Positive Attitude and Positive Thinking

For me the first and hardest part was healing the mind, losing the ‘Cancer is Killing Me’ idea and coming to terms with the emotional trauma … Once I believed with my heart that my body can overcome the disease there was an overnight improvement in general health.”

Cancer survivor

Working with cancer for over fifty years, Dr. Douglas Brodie has recognized a cluster of personality characteristics common among cancer patients—such as a tendency to suppress “toxic emotions,” particularly anger. More important, however, is his identification of success factors in those who beat cancer. According to Brodie, “A positive attitude is essential to a successful outcome for all cancer patients.” But it takes a willingness to question formerly held beliefs and to change one’s lifestyle and even one’s thoughts. “Conventional medicine has only recently begun to recognize the connection between the mind and the immune system,” he says. “It is an extremely important aspect of … healing and freedom from disease.” (To see the complete list of success factors in those who survive cancer, see chapter 10 of Dr. Brodie’s e-book.)

In the face of a serious diagnosis such as cancer, however, having a positive attitude can be challenging—especially for someone who has some or all of the personality characteristics Dr. Brodie mentions. Not so easy to let go of stress when you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders and the weight of a lifetime of unexpressed emotions in your body.

As with any challenge, it begins with the willingness to take baby steps in a new direction. In fact, willingness is one of the most important building blocks in adopting a new attitude and a new way of thinking. Other important factors are the day-to-day choices we make, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, getting exercise—even if it’s lifting an arm or leg—and receiving support from professionals and loved ones. All of this can set the stage for developing and maintaining a positive attitude.


“Trillions of cells are eavesdropping on your every thought and action.”

Deepak Chopra


Cultivating positive thinking is a skill, and like any skill it takes practice. It starts with recognizing when you’re limiting your thoughts by telling yourself what you can’t do, or when you’re focusing on a negative outcome that hasn’t yet occurred or focusing only on the negative aspects of a situation. Where we put our attention is critical. It’s the power of choice, but first we must be aware. In order to focus on the positive and choose healthy thoughts, our state of mind must be relatively calm. Coming from a place of fear, panic, or trauma will cause the brain to shut down or fire erratically. We must learn to recognize our emotional state in the present moment and shift it as needed. Only then can we access the rich gateway to the positive.

Positive thinking does not guarantee a positive outcome. It’s more about choosing what you focus on and opening yourself to all possibilities. By choosing positive thoughts and remaining open, we increase our likelihood of success and may even come to redefine success. Maybe the goal shifts from “beating cancer” to “nurturing oneself and finding inner peace” regardless of medical state. This may also result in “beating the cancer”; but equally important, it will lead to increased quality of life.

The more we choose positive thinking, the stronger those tracks in the brain become. At first it may feel like a great effort, but with time and practice, it can begin to feel like second nature. There are opportunities to choose or focus on the positive every second of every day. When I lost my hair due to chemotherapy, I had many negative thoughts. I told myself I was ugly and no longer feminine. These thoughts triggered grief and feelings of depression. I saw myself being cruel to my body and my inner essence. I decided instead to choose self-kindness and nurturing and to use my creativity to create a positive outcome. I transformed the loss of my hair into an opportunity for artistic expression. (See video titled “The Rhythm of Life” from my video blog.) I used hats, makeup, jewelry, and colorful clothes to create an outward joyous expression that made me feel celebratory and attractive.

We don’t want to ignore our negative thoughts and feelings, but we don’t want to cling to them. We want to acknowledge them, let them go, and create more space for the positive.

It’s not easy, but the more you do it, the easier it gets. As your consciousness expands and your choices become clear, the positive outcomes will motivate you to keep moving forward with your practice. The mind-body connection is powerful. Partner with it and allow that energy to transform your life. Nothing is impossible, unless you think it is :)

For Further Exploration:

Identifying Negative Thinking and Focusing on Positive Thinking

Five Myths about Positive Mental Attitude: It’s More Grounded than You Think

Healing Cancer and the Power of Your Mind: The Influence of Our Thinking, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Emotions on Our Health

The Work of Byron Katie: Undoing Your Old Thoughts to Allow Your Mind to Return to Its True, Awakened, Peaceful Nature

Back to Stages of Treatment-Stage Two


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