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A Guide Toward More Positive Thinking

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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The RheumatoidArthritis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • notdancing
    6 months ago

    Thank you for your article – it was just what I was looking for. I am looking for a life line, some encouragement, a way to get motivated again..not one of the few drugs I hadn’t tried. Perhaps this may help a little. Maybe not. But maybe it will. Thank you for writing. I will give this a try

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    6 months ago

    Hey notdancing,

    Thanks for your comment! I wrote this article a while ago. Most recently I’ve started meditating, and I’ve been doing the Pain Management series of meditations on the Headspace app. I’ve been finding it really helpful. I wrote about meditation and that app in this article: https://rheumatoidarthritis.net/living/meditation-app/. When I wrote that, I hadn’t been meditating for long. The more I use the app, the more often during the day and during an uptick in pain I’m able to utilize going into that literal headspace.

    I wish you all the best. I am grateful for the drugs I can take, which keep my moderate to severe RA at a mild to moderate level. However, living with RA at a mild to moderate level isn’t good enough for me, so finding other tools is important to me as well. (And I don’t know if this is the case for you, but some people can’t find and/or tolerate treatment that can get them to the mild/moderate level.) So what you said really resonated with me.

    Please continue to reach out any time you have thoughts or experiences you’d like to share.

    Gentle hugs,
    Tamara

  • daisy3211
    8 months ago

    Is there a specific app or website you use for the guided affirmations? Thanks!

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    8 months ago

    Hi daisy3211, Thanks so much for reaching out with your question! My favorite is “A Guided Meditation To Help You With Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus” by Belleruth Naparstek and available on the Healthjourneys website. It is specific to RA, so it is very relevant. It has both guided imagery and affirmations. I hope that’s helpful info.! All the best, Tamara

  • Beth B.
    8 months ago

    I often use images of a desired outcome for my very ill son as a tool to combat the stress and fear that he will not be ok long term. I dont think picturing him as a happy old man with grand children will cause him to become that, or achieve that desired effect, but it does help manage and reduce that fear and stress. I hadnt thought about doing this for myself, but it is a great idea. I stopped working over a decade ago, so that has alleviated much difficulty, but the pain and discomfort remains regardless of employment.

  • Tamara Haag moderator author
    8 months ago

    Hi Beth b.,

    Thanks so much for sharing this strategy! We spend so much time worrying about the things that we fear will happen, that it sounds like an excellent antidote to also spend time thinking about the things we hope will happen. I love this suggestion, and really appreciate you sharing it.

    Gentle Hugs,
    Tamara

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