A Guide Toward More Positive Thinking

In the 15 years since my rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis, I’ve tried lots of drugs, herbal remedies, supplements, diets, and alternative therapies in a search for remission. Some have had significant impact, others have made no difference whatsoever, and the remaining treatments have been marginally helpful. Of this latter group, there have been some practices that I feel I benefit from even if they don’t cause a drastic reduction of my RA symptoms, as they have a positive effect on my overall well-being.

Guided imagery is one these practices that doesn’t eradicate the need for expensive prescription drugs, but it does make me feel a little better. Available in a variety of audio formats, guided imagery takes the listener on an imaginary journey full of positive messages. As one is supposed to have their eyes closed for this practice, it promotes relaxation by creating a little “me time,” away from demands, activities, and screens. Furthermore, guided imagery also incorporates emphasis on deep breathing, which is an excellent antidote to stress, as it stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which serves to calm us down.

There is a large variety of guided imagery options available online, including at least one specifically targeting rheumatoid arthritis. It utilizes images that are specifically directed at the immune system, giving it messages to discern between outside intruders and the body’s own joints, tissues and organs. It also includes affirmations, which are positive messages to ourselves that, when repeated over time, can cause a change in perspective and thinking.

I have found both the guided imagery and affirmations to be helpful. In order to mix it up a little, I have purchased several versions over the years, including tracks designed to address RA, depression, general wellness, and a healthy immune system. Sometimes when I am laid up with a flare, I listen to the guided imagery tracks. You are supposed to listen to them while sitting or lying down, so it’s a way for me to feel I’m doing something “productive” for my health during those times when RA forces me into a reclined position. I’ve also found them very helpful to use while traveling, as listening to them with headphones can focus my thoughts in a positive direction while also shutting out some of the noise of the plane, train, or hotel.

While the guided imagery tracks should not be used while driving, as they’re intended to increase relaxation and can induce sleepiness, I often listen to the affirmations in the car. While I have a number of personal affirmations I’ve found beneficial, sometimes it’s helpful to listen to several minutes of recorded affirmations, especially when I’m in a negative frame of mind and need a little “cheerleading.” Listening to affirmations on the way to or from work can help me gear up or wind down from the day in a positive way.

Guided imagery and affirmations are not a cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but they are helpful tools in my RA toolbox that do help decrease stress and minimize pain. Unlike many other tools in that box, there are no side effects from guided imagery/affirmations, and I feel a little happier and lighter each time I use them.

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