As we enter into this season of thanksgiving we become more mindful of our blessings in life; our family and friends, our homes and for some of us even our jobs and careers. We all have something to be thankful for. Most of us know that being grateful is a good thing; however it may have a bigger impact than you realize. There is growing evidence that suggests practicing gratitude can rewire your brain and body for health and happiness.
When you live with autoimmune disease gratitude may not be high on your list of feelings. Maybe it’s something you experience on a rare occasion when your symptoms subside or you’re “having a good day.” But what if I told you that gratitude does not have to be a feeling you get only when you are well? What if today instead of diagnosing, analyzing, treating and trying to forcibly fix your chronic illness you took a step back and simply became thankful for its place in your life?
I know, right now you’re probably thinking I’m a crazy person. I am asking you to be thankful for the thing that causes you fatigue, confusion, loss of control and at times unbearable pain, but hear me out.
Illness is our body’s way of telling us something we are currently doing is not working and we are out of balance. When we take the time to slow down we can view illness as on opportunity to listen to what is going on within and use it as a tool for personal growth and healing.
Working with autoimmune clients I routinely encourage them to view their diagnosis as a gift. They now have the opportunity to learn and incorporate true health into their life. Healthy behaviors such as paying attention to what they put in their bodies and knowing when to rest have now become part of the standard and not the exception for their lives. If of course they let it.
“Gratitude keeps you optimistic and as we’ve seen, evidence shows that optimism improves your health. When you focus on gratitude positive things flow in more readily, making you even more grateful. As long as your gratitude vessel is full you’ll avoid the unhealthy plunge into dark places.” – Lissa Rankin in Mind Over Medicine
Unfortunately as busy people, we have learned to ignore the subtle cues our bodies send us when we are burnt out, or eating foods that don’t contribute to our wellbeing. We dull them down with pharmaceuticals when they become too much of an inconvenience in order to keep up with an unrealistic pace of life. It’s much easier to hand over our healing power and hope that someone seemingly wiser and more experienced can “fix us.” But an autoimmune disease has the uncanny ability to put that power squarely back into our own hands since more often than not they are mishandled by conventional healthcare means.
Admittedly, vigilance in our own health can be annoying, inconvenient, and frustrating at times but those are the time when gratitude is most needed. Lissa Rankin in her book Mind over Medicine writes, “Gratitude keeps you optimistic and as we’ve seen, evidence shows that optimism improves your health. When you focus on gratitude positive things flow in more readily, making you even more grateful. As long as your gratitude vessel is full you’ll avoid the unhealthy plunge into dark places.”
Here are a few of the things living with chronic pain has given me personally:
- An awareness of the connection between how I feel and what is going on in my body in order to identify imbalances before they become unmanageable.
- My life calling and career path in health and wellness.
- The ability to be a better listener to others because of a deeper understanding of the illness experience.
- A true appreciation for food and how it is the key to good health.
- The ability to know when I need to slow down and not push through the pain.
- A deeper understanding of who I am and what I value at my core. (work in progress)
- Connection to a community of like-minded individuals who want to change the way chronic disease is managed in our current healthcare system.
As you can see chronic pain has given me a lot. I encourage you to take a moment and write down what your illness has given you. If you can’t come up with anything right now, that’s okay. Simply give yourself the time and space to listen to your body without judgment and see if that opens a crack for gratitude to come in.
As we enter into a season of thankfulness, my hope for you is that one day you can view your diagnosis as a gift and understand that your symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that it is working on your behalf. It’s thoughts like this that lead to empowerment over victimization and that alone can make all the difference in the world.
Sometimes you just need to talk. If you would like to like work with Lakeside Nutritional Therapy reach out today to schedule your free 20 minute initial phone consultation. Email firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s start your healing journey together.