Wednesday 25 June 2014

Extracts from a Short and Merry Life - Part Two: Positive Attitude

Continuing our extracts from Tim Wotton's first book, 'How Have I Cheated Death? A Short and Merry Life with Cystic Fibrosis', today we look at the difference a positive mental attitude can have:

Is it easy to always be happy rather than sad? Recent research has proven that people really do look on the bright side of life. Scientists have found that humans are unrealistically upbeat because the brain is programmed to remember positive signs and forget about negatives. So it would appear that a ‘faulty’ brain wiring makes us better at processing information supporting our outlook as opposed to facts challenging our beliefs. So my smile behind the frown is my natural default but I’m aware that this has to be sustained, which is the tricky part.

Having a sunny nature has never felt like too much of an act as it comes fairly naturally for me and I feel healthier for being happy and positive rather than being downcast and negative. After all, we use fewer muscles to smile than we do to frown.

I try very hard to have a happy disposition with everyone I meet and in everything I do to counter the seriousness of my ‘bigger life picture’. That morning, being around Katie and Felix, I played down the shocking night I had just endured.

I work extremely hard at smiling, making myself and others laugh, often with cheesy jokes. Having a ‘happy-go lucky’ persona seems to manifest better health inside my body. At work, after a bad night or difficult morning treatment, I’ll go to the extreme of trying to be the happiest person in the room or office. In turn, it means that I don’t allow myself to dwell on the dark moments for too long.

I am a cheeky chap but there’s method to my madness. Life has always felt too short and harsh to take it overly seriously. Dealing with CF is the serious part of my life, so the rest of it needs to be as light-hearted as possible. ‘Sunshine on a rainy day’, I suppose you could call it.

This approach has to come from within and I have to work hard to turn off the mental demons in my head. I start thinking happy thoughts and being happy. I’m convinced that when you possess light within, it is seen externally – people see my light and humour; they see an upbeat seemingly healthy person, not an ill or downbeat person. This has a positive effect on me and the people I come into contact with.

This doesn’t just apply to work situations, but on visits to hospitals, surgeries and chemists. Especially for these mundane health related appointments, I cast aside all negativity and try to be nice, smile, crack jokes – anything that makes the experience more palatable. When I’m down, I firmly believe that laughter is the best medicine and often joke with Katie that “at least I’ve got my health!”

Like some form of non-stop comedian, I look for humour in everything and in anything. The power of laughter and joy helps dissolve disease in my body. It removes the physiological stress that builds up from the burden of a relentless illness.

We all walk in the dark to different degrees and have our own cross to bear; so finding ways to lighten the load is paramount. For me, humour and happiness are my guiding lights to deal with any dark moments.
I’ve yet to meet a person in this life who hasn’t got some difficulty or inner demon to contend with. Everybody hurts to some degree. It’s all relative I guess. As I’m continuously battling the proverbial CF elephant in the room, I do get less worked up about the smaller ‘mice’ sized issues. However, for a lot of people, I assume there’s a propensity to magnify the smaller issues as being larger than they actually are. Either way, what I most definitely know and often say is that life is too short.

Even though I’ve had a troubled night and everything should make me miserable and morose, I see Felix and Katie clowning around and it makes me smile. The cloak of darkness has lifted and the healing light has taken over. The sky outside our holiday home is a rich blue and the sun is beginning to warm our bodies. I’m looking forward to a fun family day at a newly discovered beach – swimming in the sea, ice-creams and most importantly lots and lots of fun and laughter.

JF Kennedy once said, “It’s better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” I know what he meant.

Tim will be signing copies of his book at Watersones in Wimbledon from 6:30-8:00pm this Saturday. You can purchase 'How Have I Cheated Death? A Short and Merry Life with Cystic Fibrosis' from Austin Macauley and Amazon, as well as WH Smith, Waterstones and Foyles

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