How are you doing?
One of my clients told me her grandson asks her how she was. and she replied, “Perfect.” He replied, “You don’t have very reliable sources do you Grandma.”
In Dr. Robert Holden‘s Happiness Now CD, he speaks about how we tend to answer the question, “How are you?” I’ve been listened to my client’s responses. Most people answer “not bad”, “could be better”, “so so”.Very rarely do I hear, “I feel better since the last treatment and can do more.” The focus is most often on what they are not able to do. This is the focus of the medical model: Where does it hurt? What can’t you do because it hurts?
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People often can’t answer the question, “What can you do?” Somehow, it will always comes back to their limitation. Granted, the purpose of physiotherapy is to help people return to function. My friend and colleague once said, “you can’t be normal if you don’t act normal.” She means if you have a sore arm and you always treat it like a sore arm, you might always have a sore arm.
There is a time in the injury process when I tell the clients “pain is your guide,” and the injured part needs rest to let the inflammation settle, and for the body to start repairing tissues. However, after a time, the tissue has healed and the body is keeping the formerly injured area protected. It is a natural nervous-system response to injury, to keep the injury from happening again. Basically, the body can start to act like an overprotective organism: it won’t let you back outside to play because it does not want you to hurt yourself again.
The nervous system becomes overly sensitive, sometimes to the point that even light touch that was typically pleasure, becomes painful.
Success comes in cans….
I suppose if my clients really felt good, they would not be coming to see me. However, perhaps they could feel better if they changed the way they think.
This shift in thinking is like focusing on what went right in your day, seminar, relationship, sporting event, meeting, or anything else you do, instead of what went wrong. Instead of saying “I can’t walk more than a block,” say “I can walk a block.” Or say, “I am able to sit for 30 minutes” instead of “I can’t sit more than 30 minutes.” How about “I was able to do 20 minutes of gardening, before I needed to rest” versus “I can’t garden like I used to.”
When you focus on can versus can’t, your mind starts to realize you are not so bad off, and things are improving. This has been a shift for me as a practitioner, to help clients realize what they are able to do and to encourage them to do it.
I did a half ironman when I turned 40. I noticed when I didn’t run, my back and left hip area didn’t hurt as much. So I took some time off. Then I partially dislocated my shoulder playing hockey, and ended up not playing for 6 weeks, and was also not able to do the front crawl swimming stroke for my half ironman training. But I could do hot yoga and the breast stroke. I could still bike, hike and kayak (as long as someone helped my lift it onto and off of my car). Was this an easy time for me? Not at all. It was challenging as I was used to being able to physically do anything I wanted to, and was also used to being independent.
Finding happiness amongst the rubble
An injury can be a life changing event. For some, it means changing the job they were doing. I had one client for whom this was a good thing. She realized work was not where she wanted to give all of her energy, but rather she wanted to have some for her family first. Her injuries did not allow her to return to work as she had previously done.
For another client, I suggested she find something in her life that would help her laugh every day. When I need a good laugh, I listen to my newest book on tape by Ellen Degeneres or watch The Big Bang Theory. Perhaps even some laughter yoga.
Call to Action
I encourage everybody—no matter how you are feeling (tired, sore, grumpy)—just for one day (today!) when someone asks you how you are, reply “GREAT” with a huge smile on your face. Before you even get out of bed, write down at least 5 things you are grateful for. That might help you feel like you really do mean it when you say you feel great, instead of feeling like you are lying through a fake smile.