Feeling Normal: What Are You Looking Forward To?

Dr. Gary explains a simple way to brighten your day—and your future.

Feeling Normal: What Are You Looking Forward To?

By Gary McClain Published at September 14, 2016 Views 797

Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and writer who specializes in helping clients—as well as their family members and professional caregivers—deal with the emotional impact of chronic and life-threatening illnesses.

I am convinced that one of the keys to maintaining an optimistic attitude is to always have something to look forward to. It keeps us involved in the game of life, motivated and positive.

And I am convinced that it is especially important to have something to look forward to if you are living with a chronic condition. Why? Because the effects of a chronic condition—especially on a bad day or a stretch of bad days—along with the day-to-day self-care responsibilities can make you feel like the future is one long slog.

But the future doesn’t have to feel like a slog if you add a measure of joy along the road. Having something to look forward to is a great way to maintain a constant influx of happiness in your life. It helps shift your focus away from limitations and toward what’s possible. And it helps to relieve the stress of managing a chronic condition.

Shifting your perspective

This may seem like a pretty difficult task. You might be thinking: “The holidays only come once a year. And the next family wedding is a generation away. So what do I do until then?”

Well, shift your perspective, for starters. It’s not only life’s big events that we have to look forward to; there are lots of smaller events along the way. And consider this: having something to look forward to doesn’t have to be an event at all, at least not in the way we generally think of events.

Here’s how to shift your perspective to have more to look forward to in your life:

Do some brainstorming with yourself. Sit down and make a list. Include anything on it that you enjoy and would look forward to. If you’re not sure where to start, consider answering this question: What has made you happy in the past?

Nothing is too small. Don’t shut down the process by evaluating and judging everything you come up with. When is the last time you thought about what picks up your mood? Use this as an opportunity to think about what really brings happiness to your life—the big things and the small things.

Plan on your own. The perspective that having something to look forward to has to be an event of some kind is limiting. So open yourself up to what you can look forward to that doesn’t necessarily involve other people. Taking yourself to a movie, or watching one at home. Cooking a meal you enjoy, like that leisurely Saturday morning omelet. Taking a walk or visiting a museum. Maybe stepping in and doing some volunteering or helping out a friend. Generate your own reasons to look forward. Be creative.

Plan with others. But if you want to have events to look forward to, it’s safe to say that events generally involve other people. So also consider the plans you can make with others to give you more to look forward to. And then, be willing to do the work that’s needed, like organizing and inviting. This may involve stepping outside of your comfort zone. Be brave!

Get it on the calendar! You schedule your responsibilities, setting aside time for your job and whatever you need to do to manage your health, for example. So why not also get your emotional wellness on the calendar? Put it in writing, attached to a date on your calendar. Don’t let yourself off the hook.

Keep up the momentum. Have something to look forward to every week. Maybe even every day. When you do, you benefit not only from doing something that makes you happy, but also from feeling happy in knowing that it’s ahead of you. Look at it this way: making sure you have something to look forward to is a great investment in your own well-being.

Take good care of yourself. Including your emotions. Look forward. And make sure you have something to look forward to!

What do you look forward to? Add a comment and tell us about the large or small things you anticipate that help you feel good about your life.

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