When Migraine Hurts Can A Positive Attitude Help?

Written by Kelly Amspacher and Lizzie Propati | July 7, 2023

Migraine and other chronic pain conditions take a huge toll on your general well-being. There are days filled with anger, sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness. Some days it’s like the people around you don’t see how pain is affecting you, and then you can also start feeling resentful and frustrated. Pain causes stress, which then causes more pain, and the cycle goes on.

Realistically, there is no doubt that living with migraine can be incredibly challenging. However, finding ways to try and stay positive can help reduce negative feelings, lessen stress, and make difficult days, as well as life with migraine, easier to handle. Sound impossible? Read on for ideas and tips to help you!

How Can I Stay Positive When Living with Migraine?

There are many things you can do to help yourself stay positive including:

  1. GRATIDUDE: Finding things to be grateful for in your life
  2. CONNECTION: Staying connected with others who understand
  3. CREATIVITY: Finding creative ways to help manage stress such as art therapy
  4. LIFESTYLE: Staying as healthy as possible with diet, exercise and sleep
  5. CALM: Trying calming activities such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga
  6. INFORMATION: Being informed about new treatment options so that you have hope
  7. JOY: Taking care of yourself and doing things that make you smile or laugh
  8. HELPING OTHERS: Sending encouraging and supportive messages to others
  9. And finally, TREASURING the things you can do rather than focusing on those you cannot

What Are the Benefits of A Positive Attitude?

Having a positive attitude helps calm the mind and body by:

  • Helping to reduce the effects of stress
  • Lowering rates of depression
  • Increasing resistance to illnesses
  • Providing better coping skills
  • Brightening a moment or situation
  • Creating an opportunity to see value in an experience and gain wisdom
  • Increasing resilience

It’s easy to have negative thoughts when living with migraine, but finding ways to think positively reinforces a positive attitude. Then, as a positive attitude grows, our thoughts help “rewire” our brains to improve our health and the way we manage pain. The power of positive thinking is not in the fallacious idea that we can bring about our own reality, but more in the impact it has on our minds and approach to life with all its challenges. In short, we can decide to make lemonade out of lemons, or we can allow ourselves to become angry and bitter. Ultimately, the decision lies within each one of us, and for people who live with ongoing pain, it’s often a decision that we need to make again and again!

Do Positive Self-Affirmations Help?

Self-affirmations (also known by some as “positive mantras”) can be very helpful. People who live with migraine often feel shame, blame and guilt over the disease and how it impacts the lives of those they care about. Self-affirmations remind us of the truth rather than our negative emotions. Affirmations for migraine examples are:

  • “I am worthy”
  • “I am enough”
  • “I am a strong person”
  • “I deserve to be happy and to have joy in my life”
  • “I am beautiful inside and out”
  • “I am lovable”
  • “I am determined and resilient”
  • “My life has value and purpose”

Another way to stay positive is by connecting with a community of people with whom you can share, learn from, speak freely to, and express yourself with. A community where you don’t need to feel guilty about what you are saying, things you can’t do, or expectations you can’t meet. A group like Migraine Meanderings on Facebook is a great place to start!

What Role Does Positive Wellness Play?

Positive wellness is acknowledging what is good, what you are grateful for, and the wonder that surrounds us. It can come from many places such as quotes, pictures, or nature. Have you ever watched a sunset or a sunrise and said, “Wow, that’s a miracle!” Or, perhaps it’s flowers blooming or children playing, or even seeing a puppy play, that makes you smile and feel happy? Think about those positive images in your head or look at the photos on your phone. Places you can go that make you smile or feel at peace, or even a favorite quote. Those feelings will release endorphins in your body, reducing stress, anxiety and depression. This is “positive wellness” and the time we spend on this will reap benefits psychologically and physically. Two great quotes which we use in Migraine Meanderings are: “Hope is seeing light in spite of being surrounded by darkness.” (Desmond Tutu) and “I have no power to control the weather, but I can bring an umbrella.” (Unknown)

How Can We Reframe Challenges with Positive Thoughts?

The challenges faced by people who live with migraine are all too real. Sometimes they are even devastating to our lives. There is nothing that can negate the seriousness or impact of migraine. However, what we can sometimes do is to reframe the challenges we are facing. This then leads to an attitude change, which impacts how we manage those challenges. An example would be instead of saying, “I’m so bummed today because my pain is really bad” to say something like, “Wow! Today I heard from an old friend, and they were so encouraging!” or, “I was in pain today but I took the opportunity to rest and do something nice for myself, which was great!”  Again, it’s not that the challenges aren’t real, or that you should hold in the stress, but by reframing things even, in the rough times, we change the narrative.

A great example of this is doing an exercise of daily gratitude. You can either make note in your mind of things you are grateful for each day, or better yet, start a gratitude journal. Try writing down 3 positive or grateful thoughts a day, either first thing in the morning or last thing before bed. These can be as simple as:

  • “I am grateful for waking up today.”
  • “I am grateful for my family and friends.”
  • “I am grateful for the roof over my head and that I have food to eat.”
  • “I am grateful for the beautiful flowers in my yard.”

What Helps You the Most?

So let us know what helps you? How hard is it for you to put these tips into practice? Do you find your mind keeps going back to the negatives while you are trying to focus on the positives?  If you have tried this and it helps, how has it made a difference? We want to hear from you!

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