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  • Writer's pictureDonica Baker

Starting a New Year with a Positive Mindset

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

Stress is one of the most common triggers of flares of arthritis. My patients often tell me that the winter season and holidays are some of the worst times of the year for living with arthritis and fatigue. Starting a new year with the exhaustion of the holidays and the expectation of a clean slate can be overwhelming. Making new year’s resolutions can feel daunting while coping with a chronic illness.

I recently read a wonderful book called “The 7 Thoughts to Live Your Life By,” written by I.C. Robledo. I believe that mindfulness concepts are highly applicable to anyone living with arthritis and autoimmune disease. Here are a few tips adapted from Robledo’s book that can be helpful for maintaining a positive mindset in the new year.

Focus on what you can control, not on what you can’t control.

We try to control so much in life, like our schedules and our health. In actuality, there is very little that we have control over in this world. While worrying about something, I often ask myself, “do I actually have control over this?” If I can do my part in helping with the outcome, then I do it. If I don’t have control over what happens, I try my best to release my worries or tell a friend.

Focus on what you have, not what you don’t have.

A diagnosis of arthritis and autoimmune disease carries a lot of grief over the person you used to be. Thinking about what you do have despite all the things you have lost can be helpful. “I never thought I’d be someone who takes so many medications just to live without pain, but at least we do have effective treatments for autoimmune arthritis nowadays as opposed to no treatment options in the past.”

Focus on what you can do, not what you can’t do.

After the initial diagnosis of arthritis, it can feel like you will never return to your normal self again. Often, patients find their “new normal” and still discover ways to participate in the hobbies and activities they love. One patient who was newly diagnosed with arthritis shared that “I can’t do gardening all day like I used to love to do, but I can still garden in short spurts and find new hobbies that I enjoy doing.”

Focus on the positives, not the negatives.

An example of this is “I’m not living completely pain-free, but over time I am having fewer and fewer flares of joint pain as my treatments are kicking in. I always wanted to eat healthier and live a healthier lifestyle, and now my arthritis is compelling me to do that instead of waiting.”

Focus on the present, not the past or future.

A lot of my patients have shared this fear with me: “I’m worried about what my joints will be like in 20 to 30 years, and whether I’ll be functional or not. However, they have also told me, “I am going to try my best to live today the best way I can, even with my arthritis.”

Focus on what you need, not what you want.

An example of this is “what I really want or wish is for my arthritis to go away completely and not have to take medications to feel better, but what I need is to reach remission so I can live an active lifestyle, work as long as I want to, and be there for my family.”

Focus on what you can give, not what you can take or receive.

A lot of my patients have found ways to connect with others living with arthritis and raise awareness about this condition. “I can still give back to my community with arthritis, and it has helped me understand what other people with chronic pain and illness go through. I can use my empathy and new perspectives for a greater good.”


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