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What’s there to be grateful for?

With difficulty I crawl out of bed in the morning. Part of the difficulty comes from the fact that my body hurts. It seems that joints swell and stiffen overnight making my first movements so painful. I’ve heard it’s because a build up of fluid causes the joint swelling and for me that happens overnight. I’ve heard too that chronic conditions are not the only cause of joint stiffness but that both bacterial and viral infections can cause swelling too. My problem is chronic and an every morning affair. What’s there to be grateful for?

Another reason I have such a hard time getting out of bed is because my sleep is sporadic and fitful. It’s not the deep restful sleep that I used to have. It’s not even the disjointed sleep of having young children. It’s a painful sleep that is light because every time I move, I hurt. When I wake in the morning I’m tired. Sometimes I don’t feel as though I slept at all. And I know I’ll be dragging myself through the day. What’s there to be grateful for?

As I go through the day I try to put, and keep, a smile on my face. I want to be a positive person. I want to contribute, in a meaningful way, to my family, my work and even my country. I wish to have a positive impact on the people who come into my life. But it’s so hard some days to smile through the pain. It’s even harder to continually explain why I’m in pain and that I’m doing all that needs to be done about it. It really makes me wonder what there is to be grateful for.

This is how I used to feel. Often. Well, I guess enough people were asking that question and there are now a number of studies that say being grateful is good for you. An article published in the Clinical Psychology Review by A.M. Wood et. al in 2010 suggests that giving thanks is linked to benefits such as better health, sounder sleep and a better outlook on life. Robert Emmons, in his bookThanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier summarizes numerous studies and concludes that gratitude is a choice but when made, it can improve your life.

I got it. I started this practice in my daily experience. It wasn’t easy at first. I was used to complaining, used to thinking about how awful I felt, and used to talking about the pain. It was a bit of changing my mind to change my outlook and I had to think about it all the time when I first started. It was a bit of forcing myself to find anything good about my body as I got out of bed. And with practice it got easier. I even decided that I now had a valid reason to take my time in the morning!

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends - today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, an annual holiday. Giving thanks and a grateful attitude did not always diminish my pain but it took my mind off the pain and it really made me look at the world with different eyes. Use this opportunity – this Thanksgiving Day - to give thanks for something in your body and life today. Then make it a daily holiday for you.

If you can relate to these feelings or you use gratitude in your life I’d love to hear from you.

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