My story is on this website and if you’ve read it you will know that it took me over 4 years to get a diagnosis of lupus. In the end it was sheer luck that my GP got fed up of seeing me and referred me to a rheumatologist, who happened to be Professor David D’Cruz (a rheumatologist with a special interest in lupus, now at the Louise Coote Lupus Unit, London).
When you get a diagnosis of lupus you naturally want to learn all you can about it and generally it’s easy enough to get lists of symptoms from reputable and trustworthy sources so that’s all fine. However there are some things that you might have experienced that no-one mentioned and were left thinking ‘what the heck’?!
Anyone with a chronic illness (or, like a lot of us, several) has an awful lot to put up with so anything we can do to make ourselves feel even a little bit better has got to be a good thing.
Distraction is often the key, do you have a nice view from your window where you can see something pleasant like birds? I do and I often look out to see what’s going on, I sometimes grab my camera and take photographs which is distracting as you have to concentrate on what you’re doing.
I know when I'm in pain and I’m thoroughly fed up I seem to feel more ill so I try to think of happy things to improve my mood. It’s easy to get caught in negative thoughts and they don’t help the pain, infact they make things even worse as you feel you can’t cope with anything and you can even spiral into depression.
Think grateful thoughts, I am a huge believer in sending out thoughts of gratitude. It also reminds you of what you still have, not what you’ve lost. Be grateful for your friends/family/pets, all the things you take for granted such as your comfy bed, your clothes, the food in your fridge, the fact that although maybe you can’t run a marathon any more (not sure I ever could) but you can go for a walk/drive/sit in your garden. When I go to bed at night I think grateful thoughts for everything that was good in my day. It’s better to go to sleep with your last thoughts being positive ones, rather than worrying thoughts that may play on your mind and keep you awake.
If you want to take this one step further make a ‘happiness jar’. You write down something that made you happy every day (or even every week) for a year and put the slip of paper into a jar. At the end of the year you can read through them and remember all the amazing things that happened.
These are a few tried and tested, small and fairly simple things, several very obvious so just a little reminder. Some may not be for you, or may not be possible for you, but some may work, so certainly worth trying. A positive attitude may not take your pain away, but psychologically you do feel a bit better and less likely to be get stressed.
So here’s a few other ideas:
Put a couple of sweets or a little bar of chocolate in the bottom of your bag. It’s fun to find it later when you’re searching for something else (like your keys) and have forgotten about it. I did this accidentally and was surprised at how happy I felt to discover an unexpected ‘treat’.
Spread the love, compliment or praise someone, their happy reaction should make you feel happy too. Say thank you, appreciation always makes other people happy and happiness is infectious.
Play a cheerful tune. I have a couple of songs that immediately make me smile. I put them on in my car when I’m feeling a bit down and sing along, they never fail to make me feel a bit better. University of Manchester researchers discovered that an organ in the inner ear (that responds to singing sounds) is connected to a part of the brain that registers pleasure, so singing may make you feel better (although possibly not the people that hear you blasting out your favourite song!)
Give yourself a little treat now and then, a lovely piece of cake, a glass of wine, a latte and take time to yourself to really relax and savour it.
Look through photo’s that make you happy, to keep your spirits up put your favourite photo where you can always see it.
It seems obvious, but watch funny video clips, yes, including cats! (why the internet was invented), or watch a feel good film or comedy programme.
Reading an uplifting book helps your mood. Some patients find it impossible to concentrate on reading, so it’s not for everyone, but personally, I love a good book and get immersed in one very quickly.
If you can’t concentrate on a book look at lovely things on a site like Pinterest, I can while away many an hour looking at posts on there, I get lots of ideas too. We have a page on Pinterest which includes butterfly clothing/cakes/jewellery etc and other lovely things, not just lupus facts, so check us out here.
Get outside, if you are able, take a little walk or eat your lunch out there, even just standing outside breathing some fresh air can help. If you’re stuck inside all day with your job and rarely have a break (we’re all guilty of having lunch at our desks), step outside for a few minutes. Oh and stop to smell the flowers (literally).
Spend time around pets, I always say if I had a pound for every time my cat made me smile I’d be a very rich woman. Taking your dog for a walk is good for you both (and you’re getting the fresh air mentioned earlier).
Look at bright colours, apparently looking at bright, vibrant colours can positively affect your body chemistry. Try wearing bright colours instead of black as that also helps elevate your mood.
Talking about colour, unleash your inner Picasso. Participants in a Boston College study became happier when they distracted themselves by creating artwork. If you’re not so ‘arty’ try adult colouring, you can still be creative.
Write down things that you’re grateful for or things that make you happy, even the little things. Keep a ‘Happy Journal’ so that you can look at it when you feel down. I keep special photo’s, cartoons or pictures from magazines and newspapers that make me laugh in mine. I write down little moments that also made me laugh or made me happy, it can literally be one sentence, just enough to jog the nice memory again at a later date. See information at the end of the blog on how to win a Happy Journal.
Journals are popular for good reason. They have proven to help people feel happier, more confident and more at peace with whatever is going on in their lives.
Conversely, if you have problems or negative thoughts you can also write those down, then throw them away! It might sound silly but research has shown that it actually works and people eliminated the thoughts from their mind when they physically threw them away as opposed to trying to just mentally forget them.
And just to finish off here’s a few ‘happy facts’
Even if they've never been able to witness it themselves, blind people smile when they are happy. Smiling is a basic human instinct.
Cows have best friends and they tend to spend most of their time together.
Otters hold hands when they sleep so they don't float away from one another. Also, there's a special pocket in their skin where they carry their favourite rock.
The voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Jim Cummings, calls children's hospitals in his spare time to cheer up sick children.
A group of pugs is called a grumble.
Cuddling can help wounds heal faster, due to the release of oxytocin.
There is no angry way to say the word "bubbles”.
Win a Happy Journal.
Send us a message here to say that you’d like to win a Happy Journal, there’s 6 available and 6 names will be picked at random to win one. Good Luck!
A large-scale international survey reveals that low awareness of lupus results in public misconceptions about the disease.