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Nov 14th 2013

Giving Thanks

. . . can be an act of self-love, as long as you don’t force it Science has validated that feeling and expressing gratitude may be one of the simplest and best ways to improve our health and general well-being. It's all too easy to pay attention to what we don't like about our situation, what we want and don't have, what limits us and worries us. But research has found that focusing on, and being grateful for, the good things in our lives can make us healthier, happier, less stressed, and more effective at solving problems. Disease symptoms have become less intense. Sleep is improved, and this is associated with having more positive than negative thoughts before hitting the pillow. Gratitude helps to build relationships with others. Acknowledging people for the contributions they make to your life creates a positive context in which to deal with any problems that come up. However, like all good things, gratitude can be misused. As therapist Ken Page points out, we can begin to think we should feel grateful when we just don’t, leading only to guilt, to a lack of compassion for ourselves, and to a dulling of a healthy sense of discrimination. Forcing ourselves to feel grateful and cheerful can be a way of avoiding unpleasant feelings that need to be faced. Healthy gratitude is exemplified by Joan Buchman, who has found writing in a gratitude journal an invaluable aid in dealing with fibromyalgia. She writes:

Gratitude is not about "looking at the bright side" or denying the realities of life. Gratitude goes much deeper than that. It's about learning from a situation, taking the good to help deal with other challenges in the future. It's about finding out that you have more power over your life than you previously imagined.  You can stop being a victim of your circumstances and reach out to the joy in living. If you open your heart to the good in your life, gratitude becomes as much a part of your life as breathing.

. . . I still have muscle pain and fatigue. Those symptom levels remain fairly constant. But that journal opened the door to unconditional happiness with the hand I was dealt. I can look beyond the pain and fatigue and look forward to each day and the joy it will bring.

Happy Thanksgiving!  
Page K. The healing gift of non-gratitude. Psychology Today. December 10, 2012.
Buchman J. The healing power of gratitude. CFIDS & Fibromyalgia Self-Help. www.cfidsselfhelp.org.

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