Don’t Believe Everything That You Think
“Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions; they become habit. Watch your habits; they become character. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny.” ― Unknown
Thoughts are powerful and can shape our lives. For example, if we are feeling hopeless, we might think something like “I have lupus. I can never enjoy my life because the life I once enjoyed is gone.” This is a very real, common, and understandable thought. If we accept this thought as true, it might lead us to feeling more hopeless. But I think it is worth questioning.
However, just like we don’t believe everything we read, we don’t have to believe everything we think.
The truth is that you have lupus and that has impacted your life in many ways, but it is also true that you are a creative and resilient person who has found ways to cope with some very difficult experiences. It is hard work, but you have done it and continue to do it.
Question Your Thoughts
Of all the thoughts you think, which thoughts makes you feel particularly sad, mad, frustrated, or unhappy? Do you find that you think these things often? How do they shape the way you feel about yourself? All emotions are valuable and should be felt and processed. My concern is when certain thoughts turn into beliefs and lead to a surge of sadness, frustration, or a decrease in self-esteem. It can be hard to control everything you think, but examining your thoughts allows you more awareness. And awareness leads to more control to decide if the thoughts are true. And if they are not true, you can work to replace them.
For example, instead of, “I have lupus. I can never enjoy my life because the life I once enjoyed is gone,” a replacement thought could be, “I may have lupus, but lupus doesn’t have me.” I hear this exact sentence from many of my support group members. To them it means that even though they cannot control that they have lupus, it does not define who they are or their entire life. They work hard and do their best to manage lupus, and recognize its impact, but also try to find other ways to define their lives. Can you relate?
It’s important to find support for the thoughts and feelings you are exploring. I encourage people to seek support and socialize when possible, even if only on the Internet, with people who understand what it is like to live with lupus. Being alone too long with certain thoughts can lead to feeling overwhelmed and isolated. Talk to someone about how you feel. You can find support by talking to a friend who understands what you are going through or joining a support group. My webinar, Everyday Living with Lupus: Be Proactive, offers tips on how to find support.
Maybe I’m biased, but I think anyone can benefit from talking with a therapist, particularly if you often feel depressed and are having a tough time dealing with your thoughts and feelings. There are different types of licensed therapists, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which focuses on changing thoughts and behaviors that lead you to feeling depressed or anxious. Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic if you are interested in learning more about this or finding a cognitive-behavioral therapist.
A great practice to help shape your thoughts is to practice gratitude, to consciously think about what is going right in your life instead of focusing on what is going wrong. Pause several times during the day to think about what you are grateful for.
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