How to Stay Positive (Even in Difficult Situations)

I don't have to be the one to tell you, but being in a wheelchair can sometimes be a bit challenging. No, I'm not being a "Debbie Downer," let's just be real. Not all curbs have curb cuts, not all restaurants have a ramp to get inside, and rolling down a sidewalk can all too often lead to a drop-off to a rain-soaked flowing waterway. So, how can we as wheelchair users find positivity even in difficult situations? Well, read further and let's change our thoughts and mindsets.

A man using a power wheelchair in front of a set of stairs

Mind Over Matter

The stresses of flying as a wheelchair user are overwhelming. Worrying if your chair will be damaged is the first thing that crosses our minds. But what if we think differently? What if we change our mindset before even boarding the plane? Think positive thoughts about the destination you're flying to. Think about the fun that you are about to have. Give yourself a sense of calmness & peacefulness and convey your happiness to those around you. As the airline team are about to board you and take your chair to the loading area, tell them how you depend on your chair for mobility and tell them how much you appreciate them taking such great care of your chair. As they take it away for boarding, embrace the quiet moments of flying. Watch a movie, eat the airline snacks, and keep your mind occupied on what is happening now and in this moment. As the plane lands and the chair is delivered back to you, look it over while remaining pleasant and discuss any issues you see with the staff. And remember, there are no problems, only issues that may need to be resolved.

Embrace the stares

Sometimes as you roll along your way, you may notice people looking at you and staring at your chair. Of course, kids are the best at doing this. They will watch you roll all the way by, and even turn around to watch you more. Instead of letting this upset you, as you may feel like you are sticking out like a sore thumb, embrace the stares. Know that you are educating people just by being you. Appreciate that they are intrigued by someone who may look and maneuver around differently than themselves. Show them that you are able to get out into the world just like they are. Tell them hello and ask them how they are doing today. Say to the children, "Pretty cool wheels, huh?" This will spark an even bigger interest in them to know that even though people may be "different," they can be friendly, too. By being disgruntled from people staring, it only makes you grouchy and uncomfortable. Don't assume that they are thinking negative and mean thoughts when they are looking at you – tell yourself that they are realizing how awesome and amazing you are. Because you are!

Kill Them with Kindness

As a wheelchair user, you probably know how stressful relationships can be between those needing care and those providing care. Sometimes as tiredness sets in, tempers can flare and patience can too often run thin. By being patient with your caregiver and explaining what you are needing as "asking" for it rather than demanding it, the mood in the room will be much more pleasant. If things are not going as you would like and the caregiver is not doing things exactly as you'd like, keep a smile on your face and ask them as nicely as you can to do it differently. After all, when our thoughts become negative, our words become negative – and negativity is contagious. By understanding that people cannot read our thoughts and always know what we want or need, asking them nicely and maintaining a positive demeanor can set the mood in the room. This makes everyone involved more happy, loving, and caring.

The aphorism, "Happiness comes from within" is true, but not completely. Happiness can also come from those around us. Positivity and optimism can pass from person to person. By keeping a positive mindset, the people around us will be more positive as well. They cannot stay grouchy and poor-tempered if we only have positive, nice words to give them. So, no matter what life throws at us, stay positive and continually try to think positive thoughts.

About the author

Cory Lee

After being diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy at the age of two, Cory Lee's thirst for adventure never ceased. He went on many trips around the U.S. when he was younger, and then started taking things internationally when he turned 15. Since then, Cory has traveled to 21 countries across six continents, all while managing to start up his travel blog Curb Free with Cory Lee, where he shares his accessible, and sometimes not-so-accessible travel adventures with others. Cory is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) and the North American Travel Journalists Association (NATJA). He has been featured in the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, in a nationwide segment for CBS News, Lonely Planet, and many others. His blog won the 2017 Best Travel Blog Gold Lowell Thomas Award. He hopes to inspire other wheelchair users to roll out of their comfort zone and see all of the beauty that the world has to offer.

Cory Lee's ride is a Quickie Q700 M.

Most of the stories here on were submitted by readers. Do you have a story to tell? We'd love to hear it. Submit your story here.

Date: 8/10/2021 12:00:00 AM

Latest Comments

4/16/2024 | José Díaz
Invaluable resource! ¡Tu guía sobre el uso de GoFundMe para gastos de movilidad ofrece consejos p...

2/18/2024 | Jamie Elliott
I played in a wc hybrid tournament, Mid South, last yr. He is an amazing player and I’m sure he i...

2/8/2024 | Elaine Cook
Great article written by a wonderful Christain man. You're such an inspiration!!!

2/7/2024 | Diana Weaver
I enjoyed reading your article. I'm thankful I had the opportunity to play with you as my pi...

1/10/2024 | Mary Goldberg
Thanks to Tyler for sharing the awesome opportunities! As the MRT Program Director, I'm always ha...

How to get funding for your assistive technology