The Impact of Attitude on Health

It was the fifth of July 2011. Most people were probably clearing up their Fourth of July festivities. They were most likely bagging up paper plates and plastic cups, cleaning up sparklers and poppers, or boxing up decorations and leftover food. Living just another normal day.

For me, though, that day was the day my life unraveled. I came undone.

It was the fifth of July 2011. That was the day my mom was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.

My life flipped and didn’t land quite right. I didn’t know how to react, so I immediately kicked into survival mode. I lived in the zone of doing whatever needed to be done, trying not to feel helpless. I needed the distraction of being busy to carry me through each day. I tried to shut out everything else, operating under the assumption that my emotions would make me weak. Thus, I did all in my power not to feel.

It was the darkest, most tumultuous time in my life. As my mom’s health continued to deteriorate, my thoughts plunged farther into darkness. I watched, helpless to change the situation, while my mom suffered through cycles of chemotherapy and radiation. And her symptoms continued to attack her, growing more severe. Aphasia robbed her of communication. She lost her ability to speak. This woman who had raised and nurtured me, whom I deeply loved and cherished, was unable to talk to me. And I couldn’t stop it. I couldn’t save her.

All I could do was watch her steadily decline.

Consumed with a hatred that I didn’t even realize was there, I despised everything and everyone. It was so embedded in me that I became a sponge that soaked up only negativity. I loathed the world, unable to see any beauty in it. I lost my ability to empathize, unable to pity the suffering of others. My suffering was all that existed. My pain and grief were all that mattered.

This all-encompassing negativity took strong root within me, growing and spreading a toxic illness that coursed through me and then radiated outward. My outlook and response took its toll on me, emotionally and physically. My health began to decline in response to grief and anger.

Despite my commitment to exercising and eating well, my body refused to be as healthy as it once was. I was constantly tired. I started to fall ill, when I had been sickness free for years. Instead of reflecting my healthy fitness living, my body mirrored the unhealthy mire of depression that had settled in my mind and soul.

I wasn’t even aware of the impact my tight grip on grief had on my health, until my wife sat me down and lovingly showed me the negative side effects of my choice to hold on to my pain. She, and others whom I love and respect, showed me that, at the end of the day, you only have so many years on this planet.

You are not guaranteed the next breath, so it’s a shame to waste your time hating the world and basking in negativity. I also realized that I was tarnishing my mother’s memory. She taught me to live with love and kindness; she wished only happiness for me. If I chose to focus only on the bad, then it disgraced her memory and all she had done for me. I needed to live in the beautiful way she had lived. I had to stop playing the victim, and start giving thanks for the things that mattered in life, the things that made my life unique and wonderful.

Everyone walks through dark times. And some of those times are far darker than others. There are varying degrees, all of them valid. They demand to be dealt with, but in a healthy way and with well-founded support. While they should not be avoided, they also should not be given absolute control. Remember that shadows cannot be cast without light. Thus, the light is there. You just have to be willing to seek it. You have to choose to let light reign in your life, rather than dark.

And that’s the great thing about it. You have a choice. You may not have power over some of your life circumstances, but you do have the power to choose your reaction.

First, I had to accept that it was natural, and perhaps even necessary, to be angry. I learned that it was okay for me to be vulnerable. My vulnerability did not make me weak. In fact, it helped to strengthen me. Then, I had to realize that I could not allow my anger to take over and control me. Until I could accept these things, I could not change my attitude.

In yoga, the first thing you learn is to accept the way you are. You can’t advance to the next level until you emotionally accept all of who you are, the good and the bad, in the present moment. Similarly, in life, if you want to start moving forward, then you have to change your attitude. And in order to change your attitude, you must first accept yourself.

It’s not always going to be easy, but when you decide to choose to live with grace and optimism you begin to fill yourself with goodness and joy that shine beautifully in your life and into the lives of those around you. You may find yourself enjoying a more vibrant and healthier life. Your outward appearance will physically reflect your inner attitude. Fill yourself to overflowing with goodness and let your physical health mirror a positive mind.

The samurai were famous for forging swords made of the toughest steel. What was their secret? They beat their steel. They beat it over and over and over again. And as a result, they ended up with the strongest steel that could slice through a man’s torso. In life, you could be beaten down by immense pain and ineffable grief, but that beating may have a positive outcome. It could possibly mold you into samurai strength steel, if you choose so.

It comes down to you and your choice.

So, how are you going to fill your life? How are you going to see your circumstances? Are you going to drain your health with a negative attitude? Or are you going to promote better health with an attitude that thrives on optimism?

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