I know what you’re thinking…

“You can’t think yourself better”

 “No amount of telling yourself that you are doing well will change the fact that this awful thing happened to you and changed your life forever”

I appreciate why you think those because that is exactly how most people feel right after a life-altering event. 

How you think affects how you feel, act, and behave.

But, what you don’t see at the moment is that how you think affects how you feel, act, and behave. Everything is linked. Your thoughts affect your mood which in turn affects your actions. Impacting your ability to make lifestyle changes and therefore reducing your risk factors.

If you have a negative thought about something you don’t like, it can take over your feelings.

If you woke up and found it was raining outside when you thought it would be a sunny day, and decide that rain has ruined your day, then, your mood can drop quite low. 

You may decide that going out to see your friend who you have not seen in months, or going for that little walk you had said you would do today, won’t happen. You may decide that staying inside by yourself is a better option because the rain has made you feel sad or angry.

If instead, you had put on your coat, grabbed an umbrella, and taken those steps out of the door, you would find that the rain is actually something you can cope with for a short while on the walk to your friend’s house. Then, you realise that your friend is exactly who you need to see today and you feel happy.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I know that it is not always the case, especially after a heart attack or other cardiac event. Going through trauma can alter the way your brain thinks.

What can you do to try and lift your mood every day and start to push away the negative thoughts when they enter your head?

How do we change our mindset? Well, the answer is the same as how we change most things, repetition. 

You have a choice every time a thought enters your head. Your choice is to look at that thought negatively or positively. The only way we change our mindset is to keep choosing to look at any thought in a positive way. Now, I can hear you all thinking that this sounds like a lot of hard work or even impossible…well, it is very possible!

Trauma and PTSD can trigger a lot of negative thoughts, feelings, and memories. They can enter our heads at any moment and can be triggered by anything. Realising at that moment it is happening to us is probably the first step. 

Being aware that this negative thought or memory is there and knowing we have to make a choice on how we cope with this thought.

As an example, it could be something like the doctor has sent a letter with an appointment date on it through your door. This could have triggered a negative thought. For example, they are calling you in for some bad news. This has then triggered fears of worry and you may then think you are better off putting off that appointment as you don’t know if you would be able to cope with any bad news. This negative thought that has snowballed in your mind and caused feelings of anxiety can be stopped with practice.

In reality, the doctor was more than likely sending you a follow-up appointment. He just wanted to check that everything was ok. 

So, when you first see the letter with the doctor’s address on it, it is at that moment when you need to realise this is triggering a negative thought and you should focus on a more positive aspect of this situation. 

For instance, the doctor is making sure they see you for follow-up appointments to keep an eye on you and make sure that everything is ok. If it was not ok, they would then be able to catch it early.

Avoiding the appointment altogether and living with the worry, anxiety, and fear of a doctor’s letter is putting you in a worse situation. You should always go to your doctor’s appointments.

Just realising when a thought or feeling is happening is a great step. Not realising them is hindering your ability to make lifestyle changes and start reducing your risk factors.

Lifestyle changes

If the doctor has advised you to make healthier lifestyle changes to reduce your risk factors then, this is a perfect time to practise changing your mindset. 

A healthier diet should not be looked at as though you are depriving yourself of anything. You are making the right choices for your body and fuelling yourself for the day ahead. Buying new cookbooks or looking up companies that deliver healthy ready meals to your door is a more positive way of dealing with the situation at hand.

If you have been advised that you need to start exercising, this doesn’t mean that you have to make sure you can run a marathon in the next 6 months. Look up an exercise you know you will love to do like dancing or walking. Even if you just walk or jog to the end of the road and back it is more than you did yesterday, so it’s a win! 

Exercising, in general, puts you in a better mood, which will then spur you on to more positive actions. For example, you could feel more motivated towards confirming that doctor’s appointment they have asked you to come to.

Reducing your risk factors

You may have been advised to stop smoking. After 40 years of smoking, you may think this is impossible but believe me, it really isn’t. There is so much help out there to do this. All it takes is that one phone call, that one email, and asking for that help you need. 

One positive thought can change your mood for the day which will produce good actions. But, only by repeating this on a daily basis will you eventually change your mindset.

You are not alone!