Living in constant pain can make a person lose hope. Not everyone can understand how much harder regular tasks can be when you have a chronic illness like fibromyalgia. I recently found myself in a vicious cycle of feeling sorry for myself. So, I did some reading and found some ways to find happiness, and guess what? Expressing gratitude is a big way to find happiness. Of course, I have to share what I have learned with all of you, so here is how to express gratitude when you live in constant pain.
I know when I came across this information it seemed a given that feeling grateful makes you feel good. But, it is important to know why you should do it. So, here are some benefits.
- Improve your health by boosting your immunity.
- Can increase your optimism, especially if you are naturally a pessimist (like me).
- Widen your perspective so you can see all sides.
- Find happiness
- Show you the bright side
- Feel appreciation for your circumstance
To be honest, I am mostly a “glass is half empty” kind of person. Add some incurable chronic illnesses and you have the recipe for further depression and unhappiness. Truly, I know no one wants to live this way, especially me. That is why I had to find a way to see the light. Honestly, it would be so easy to let the darkness claim me; but what about my life- what about those that love me? Ultimately, this is where the search for happiness came in for me. I hope you decide to go on this journey as well.
There are so many little ways you can practice gratitude every day of the year, not just around the holidays. If you are like me and find it hard to find the bright side, or at least it takes some effort then I recommend practice, practice, and more practice. Finally, here are some ways I find work for me:
- Meditation: You can do this on your own or in a guided session. If doing on your own, focus on something or someone that you find you are grateful for. I use the Calm app and they actually have a 7-day series on learning to find gratitude.
- Journal. Write 3-5 things in a journal every night before bed that you are grateful for. Then, recite them out loud or in your head. As you do this let your whole body feel the appreciation.
- Write someone a gratitude letter. I love this one because it makes you both happy. Basically, you just write a letter to someone and tell them how their action made you feel.
- Give a small gift. This could be as simple as bringing a treat into work for your co-workers, a small trinket for a friend or flowers from your garden. Really, it doesn’t have to cost much but the small gesture tells the person that you appreciate them.
- Publicly thank someone. This is an easy one to do on social media. Share a photo of someone you are grateful for and tag them. Include a message of what they do that you are so thankful for. This is another feel good one for both involved.
- Random acts of kindness. I absolutely love this one because this is also something you can do anonymously. I don’t know if you have ever experienced giving to someone without them knowing it was you- it just leaves a warm feeling all over.
- Pay it forward or pay it back. An example of this is if someone in a drive through line paid for your order, then you pay for the person behind you in line. Paying it back means that you do something nice for the person who is doing something nice for you. When you have a chronic illness this goes double for your caretaker. Honestly, it can be as simple as giving them a smile or a hug and saying thank you.
- Give someone your full attention. These days with so much happening at once it can be hard not to try to multi-task while someone is trying to talk to you. However, you can show them gratitude by putting everything down and just listening.
- Be creative! Sit down and make a list of all the ways you can show someone your gratitude. If you have a certain talent use it! Examples of this are writing a poem, singing a song, playing an instrument or even making a special dish. Really, the possibilities are endless.
- Make this a habit. Expressing your gratitude can be as simple as thinking about how grateful you are for anything and everything. Clearly, you don’t have to go to all the lengths listed above and you can certainly do more. The most important thing is to find a way to do it.
Before I became ill, I was the go-to person in my household. If something needed to be done it was probably me that did it. I took care of everyone and everything, except myself. Most moms can probably relate to the thankless part of our jobs. There was hardly a thank you given to me.
After I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, see my full story in Coming Out With A Invisible Illness, things started to change for me. It didn’t happen right away though, it took some time and me getting worse. I was in terrible daily pain, severe exhaustion even when I did nothing to warrant it and I just couldn’t function. Sadly, this included doing cooking, cleaning, and taking care of my kids and husband. I just couldn’t do it anymore. Ultimately, the dynamics of the house had to change!
My kids started helping out more and my husband not only shared in more chores he was often the only one doing them. I guess since I came from the one doing everything to now not being able to hardly do anything I could appreciate the help. Eventually, I figured out that by showing my gratitude to my family, I actually felt a little better overall and happy. Even though I didn’t feel I had many reasons to be happy, I started finding the reasons!
It is important for me to keep being creative with how I show gratitude. It was stated in a gratitude meditation by Tamara Levitt from the Calm App that, “gratitude can be a superpower!” I mean all you have to do is just look at all the benefits that I listed at the beginning of this article; it truly is amazing. So how can you keep it up?
- Like I said before practice, practice, and practice.
- Make a ritual out of it.
- Keep a journal of not only the things and people you are grateful for, but how you have shown them your gratitude.
- Give yourself time to make it a habit and don’t give up.
- Show yourself gratitude as well by constantly “flipping the script” on negative thoughts and reminding yourself of your positive qualities.
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