Caring for Elderly Parents: How to Feel PositiveAs family caregivers, it is so easy for us to find ourselves awash in unproductive emotions. Guilt can become an ever-present companion. As we struggle to accept new realities, we can get stuck in grief and sorrow. As the demands on us increase, our normal human response is to take on more and more responsibility until we feel like victims. This post is part of our collection of helpful articles on caring for aging parents.
Although it may sound a little odd, we can and must practice finding ways of feeling good anyway.
Turning the Tables On Caregiver Stress With Positivity
Exciting new research is showing that positive emotions have an “undo” effect on the stress that negative emotions create in our bodies. Negative emotions create a residue, like rust, that even small amounts of positive emotion can wash away, leaving us stronger and renewed for another day.
Positive emotions also have been proven to improve our ability to see the big picture. When we are in more positive states, we find our creativity. We take in new information more easily and are able to make sense of it faster. As Barbara L. Fredrickson suggests in The Value of Positive Emotions, we are better problem-solvers when we can elevate our thoughts and emotions.
Retraining Our Brains
The great news is that the more we practice, the more we are training our brains to support us in feeling good regardless of the external circumstances we face.
Neuroscientists have concluded that our brains respond to everything we experience each day. Rather than having a fixed set of neurons and synapses at birth that die over time, our brain is a living organism that grows much like a plant: If we experience a lot of new stimulation, the brain responds by making new connections. If we live in routines that never vary, the brain weeds out unneeded connections and simplifies itself.
Choosing to See the Positive and Feel Good
Have you ever noticed how some people are always able to see the negative side of absolutely everything? Or how others take a stance of fear and caution about absolutely everything?
Our thoughts drive our emotions. The combination of thought + emotion creates a container for our conscious awareness or psyche. Our psyches get into ruts and routines the more we take on habits of criticism, complaining, and being afraid. Every day we are creating the “wiring” in our brains to produce more of what we focused on that day.
In your family caregiving role, notice how often you choose to feel good.
What gives you self-worth?
What brings a smile to your face?
Doctor’s orders: It’s good to feel good every day.
* * * * *
How often do you think about what makes you feel good or your very best? What tips do you have for others who may be struggling to remember and enact those good feelings? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.