Smile. Laugh. Feel joy. For women going through heart disease treatment, it can take every ounce of energy just to accomplish these three things. Instead, their minds are focused on the next doctor’s appointment and the next medication they need to ingest.
But there is good news. As Dr. Lynn M. Williams, a clinical health psychologist based in Vero Beach, Fla., explains, there are ways for you to learn how to stay positive even during your darkest phases of life.
1. Meditation and healing
I know what you are thinking: you’ve tried meditation in the past and it hasn’t worked for you. Or maybe your mind has gotten in the way, you’ve been interrupted and you ended up feeling more stressed than when you started.
If this describes you, fear not. There are ways meditation can still help. Williams recommends starting small by just sitting quietly (you don’t have to be in a lotus position or with your hands at heart center—try it in the doctor’s office while you’re waiting) and taking 15 cycles of deep inhalations and deep exhalations. The deeper you exhale, the deeper you will be able to inhale, she explains.
After 15 cycles, start breathing normally and then hyper-concentrate on your breath. And don’t get down when to-do lists enter your mind.
“When thoughts come up, just picture them as clouds going by and disconnect with them,” suggests Williams. “Focus on your breath. It is amazing how quickly you will become calm.”
2. Be one with nature
While you may not have time to spend an hour at the park every day, Williams says even the busiest women can get out and enjoy some fresh air. Try taking a 10 minute break to walk down the street or park away far away from the grocery store for some extra time outside.
“It can add up to 45 minutes a day,” she says. “While you are outside, focus on the sounds and smells. It will help you feel aware and self-nurtured.”
3. Spend time with friends
Feelings of isolation can quickly lead to depression, so try scheduling a standing date with your closest friends. Williams recommends meeting up at someone’s home to make large batches of dinner to bring home for later consumption.
“Tell your family that they will be on their own for two nights per week, that you will be at a friend’s house,” she recommends. “Don’t feel guilty. Spending time with friends can be one of the best things you can do for yourself and can make you more engaged and happy when you are at home.”
4. Visualization techniques
Visualization techniques are incredibly powerful; elite athletes use them to imagine crossing a finish line before a race even starts. Women going through treatment can do the same with visualization healing techniques These techniques can be a positive reinforcement on your to staying optimistic.
“Take a few deep breaths and visualize your heart getting stronger, your heart healing and your arteries opening up,” she advises. “Know that you play a role in your health, that this is a journey and you are not stuck here. You will move forward.”