This question & answer column is for people living with chronic health challenges and their family caregivers, who want to learn to increase the odds of improving their health by learning to live with mastery & wellbeing.
I invite you to post your questions in the comments box below. When I get a certain number of related questions, I pick one that covers them all and I answer that one.
I post to this blog three times per week. Monday posts are relevant published articles. Wednesday posts are interviews—mostly video. Friday posts consist of questions about living better with chronic health challenges, and my answers to them.
Here is today’s question:
QUESTION: Many people have asked me for advice on how to help a family member, close friend, or someone they work with who consistently fails to proactively behave in ways that engender health and well-being.
ANSWER: It can be very frustrating when someone you care about behaves in ways that are not consistent with health, well-being, or getting ahead in the world. Most of us have discovered that criticizing, berating, and shaming them almost never works.
Here is what I recommend:
It’s important to empathize with their suffering, while not buying in to their helpless, hopeless view of life.
In a collaborative, loving, and accepting way, question their beliefs in order to help them to see that their self-image and their core beliefs may not be based on fact. After you do that, explore his or her past successes to find evidence to support your loved one’s ability to be proactive.
Explore with them to find what excites them. Find out what would make them excited to get up in the morning.
Recognition of the power of choice:
Help them to recognize that every time they say “have to,” they are playing victim. One of the most powerful practices I’ve given to such people is to have them preface every activity with the phrase: “I’m choosing to…”
Also, help them find a way to serve others in some capacity; this alone can be very empowering. Work with them to expand their social ties, especially in ways that involve community projects or activities where they are working in some capacity along with others who all have a shared vision.
Possibly direct them to an ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) therapist; psychotherapists specializing in ACT focus on helping people identify their personal values and to take action in harmony with those personal life values. ACT researchers have demonstrated that it is not necessary to first eliminate or even reduce anxiety and fears before taking valued action.
This website is offered as a free public service, supplying information that has been found helpful to certain people living with chronic health challenges. No treatment is offered on this website. The advice is general, and may or may not apply to your individual situation, and is not a substitute for psychotherapy or medical treatment.
What questions do you have about how to live better with chronic health challenges that are related to the relationship between states of mind and health? Just scroll down and type your question in the comment box. I will post a reply to your comment, but your question may not appear in this column.