How a positive mindset can change your life when you’re living with HIV

Positive mindset-HIV-positive-peers

By: Jennifer McMillen Smith, MSSA, LISW-S, Division of Infectious Disease and medically reviewed by Ann Avery, Infectious Disease Physician at Metrohealth Medical Center

The thoughts that run through your head have a big impact on your life. Those thoughts can frame the way you feel about yourself and how you see and experience the world.

Having a positive mindset is all about switching up the thoughts that aren’t serving you well — the ones that make you feel bad about yourself or angry about your situation. (“I’m so lazy. Bad things always happen to me. It’s all my fault.”)

Why is having a positive mindset so important? Being stressed and angry about your life all of the time puts a strain on your immune system, and we know that has an impact on your HIV management.

Check out some of our advice.

Positive mindset-HIV-positive-peers

How to create a positive mindset

You don’t just throw a switch and create a positive mindset. It takes time. There’s a lot of trial and error, but here are some ways to get there:

Tame your internal voice

We all have an internal voice whispering doubts in our ears.

  • “You’re not smart enough.”
  • “You don’t make enough money.”
  • “You don’t have the right connections.”
  • “Your luck is all bad.”

The internal voice is just trying to keep you safe. And sometimes it does, when you’re in truly dangerous situations.

But sometimes the inner voice doesn’t know when to shut up and it can sabotage your success.

Good to know, but how do you get the voice under control?

Start by recognizing it. You can’t get rid of the voices of fear and doubt, but you can stop them from casting a big gray shadow over your life.

Positive mindset-HIV-positive-peers

Reverse negative thoughts

If you wouldn’t say it to your best friend, why would you say it to yourself?

Stop yourself when you’re having those negative thoughts and flip them around. You are good enough. Things have a habit of working out. You got this.

Be kind to yourself. You’re doing your best.


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Practice gratitude

Be grateful for what you’ve got. You’ve heard that, right?

Gratitude means taking a minute to list all the things going right in your life. This is a great thing to do at the end of your day or whenever you’re feeling frustrated.

Put your gratitude into words:

  • “I’m grateful that my support group helps keep me on track with my treatment plan.”
  • “I’m grateful the bus was running on time today so that I made it to work on time.”
  • “I’m grateful for friends who have my back.”

This can help you change the way you think and feel about your HIV status, too. You can’t change your status, but there are things you can still be grateful for:

  • You know your status, which means you can start treatment.
  • You are totally capable of rocking your treatment plan.
  • Today’s treatment options mean you can have a full, happy, healthy, long life ahead of you and that HIV will never stand in the way of your dreams.
  • Researchers are developing new treatment options and making progress towards a cure all the time.

Positive mindset-HIV-positive-peers

A few mantras for positive mindsets

A mantra is a short, simple statement you can make to reassure yourself that everything’s gonna be fine.

A few suggestions:

  • “I’ve got this.”
  • “I deserve love.”
  • “I let go of everything that does not help me live a happy, healthy life.”
  • “I can change my life.”
  • “Every step is taking me to where I want to be.”
  • “I am powerful.”

Positive mindset-HIV-positive-peers

Life won’t always be butterflies and rainbows

You’re gonna have hard days. You won’t feel 100% positive all the time. Bad things will happen, and it’s OK to get mad, sad, or upset about it.

But your life doesn’t have to be a whirlpool of negativity. Building a positive mindset can relieve stress, depression, and anxiety — all of which strengthen your immune system and make it easier for your HIV meds to do their job.


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Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative.
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