‘Being Positive’- does it help?

Most of us are surrounded by messages that we should be positive and that being positive will increase our chances of success in whatever we do.

People who are going through fertility treatment are often advised by well-meaning others, who generally have no idea what it’s like to be undertaking IUI or IVF cycles, that this is the best way to approach their treatment.
Research into the fertility treatment world is unclear about the value of maintaining a positive outlook but it is fair to say that there is no clear causal link between positive attitude and pregnancy rates.

What we do know is that treatment is a complex and challenging set of experiences for most people and that it is completely natural and human to have both hopeful and anxious/ negative/ angry thoughts about what the future will hold. We absolutely know that it can be exhausting to maintain a constantly positive attitude and depressing to constantly prepare for the worst.

All in all, it can amount to a lot of exhausting mental activity and is possibly a waste of precious energy.
What can be more productive is to focus on calmness rather than a positive or a ‘prepare for the worst’ mindset.
We often spend a lot of our time with our thoughts and unfortunately thinking itself can make calmness difficult to achieve.

Focussing on the body can be a great place to start to try to promote calmness in the face of uncertainty.
The body constantly gives us a heads up as to what is going on for us emotionally. Normally when we are feeling anxious or angry or distressed the body will be holding that feeling in a particular spot. It is worth spending some time to notice where those spots are. Often it will be in a particular place that the tension, the knot, the tightness or the pain is held. It might be the gut, or the diaphragm, or the chest, or the neck & shoulders.

Locating the feeling in the body can provide an opportunity to do something about it. Here are some ideas about what can be done:

  • Place your hand gently on the spot where you have the sensation. Keep your hand there for a few minutes and notice what is happening in your body. Keep breathing.
  • If you have tightness in your chest, try breathing in for a count of 6, out for a count of 6 and hold without breathing for a count of 6. This is a good way to re-set shallow breathing.
  • Lie down and place a heat pack on the spot. Keep breathing.
  • Lie on your back on the floor and stretch your limbs and fingers and toes as far as you can. This is a great way to release tightness. Keep breathing.
  • Have a bath.
  • Ask someone you trust to hold the part of you that hurts.

Practices such as yoga, meditation and general exercise if you enjoy them are also a great way to attend to your body. So too are other activities such as dance, creative arts, listening to music, gardening, caring for animals, sitting in nature, floating in water and anything else that engages your body and senses will tend to increase calmness and provide some respite from constant thinking.

Louise O’Byrne – Counsellor, No. 1 Fertility

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