship or teach kids and adults how to read. There are literacy centers all across the nation that are also connected to the local library. You can learn how to teach someone to read better. Just as you've been taught to be a better you by your teachers, therapists and mentors, you can share it forward. What an inspiration and mind opener it is to realize that people with disabilities are taking the time to be a source of help to others! You'll be helping others, doing good and breaking stereotypes all at once.
5. Get enough sleep
Sleep may seem like a huge waste of time, but in our busy lives, we all need rest to recharge for the days to come, new activities and new responsibilities. Sleep also helps the body heal if you're recovering after surgery or hard rehabilitation. Yes, you could be answering friends' and work e-mail, doing household chores, paying the bills and repairing things around the house. But you're more likely to succeed at your tasks—and enjoy life in general—if you get enough sleep. When you're well-rested and alert, your reflexes are sharper, so your less accident prone, more independent and just more 'with it' and present in your day.
6. Create an atmosphere of peace, happiness and positivity
Did you know that laughing cuts through pain? Get those happy juices flowing! Joy and laughter may even help your heart and lungs work better. Your muscles relax and anxiety lessens. Leisure activities you love, whether done the typical way or adapted to your challenges, offer a distraction from life's problems and lots of other bonuses. And tell those negative people in your life that no more negativity allowed! Focus on the craziness in bad situations. Laugh once the seriousness has washed past you. Finding what's a bit wacky in a challenging situation gives you much needed release.
7. Eat well
You've got to eat well to function well. You're body's like a sacred machine and you've got to stay in the best shape as possible to be around for all the awesome things life has to offer and that you have to offer life! In order for your tank to keep running smoothly, what you put into it matters. If you eat junk, you'll get junk right back. Many of us overeat or eat unhealthy food to cope with stress. Variety is the spice of life and no eating plan can last long without variety and good taste. Healthy does not have to tasty like yuck. And don't skip meals either. Consistent, small meals, well-seasoned with spice rubs and little dabs of light sauces (low in salt, sugar and fat!) throughout the day will promote better energy and mood.
8. Take care of your spirit
For lots of people, with and without disabilities, being spiritual means observing sacred rituals, studying sacred words and attending religious services. For others, it's not at all about traditional structures or notions of God. What stirs your soul? Write journals and letters to God or your higher power. Light some incense and create some sacred space in a corner of your home or a set time each day. Take time to pray and meditate through the day. Often, after you've awakened and had a good breakfast, this is a good time to wipe the day's slate clean and ask for guidance, envision a good day, ask for protection, etc.
9. Deal better with hard times
If you're dealing with a stressful situation, particularly around your healthy or abilities, don't stew in self-pity or waste energy pointing blame at someone else. That just makes you feel less powerful. Take control! In any way you can, make your own decisions abouth things, surround yourself in a team of people who are committed to your best self, not just keeping you down. How you think about a problem affects how upset you are and the tackling of it. Shift your mind away from negative thoughts or worrying excessively. Ask yourself how realistic worrying is for you. Our imaginations can swerve us into chaos that may never develop. Set aside some "worry" time each day. Whenever a negative thought intrudes, tell yourself to wait until that time. You may feel better by then or have a solution. Focus on the good things in life. Appreciating the good things arm you to deal with the not-so-great moments. Tough times are opportunities to learn, blossom or maximize success your situation. Maybe you've seen how supportive your friends can really be or learned tough you really are. Use those tools!
10. Get professional help if you need it
If your problems are stopping you from functioning well or feeling good about yourself or life, professional help can make a big difference. Professional help doesn't make you weak or less than healthy. It takes quite a bit of strength to realize you may not be able to handle it all alone. And it's OK! If you're having trouble, know that you are not alone and that there are support groups out there, professional counselors and others ready to help. You are your own best advocate, so advocate with your inner demons to get the help you need. Professionals are good at helping you brainstorm, beat stress, think more rationally without losing who you are, come up with healthy action plans, make suggestions and steer you in healthier directions toward habits and resources to boost your life. Reach out.
You really can jump over life's hurdles. Maybe you'll begin with baby steps, or with one of these tips at a time, but the important thing to do is to begin where you are. Just start. Rewrite the conclusion of life made for you.
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This content was written by Monica J. Foster. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Christina Dietrich for details.