Call me crazy – some do – but I think living with diabetes actually offers us some benefits. It has me. For instance, it’s given me more motivation to stay healthy, so I really watch what I eat and walk every day. It’s also given me a greater appreciation for what I do have, like my amazing husband, wonderful friends, and loving family. And, it’s given me this work I always craved, helping others.
This post was shared with permission from Sanofi where the post originally appeared.
When I first started working in diabetes a decade ago, I began by interviewing anyone I could find who had it. How were you diagnosed? How did you feel? What’s been easy? Difficult? Has diabetes affected your happiness?
After listening to more than 150 people, I learned many, like me, used diabetes as a catalyst to finally lose those 30 pounds they’d been struggling to lose for years. Some went out and bought a bike and were now riding 90 miles a week. Many were teaching others in their community about diabetes, and loved it! Diabetes gave them a greater sense of purpose, they pursued doing the things to them that were meaningful, and many said they were happier.
I talk a lot at health events and conferences about diabetes, to both patients and healthcare professionals. I talk about something seldom, if at all, heard in such venues: the idea that we can flourish living with diabetes, actually, because we have diabetes.
I discovered that those who are living full, happy and healthy lives with diabetes seem to hold a certain mindset about it. One I call “flourishing.” Their outlook and self-talk is, “I am strong, I can do this.” They take the actions help them live as healthfully as possible, and see that maybe they gained something with their diagnosis and didn’t just lose something.
They are able to draw on their strengths when times get tough, look forward expectantly to good things, are hopeful, and are positively engaged with life. As a result, they experience a good deal of joy and contentment.
That doesn’t mean they don’t ever experience grief, loss, frustration, sadness or burnout. They do. But seeing a relatively positive future, they are able to metaphorically “put their boots back on” and keep going. Here’s the exciting news: flourishing is available to all of us.
Coping vs. Flourishing
The word we usually hear regarding how we’re doing with our diabetes is “coping.” But coping has a negative connotation. It implies that you are somehow deficient, “less than” normal and the best you can do is “come up” to normal. Sort of holding on by the skin of your teeth every moment.
I think the idea of “coping” with diabetes is rooted in our society. We are drawn to problems, to seeing “the fly in the ointment” rather than what is going well.
All around me I see diabetes book titles with the words, “fight,” “battle,” “overcome diabetes.”
Something I learned a long time ago is, “What you resist, persists.” When you fight your diabetes, you will not win. Your negative attention on it keeps it fighting you back.
I’m not saying having a chronic illness is a reason to jump for joy. However, I am saying you’ll reap a lot more health and happiness if you find ways to incorporate “flourishing” behaviors, and here are some great ways to start.
7 Steps To Flourishing
- Knowledge: Learn all you can about diabetes to manage it well
- Meaningfulness: Identify why it’s important to you to be healthy
- Look forward to move forward: Focus on, and move toward, what you want (health, happiness, managing your condition well) not on what you don’t want (complications).
- Build on Your Successes: Acknowledge what you do well and take one tiny step to do a little better where you can
- Discover Your Strengths: Think about a challenge you overcame in the past and how you did that. Those are skills available to you anytime.
- Indulge in Relaxation Techniques: Yoga, meditation, exercise, positive self-talk, whatever works for you
- Remain hopeful: Hope is forward-moving and laced with power
Suggested next post: Are You Living ‘For’ Diabetes or ‘With’ Diabetes?
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