Maintain a Positive Attitude Despite Diabetes

Shelly Young, LPC Health Guide
  • I have often contemplated the question, "Why is it, that in our culture, there is an all-pervading focus on the negative?" My own experience of this is a good example. I received some disappointing news, and fear arose immediately.  My thoughts immediately jumped to a negative scenario. After considering the situation, I realized that something positive could potentially result from the news I received.  But my mind is conditioned to automatically jump to fear and then to a negative outcome.   


    A friend of mine offered a hypothesis about the negativity issue that seems to make sense. He mentioned the term "amygdala hijack" which is a term described in the book,  Emotional Intelligence, by Dan Goleman, Ph.D. (1995, Bantam Books). Dr. Goleman is a psychologist and science journalist who wrote for the New York Times for 12 years. His term, "amygdala hijack" refers to the fact that how we handle conflict, stress and challenge is deeply rooted in human evolution. The amygdala is the part of the brain that is largely responsible for our fight or flight and freeze response associated with fear. It is considered to be the reptilian or primitive part of the brain and could be considered our "caveman defense system."

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    Millions of years of human evolution are hard-wired into our brains to protect us from frightening creatures such as sabertooths and other wild animals. Although these creatures no longer exist, we are "hard-wired" to react with a protective response to situations that unconsciously trigger a threat that we interpret as similar.   


    I like the idea of  counteracting our "focus on negative" tendencies, since they can lead us down the road of negative outcomes. An example would be a diagnosis of diabetes. One could easily jump to fear, negative thoughts and the potential negative outcome. That could lead to reacting to the fear and engaging in destructive behaviors rather than helpful ones. My good friend, David Mendosa, turned his diagnosis in to a life of health and service to others. He released 100 lbs, is in terrific shape and publishes a wealth of useful diabetes-related articles. By choosing to focus his attention positively, he is living a healthy and productive life.   


    In order to short circuit our deeply held tendencies toward fear and negativity, I would like to offer a "focus on positive" strategy that myself and my clients have found useful for short circuiting negativity, depression, irritability and significantly lifting mood. I personally was amazed at how my irritability and depression lifted one day, during and after practicing the technique I'm about to describe.    


    You can sit, lie down or be in motion for this practice. Begin by intentionally bringing positive mental pictures and positive self talk into your mind.  Visually think about a person, place, thing, word, situation or symbol that would tend to create a pleasant feeling tone. At the same time verbally think a syllable, word, phrase, sentence or sequence of sentences that matches with the image that would also tend to create a pleasant feeling tone.  Repeat the positive talk over and over and continue to create the positive images while you tune in to the pleasant feelings it may trigger in your body. At the same time, let there be a subtle smile on your face. Notice any pleasant feeling in the body associated with the smile.


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    You don't have to focus on all of these at the same time. It may feel natural to restrict your awareness to the feelings or the self talk or the images alone, if this works better for you. What's important is tuning in to the pleasant feeling tone that's created.  


    You are continuously tuning into positive mental pictures, self talk and pleasant body feelings. The image need not be stable or vivid but if it completely disappears, refresh it by thinking of that person, place, object or symbol again. The feeling tone may be strong and widespread or subtle and localized. Any pattern is fine.   


    You may notice the arising of other sensory experiences. Let it all happen, allowing them to be in the background and continue your focus on the self-created, positive sensory experiences.  


    It's important to realize that "focus on positive" is not necessarily an attempt to convince yourself of something but rather an exercise in selectively focusing on the positive and giving permission for the negative to be there. If negativity arises, just let it be in the background without fighting with it and refocus your attention on to the positive talk, imagery or feelings.  


    Many people really like this method because it allows them to be creative and have fun. It can be useful for replacing unproductive thoughts with productive ones. It can also be useful for imagining something desirable in the future....reaching out from the present to influence your behavior or performance later. After you experience the positive results, it could become a refreshing change from the habitual "focus on negative" by potentially enhancing your mood and offering you new possibilities.            

Published On: March 18, 2010