It was once believed that a positive attitude would improve outcomes… even if you had cancer. The literature exploring this question is quite conflicting and inconclusive. That is, there is no clear evidence supporting the notion that a “fighting” attitude in any shape, way, or form, alters the course of your disease (1).
What we do know is that a positive attitude does indeed improve quality of life (1). I would argue that this is what really matters. If you can’t control how long you have left, at least you have control over how you choose to live it. Fill it with all that which you find genuinely meaningful. Rekindle the relationships which truly matter to you. Complete the projects which you hold close to heart. Tell those you love that you love them. Just because. Pray, for your heart and mind are put at ease when you do. Seize the opportunity to grow ever closer to your Creator, for therein lies the sweetness of faith. Don’t just survive. Truly live.
There is no denying that infirmity comes with a roller-coaster of emotions. Acknowledge them, for not doing so would cause you more harm by exacerbating your emotional turmoil. Instead, use them as fuel to continue to imbue your existence with meaning. Know that you are not alone. Your Creator is closer to you than your jugular vein. With every passing second, we all draw closer to the end of our time in this temporary World. Some of us are more painfully aware of this fact than others. So what keeps us all, those sick and those not, from cultivating a positive outlook that will propel each and every single one of us to create an existence in this Dunya that overflows with abundance in meaning and purpose? Isn’t that, after all, what we all ultimately seek?
So this begs the following question: How can we create purposeful, meaningful lives?
I believe the key lies in exercising our gratitude muscle.
Create a gratitude journal where everyday you record at least 3 things (events, people, objects, opportunities, circumstances, etc.) for which you are grateful. Make your life about everything that you have as opposed to what you lack. Stop comparing yourself to those who you perceive to be more fortunate, for that is a futile endeavor. Instead, practice gratitude for your blessings and invest in creating the meaningful existence you desire.
In time, you will find that you have better self-esteem, a stronger feeling of connection with your Creator when calamity befalls you, higher energy levels and productivity, as well as an augmented perception of social, emotional, and psychological well being. You become more resistant to stress, and cultivate a greater capacity for forgiveness, generosity, and love for others. You learn to become grateful for the ability to give rather than just for what you receive. (2) Practicing gratitude adds to the depth and width of our lives when its length is often outside of our control.
One of my favorite verses of the Qur’an that beautifully illustrates this concept is in Surat Ibrahim where Allah teaches us to practice gratitude, for He will reward it with abundance. Abundance of what you may ask? Well, there’s only one way to find out!
(1) American Cancer Society
(2) Emmons, Robert. “Why Gratitude Is Good.” Greater Good, 16 Nov. 2010, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_gratitude_is_good.