The Power of Practicing Gratitude
A cancer survivor shares how practicing gratitude can bring positivity, perspective and hope into your life.
Practicing gratitude is a great way to infuse positivity, hope and perspective into your life.
There is always something to be grateful for; I have become especially passionate about gratitude since my cancer diagnosis in 2012.
It is interesting how a big life challenge can illuminate little things in our lives we are so thankful for or maybe have taken for granted. I think it was, in part, my diagnosis of Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis (LCH), and the years of treatment and recurrences that followed that showed me how transformational practicing gratitude can be in our day-to-day lives.
Gratitude and wellness
Gratitude can have a significant impact on our mindset, our physical bodies and ultimately our over all well being. Studies show that gratitude increases our resiliency making us better able to cope with the changes around us, improves sleep, increases feelings of happiness, decreases anxiety and can even decrease blood pressure.
I practice gratitude regularly and every November, I observe a “30 Days of Thanks Challenge .” November is natural time to do this, as we often reflect on our blessings and give thanks during this season.
30 Days of Gratitude
Each day during my 30 days, I highlight one thing I’m thankful for in my journal and then often share it on social media.
If you want to try a similar challenge, you can document your gratitude any way you like: through a journal, social media, or just telling a friend, etc. It doesn’t have to be November, it can be any timeframe that works for you.
Posting on social media can be a great way to share about your 30 days, but it is not essential. This year, I am posting less frequently, but still practicing gratefulness every day through journaling or sending a thank you card to a friend.
What’s important is that you use the 30 days to help cultivate your gratitude.
More about the power of gratitude
Taking a posture of gratitude during a challenging time in life can prove a powerful choice. It’s almost impossible to dwell on hardships and struggles surrounding you when you are focusing on the good things you are thankful for. These two opposites can’t occupy your mind at the same time.
I acknowledge and in no way want to diminish the many emotions that can be associated with challenging times in life. Having gone through a cancer diagnosis, neurosurgery, several recurrences, chemotherapy, and radiation, I am all too familiar with the difficulties that can be associated for both patient and loved ones. For more about my cancer journey, read More Than a Conqueror.
The challenge of being grateful while facing cancer
It’s natural to feel upset, fearful, mad, confused and frustrated when we go through something challenging. Our bodies are hardwired to feel these emotions. After several rounds of chemotherapy infusions, I remember being so sick and tired of being sick and tired. It can feel like nothing is working or helping.
It’s understandable that gratitude may not be on the top of your mind, but I believe it can be helpful—even in the worst situations.
The more we think a certain way, the more naturally that way of thinking comes to us. Every time we have a negative thought, it reinforces itself. The good news is the same is true for positive thoughts.
Choosing the positive
So, while fear and negative emotions are what so often come naturally and stick, they don’t have to stay. What you choose to look at and focus on will perpetuate in your life. I have found this to be true with gratitude. The more you practice positive thinking, the more it is reinforced. As you choose to focus on gratitude you may begin to find yourself operating out of that mindset more naturally.
Giving thanks is a choice. This does take practice and intentionality, but you will find that the posture of gratitude has a ripple effect throughout your life. When we focus on the good and give thanks for what you have, it seems to blur and put into perspective the bad. It turns what we have into enough and allows us to acknowledge, celebrate and embrace the good.
More ideas for practicing gratitude
We can practice gratitude in lots of ways, such as writing a thank you card, through prayer and reading the Bible, documenting in a gratitude journal or jotting things on little post-its.
Some people like to start or finish their days with a healthy habit of listing three new things they are thankful for that day. One of my favorites is creating a gratitude jar, filling it with little reminders of things you are thankful for; then, when you are feeling down you can pick a note from the jar to infuse a little cheer and warmth into your day.
However you choose to practice gratitude, I encourage you to simply pause and take an extra second to hold on to that grateful thought and let it sink in.
Faith and gratitude
For me, as a person who loves God and has a relationship with him, thankfulness is something that helps give me hope. When I realize how big God is and how plentiful his provisions are it helps me see how small my complaints are in comparison.
I feel peace when I look to him with thanksgiving instead of looking at my life through the lens of my problems.
The benefits of practicing gratitude have become pretty popular in the health and wellness industry. However, when you read the Bible, you see God has been pointing to these benefits for thousands of years.
Here is one my favorite verses: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).”
What I love about these words is how they remind us to practice gratitude while at the same time encouraging us to bring or requests to God. We can face a lot of troubles in this life, and I am thankful we can always ask God for help.
We have all been through a lot the few years with Covid-19 and a variety of other challenges in our country and abroad. Yet, despite what this season has brought, we still have so much to be thankful for.
When we take the time to pause and reflect, we will find there truly is always something to cherish. Something that brings us joy. Something to celebrate. Someone we are grateful to or someone we are grateful for.
I invite you to join me in cultivating an attitude of gratitude in our lives and watch how this simple practice changes the perspective through which we see the world.
For more about living with gratitude, see Every Day is a Gift.