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A Positive Attitude (And How to Keep It)


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A positive attitude (sometimes referred to as "realistic optimism") helps people feel better. Looking at the glass as half full or looking for the silver lining doesn't change reality -- but it does make it easier. It also generally leads to better quality of life and to better medical outcomes.  If for no other reason, the better outcomes are because people are likely to feel empowered to get needed medical care and to comply with treatment and drug regimens.

A positive attitude includes the decision to live with a health condition rather than die of it. It includes the skills to talk yourself out of a down mood and to take a self-affirming view of both negative and positive events.

A positive attitude doesn't mean burying your head in the sand and ignoring reality. That's where the "realistic" part of "realistic optimism" comes in.

Having a positive attitude also doesn't mean adopting a Pollyanna type "I have to stay positive all the time" attitude.  We're all human. We all have our down times and negative thoughts. However, if we observe our thoughts, we can change them. The more we practice, the easier it becomes. If we practice every day, in time a positive attitude becomes a habit.


Experience indicates that a positive attitude can be learned.

Tips to having a positive attitude include the following:

  • Consider the new view about the meaning of life that resulted from your diagnosis. Perhaps there's a meaning that wasn't there before. Or a new path.
  • Let go of the things that don't matter any more.
  • Focus your strength on what you need to do to win your battle.
  • Rather than suppressing negative thoughts, change the subject to a happier, more positive, one.

These subjects, as well as additional tips for helping to stay positive, are contained in the following:


  • Do not fall into the trap of thinking that if your health declines, it is because you did not keep a positive attitude. It may be a blunt way to say it, but: "Shit happens."
  • Behave as if you are going to be here for a while.

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