This is just a brief story about how developing an attitude of Gratitude has changed my life and my health.
At this time last year, I couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk, couldn’t stay awake for more than two or three hours at a time. Leaving my house left me feeling disoriented, and terrified. I got lost and confused easily and in the evenings, when my husband went to work, I locked my door, turned out my lights and stayed in one place, for six hours, terrified of falling and busting my head open or breaking a bone. I was in the deep throws of Chronic Neurological Lyme Disease and I was slowly dying. Finding any part of life to be grateful for was something I couldn’t even imagine.
One of the things that helped me the most on my way through recovery was developing an attitude of gratitude. There is nothing like believing with all your heart that you’re on your way to your grave to make you exceptionally grateful for everything and every moment of your life, even those things we perceive to be bad can conceal a blessing if we will only change our perspective.
For centuries, healers and physicians, shamans and medicine men have known that a positive attitude is crucial for healing illness and benefitting not only the mind and the spirit but the physical body as well. But how do you develop an “attitude of gratitude” when you’re in the middle of a battle? Well, these are the practices I’ve been using for this past 12 months, and they’ve done wonders for me.
SAYING THANK YOU –
Sometimes, even being able to just say “thank you” can be so hard. We’re angry, bitter, broken, confused, afraid, exhausted – whatever we are at any given moment, those things can become stumbling blocks in our lives if we allow them to. I had many days where my journal was filled with things that we take for granted – ‘Today I’m grateful for a hot shower’, or, ‘Thank you for being able to stand up.’
Finding the frame of mind to be able to say, ‘thank you’ to God, the Universe or whatever power you believe in, not only opens my mind and my spirit up for possibilities in positivity, but it also gives me a frame of reference to realize that there are things going on to be thankful for. A hot shower may not seem like much but when you consider that there are people in the world whose only option for cleanliness is to bathe in the most polluted river in the entire world – it really shifts your perspective.
Now, whenever I say ‘Thank you’ to my God, I am reminded of a quote by Helen Keller;
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”
WRITE FIVE THINGS
Another practice that has helped me immensely is writing down five things I’m grateful for every day in my Bullet Journal. In the beginning of this practice, I was so mired down in my current circumstances that there were days when I couldn’t come up with five things, but I could come up with one. And as I began to diligently practice this writing, that one thing grew to two and then three and so on.
Now, the “Five things” has become so ingrained my life and my home that whenever there is something happening that is frustrating, or I’m upset or angry about something, my husband or my family and friends will say to me, “Quick, list five things you’re grateful for!” It may sound silly, but it works! As soon as I’m given the task of listing five things I’m grateful for, my mind stops focusing on the negative in a situation and starts looking for the positive.
THE NIGHTLY GRATITUDE PRAYER
Even after a year, I’m still having to remind myself sometimes that I want to say my prayers when I go to bed. Now, I know a lot of people who don’t believe in prayer, and that’s OK. Prayer is just a conversation, so think of it that way. Every night, as I’m lying on my pillows and getting ready to fall asleep, I have a small, quiet conversation with the force that has become my best friend, whom I choose to call God. For you, it can be anything that works! The point is to have the conversation.
Did you know that what we say is what we believe even if we don’t believe it at the time? Scientific research has proven that we are more likely to believe in what we say, out loud, to ourselves, more than if we hear the same things repeatedly from other people.
If we’re constantly bombarding our minds and our spirits and our physical beings with negative self-talk, then we will begin to feel those effects in our lives. We become more irritated and easily agitated, we become depressed and our moods become glum and dower. In our physical beings, we begin to experience more aches, pains, and illnesses. Negative self-talk only adds stress to an already stressful existence.
For me, every night, I start my prayer with “Thank you for today.” It’s a way for me to get the conversation started. I say “thank you” for something that we all take for granted – the fact that we had another day of life, and another chance to become who and what we are designed to be.
After I say my thank you for the day, I list those five things that come to my mind that I’m grateful for. They don’t have to be giant, earth-shattering things, just the first five. Sometimes my list looks like this:
- I’m grateful for coffee today
- I’m grateful for my pillow
- I’m grateful that I had the wherewithal not to cuss out the idiot that pulled out in front of me in traffic
- I’m grateful for socks
- I’m grateful for the sleep I’m about to get
The list doesn’t have to be in any order, or with any particular focus except having gratitude for something. That’s it.
After I say my gratitude’s, I talk to my God the same way I’d talk to Steven over coffee. I vent about what I’m frustrated about, I suss out ideas for new designs or talk about a color or material I’ve found and how much I like or don’t like it. I complain about the pain in my body or rejoice over the fact that I didn’t have to use a walker or cane that day. After all, it’s a simple conversation with my best friend, and talking about whatever is on my mind helps me get it out of my head so I’ve got the room for new, more positive notions and ideas.
I always end my prayers with saying “Thanks for listening. I love you.”
Bear in mind that when I started this journey to healing and began my gratitude practice, I was literally fighting for my life. There were a lot of days I had to force myself to find something to be grateful for or force myself to say thank you and many nights I felt utterly ridiculous having those “conversations” in bed. But I kept at it, and about three months into the practices, I began to see changes in my life – again, not huge, earth-shattering changes, but subtle shifts. My mood, despite chronic pain and fatigue, began to lift. A lot of the depression and darkness I felt began to go away and things began to seem “lighter” and not so difficult to bear.
There’s a lot to be said for having an “attitude of gratitude” all the time, even when we think we have nothing at all to be grateful for.
Do you practice a gratitude routine? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a note in the comments below, or if you’re reading this in the newsletter, write back and let me know what your own gratitude practices are and how they’ve helped you and your world change.
Want to know more about the benefits of gratitude? Check out the links below.
In the meantime, Namaste and have a wonderful day!