How to Stay Positive When You’re Sick

In the Parable of the Hospital Window, I found five tips for staying positive when you’re sick with a chronic illness such as colitis, cancer, Crohn’s, or celiac disease. I’m dealing with a nasty case of ulcerative colitis right now, and my bunion is acting up. Being sick – like getting old – isn’t for the faint of heart.

How to Stay Positive When You’re SickColor Me Calm: 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation (A Zen Coloring Book) is an excellent way to stay positive when you’re sick. I have the Color Me Happy Zen Coloring Book for adults. It’s a creative, meditative, artistic way to spend time if you haven’t the energy to go to work or do what you love.

I should add this coloring book to my Gifts for Back Surgery Patients article. Most of us loved coloring when we were kids, and we’ve forgotten how zen and peaceful it is to color.

These tips for staying positive when you’re sick are inspired by The Parable of the Hospital Window. It illustrates how powerful your mind is – how it can drive you to the depths of despair, or inspire you to reach for the stars.

The Parable of the Hospital Window

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

With nothing else to do, they talked for hours. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation.

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

hospital window parable

The Parable of the Hospital Window

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite detail, the other man would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band, he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

The nurse arrived one morning, only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window. He had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch. After making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window beside the bed.

It faced a brick wall.

How to Stay Positive When You’re Sick

These tips are inspired by The Parable of the Hospital Window. If you saw other ideas for staying positive for sick people, please share in the comments section – I’d love to hear from you.

Hang out with sick people who can see oceans of sailboats

May you can’t stare out of a hospital window and see beautiful gardens, colorful parades, blue ponds, quacking ducks, or a vast ocean with sailboats. I don’t think I could…but I might be able to find someone who can. This is one of the reasons to join or start a support group for people who are sick with the same thing you are. If you find people who are upbeat, spiritually strong, cheerful, and hopeful then you have a much better chance of staying positive when you’re sick. Stay away from toxic people. Don’t hang out with people who are letting their sickness destroy their lives.

If you have cancer, read 5 Reasons to Stay Positive When You Have Breast Cancer.

Think about how you think about being sick

How to Stay Positive When You’re Sick

How to Stay Positive When You’re Sick image by citizenvisuelle via DeviantArt

I’ve been struggling with ulcerative colitis for 15 years – and no matter how many probiotics I take or what foods I avoid, it still flares regularly. I’ve been really sick for six weeks now, and it is a huge struggle to stay positive. In other parts of my life I’m learning acceptance instead of struggle…but I can’t stop resisting and fighting the colitis. The problem is that it’s not working. Natalie Goldberg said, “Our task is to say a holy yes to the real things of our life as they exist.”

Learn what it means to say a “holy yes” to your illness

Some sick people fight their illness with all their strength, while others relax into it. In The Parable of the Hospital Window, the man by the window said a “holy yes” to his illness. He didn’t fight it; he accepted his life, his hospital room, and his death. He found peace. How can saying yes teach you how to stay positive when you’re sick? By showing you that life is both bitter and sweet, and you suffer more when you fight the bitter.

Consider your personality

If you had to stare out a hospital window at a brick wall all day, how would you cope? Maybe you’d be grouchy or hopeful, irritable or pleasant, optimistic or pessimistic. You’ve learned specific ways of coping when you’re sick. If they don’t help you stay positive, then they’re destroying you. Learn how your body and personality affects your health; practise different ways of managing your response to stress.

Also – remember that learning how to cope with chronic illness is a long process. No matter how positive or optimistic or faithful your temperament, you will feel like the sickness is beating you. But that feeling will pass, and you will feel like yourself again.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath

Breathing deeply allows oxygen to flow everywhere, in all the nooks and crannies of your body. What helps you breathe? Exercise! Exercise is all it’s cracked up to be. It lowers cholesterol, prevents heart disease, improves blood circulation, and reduces your risk for cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and gastrointestinal disorders. When you’re coping with chronic illness, try combining exercise and relaxation with yoga, swimming, walking, or hiking.

Your comments on how to stay positive when you’re sick are welcome below. I can’t give advice or counseling, but it may help you to share what you’re going through.

My prayer for people coping with sickness – or a loved one’s illness – is for peace and acceptance. May we find healing and hope in our surrender to the reality of what is. May we connect with the part of our bodies that are diseased and may God infuse that area with light, strength, energy, and healing. May we rest in comfort and find strength to stay positive, hopeful, and happy when we’re sick. Amen.

Your mind can either drive you to the depths of despair or inspire you to reach for the stars.

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