Living with Chronic Pain: Discovering Gratitude “It can be difficult to feel thankful when you live with chronic pain. Because pain may interfere with important areas of life, you may have suffered some difficult losses. Over time, you may have become more resentful and less thankful. But, if you take the time to notice, you may find that there are relationships, activities, and experiences to be grateful for, even though you have chronic pain. With practice, you can discover gratitude again and experience the many benefits of feeling thankful.”
I know what you are thinking:
As soon as someone suggests you should think about all the good things and things you should be grateful for… you might want to bitch slap them. Especially if in that moment you are in a great deal of pain.
Well, as the wise poets of Monty Python once said: Always look on the bright side of life. (And that was song in some dire cicumstances.)
It is in fact easy to be resentful and bitter. Or feel like you lost a lot of your life to pain. Or compromised on a lot of things. Given up on a lot of things. You can see how things could have been a great deal different. But they aren’t. So we do have to deal with that fact. And part of that is just acknowledging one awesome or positive fact every day about your life, not the what if life.
Fact is it takes something like three positive thoughts to replace one negative one. So I think those of us with chronic illnesses and chronic pain face an uphill battle as it is. It is difficult. We have a fine facade sometimes, but it is difficult to keep our inward mood balanced and up and maintained. We know all the things to boost our moods… listen to music, take a walk, sleep well, eat well… and more tips and tricks. But it can be a real struggle. Yet one thing is to simple reflect on our day and note one thing we are thankful or grateful about it, or our lives, at that moment and write that down. Does not seem too much to ask in the scheme of things right? Like we often say ‘it is a bad day, not a bad life’ so we must be able to pull out one thing a day about our lives we are grateful for.
Drs. Robert Emmons and Robin Stern study the therapeutic effects of gratitude. They say that gratitude is “… an affirming of goodness or “good things” in one’s life and the recognition that the sources of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self”.
According to Drs. Randy and Lori Sansone, feeling thankful is: “The appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself; it is a general state of thankfulness and/or appreciation”.Dr. Alex Wood and colleagues define gratitude as: “Involving a life orientation towards noticing and appreciating the positive in life”.
And basically exercising this has merit. “The idea of gratitude as a “general state of thankfulness” or a “life orientation” is interesting. It suggests a way of life in which you regularly focus on what is positive and less on what is negative, on what you can do rather than on what you can’t do, and on what you have rather than on what you don’t have. People who genuinely feel grateful on a day-to-day basis tend to report greater well-being, better functioning, and less depression. The better you feel overall, the better you will manage your pain.”
How do you cultivate your inner gratitude? Some people have a gratitude diary. And they write something they are thankful for in it each day. Helps you focus on something positive you get from each day. And it can literally be anything. Today I was thankful my spouse cooked supper. And that he brought me home a coffee and a chocolate chip cookie on his way home from work…. just because. When he does those small things just because, it means he is thinking of me and it gives me that warm fuzzy feeling. And I am grateful for a considerate spouse.
And here is “a Gratitude Worksheet. Take your time and work your way slowly through the worksheet. Click here to see an example.”
It is a good idea to write it down as well. There is something to contemplating what we are grateful for and then every day writing down something. Getting into that practice. It might be for you the perfect time is first thing in the morning. For me, not grateful for too much then. Don’t really have a functioning brain. So for me the perfect time is in the evening as I am preparing to go to bed.