The Tenets of Positive Psychology
I like to introduce my patients going through fertility treatments to the concepts of positive psychology. Research has shown that incorporating these tools into your daily life makes a significant difference in mental health. As fertility treatments can be physically and mentally exhausting, the tenets of positive psychology can help keep your mindset positive and optimistic. Keep in mind that it takes 21 days to form a habit. It may not feel like these tools are working at first, but I promise, if you stay with it you will start to see a difference.
The five basic principles of positive psychology are:
Write down three new things you are grateful for. At the end of 21 days your brain is trained to scan for the positive and not the negative.
Write about one positive experience you have had in the last 24 hours. This allows you to re-live it.
Exercise teaches your brain that your behavior matters and releases endorphins. There is no right or wrong way to exercise—anything that increases blood flow and gets you moving.
Meditation allows your brain to quiet the noise and focus on one thing instead of getting overwhelmed with the constant need and pressure to multitask. Even just five minutes a day can make a difference in mindset and ability to handle the stress of life.
RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS/CONSCIOUS ACTS OF KINDNESS:
Write one positive email praising or thanking someone in your social support network. The human connection and positive energy from a selfless act will immensely improve your psyche and mood.
Remember that there is no right or wrong way to do the above. Journal however works for you—purchase a pretty notebook or email or text your thoughts to yourself. The point is to write it down so that you are able to validate your feelings. It’s also important to journal so you can start to identify patterns and triggers as to what may make you feel certain ways. For exercise goals, start small – walk for 20 minutes and listen to a podcast or music. Set yourself up for success with obtainable goals.
Reframing your thinking goes hand in hand with the positive psychology recommendations. It is hard to reframe in a positive way without the insights of positive psychology so I encourage you to incorporate both.
Think of this experience as a puzzle. Every single thing you do, from speaking to a nurse, to doing bloodwork and an IUI, as a piece of your puzzle. Patients often look at everything as black and white – a negative pregnancy test is a failure and a positive pregnancy test is a win. Nothing is ever a waste in this process and each piece is necessary to fill in your puzzle. I will repeat that because I believe it wholeheartedly: nothing is ever a waste in this process. Medicine is nothing if not collecting data points to help you achieve your goal. Perhaps you have started fertility treatments and feel disappointed with your results. Stop thinking this way, take a step back, and envision everything you are undergoing as a puzzle.
Another exercise that may be helpful for reframing is every time you have a negative feeling or negative self-talk, stop and write it down. Once you have written it down, take a look. Now write it again but in a positive way.
Here are a few examples of reframing negative self-talk into positive self-talk:
Negative self-talk ---> Positive self-talk
I’m so behind ---> I am proud of my accomplishments
This is my fault ---> I will not be a victim
I am broken ---> I am human
I feel stuck ---> It’s progress, not perfection
Why me? ---> What is this teaching me?
Life is so hard ---> How can I view this as a bump in the road and not a mountain?
As you continue to progress through your fertility journey, you may find that some of the suggested strategies above work better than others. Be patient with yourself and open to change. While you may gravitate towards mediation one day, another you may find it cathartic to emote and write down your thoughts and feelings. I recommend exploring all of the suggestions to discover what works best for you and your mental health.