I have a deadly illness, my lungs are home to scary, deadly bacteria that’s so bad people with CF aren’t allowed to go near me, yet I’m thriving.
But my positive attitude won’t cure me. I still have cystic fibrosis, in every fiber of my being (literally, all my cells are still filled with it). I still cough up gross mucus. I still watch my lung function dip below a normal person’s. I still live in fear of that house party of bacteria getting out of hand, the little germies passing out “open house” flyers like Aaron Carter’s friends did in Aaron’s Party, circa 2000. And sometimes they do and they break lamps and leave my lungs a mess for me to clean up!
Contrary to what you may have heard, a positive attitude won’t cure you.
But there’s a difference between being cured and being healed. One is about killing the monsters that make it their quest to destroy you. The other is about living with those monsters, picking up their dirty laundry, shutting your door and dancing even though they are *like THE worst roommates EVER*.
Optimism allows you to heal. It allows you to dance.
Optimism alone won’t cure you, but it will allow you to heal. When I’m getting sick, it’s optimism that forces me to take the day off from work and rest. It’s optimism that allows me to tell myself that this is just a few days, or weeks, or months. And when it doesn’t seem like it will end, it’s optimism that allows me to see the good stuff happening all around me despite it.
Lately, I’ve been waking up before the sun rises to get my workout in. It’s optimism that gets me out of bed, trusting that I’ll feel better after that run on the treadmill, or after 15 burpees (okay, part of that is craziness too…) And sometimes, it’s optimism that allows me to go back to bed once I hear my alarm, knowing I just don’t have it in me today.
Studies keep showing that optimistic people live longer.
But it’s not because they trick their bodies into thinking they don’t have diseases. The disease is still there. It’s that they allow themselves to heal. They find balance with the monsters, live life despite them, and are rewarded with maybe a little bit more joy in their life and a little less stress, despite the fact that they are going through some stuff.
If you’re optimistic, you’re more likely to take action to heal yourself.
Remember, I don’t mean CURE yourself. I mean heal. You’re more likely to bother to go on that run, or take that nap, or choose a healthier meal, or meditate, because you believe it will give you the balance you need.
And of course, it’s not your fault if you’re still sick.
Writing about the importance of a positive attitude through the years has brought about a lot of angry people who say that relying on a positive attitude makes it seem like people who are sick are doing something wrong. That is not true. If it were, I would be in deep doo-doo, because even I still get sick despite the actions I take to heal myself. Because a positive attitude doesn’t cure you. It gives you the strength to live in spite of your illness, while still living and dealing with the complications it brings every single day.
There’s a difference between merely living, and thriving, between being cured, and being healed. Optimism is that difference.