Thanksgiving, Gratitude and Chronic Pain
"Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson
When we are struggling with chronic pain it’s not always easy to feel grateful. We spend far too much time in our head thinking about what is wrong with ourselves and our world. We want things to be different. We want to be “normal” again and go back to the way life used to be. We don’t want to have to deal with pain that never goes away. We worry that things will never change. And, we worry we won’t be able to manage our life successfully. And that is usually where we are when Thanksgiving and the holiday season arrive. We think to ourselves, “How am I going to manage the extra stress and strain that goes along with the season.”
So, I’m not going to tell you to plan and prioritize the activities that are important to you.
Or, to pace yourself and set limitations for yourself.
Or, to maintain healthy eating habits.
Most likely you already know all that!
What I am going to tell you is that it’s time to get outside of our heads. Isn’t it about time we started seeing what’s right with ourselves? Isn’t it time we accept and appreciate our world? We CAN embrace the holidays in spite of our limitations. And, the easiest way is through gratitude. To me, finding gratitude is finding all the things that are right.
In his book, Full Catastrophe Living, Jon Kabat-Zinn says: “As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter what is wrong.”
When we look at it from that perspective, then we have everything to be grateful for. The goal is to remind yourself of what you have, what you can do, and what is positive about your life. When we take the time to notice, we find that there are so many relationships, experiences and things to be thankful for. This Thanksgiving try to identify at least three or four small things that you are grateful for right now.
- For what you can do with your body.
- For family that love you.
- For friends that understand and are willing to help you out, even when you are in pain and irritable.
- For your home.
Whenever you feel like you are getting side tracked by silly, unimportant things or stressed or overwhelmed, take a moment and give thanks. It can instantly shift your mood and help you feel calmer. Chronic pain can feel like it has taken so much from you already, but so much still remains that is of value. Keep a Gratitude Journal to remind you of all the good in your life!