I’m having a rough flare this week and today I feel especially weak. I slept 11 hours last night and then went back to bed this morning and slept another two hours. And I’m feeling happy about livin’ life today. Typically, when suffering through flares, lack of sleep typically accompanies pain and exhaustion. But I slept. I really slept. This calls for celebration – or maybe just another nap.
While most of us with chronic illness may not think much about the little things missing from our daily lives – like fewer symptoms during a flare – but I think being appreciative is important. Gratitude can turn a lousy attitude into a more optimistic one and a depressed mood into a happier one.
Recently, I started keeping a gratitude journal. Never very good at maintaining a personal journal or diary, I wasn’t certain of my success in keeping this journal either though I like the idea. Journalists write in their gratitude journal nightly listing three things that they are grateful for the past day. While I don’t write in the journal every night, I write most nights before bed. I like the brevity and the discipline of finding gems of positive moments in every day. Surprisingly, it’s not very hard even on the most trying days. And I find it very satisfying. I went online and explored how I could make my journal better. Below are some tips on keeping successful gratitude journals from The Greater Good website:
- Don’t just go through the motions. Research by psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky and others suggests that journaling is more effective if you first make the conscious decision to become happier and more grateful. “Motivation to become happier plays a role in the efficacy of journaling,” says Emmons.
- Go for depth over breadth. Elaborating in detail about a particular thing for which you’re grateful carries more benefits than a superficial list of many things.
- Get personal. Focusing on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful.
- Try subtraction, not just addition. One effective way of stimulating gratitude is to reflect on what your life would be like without certain blessings, rather than just tallying up all those good things.
- Savor surprises. Try to record events that were unexpected or surprising, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
- Don’t overdo it. Writing occasionally (once or twice per week) is more beneficial than daily journaling. In fact, one study by Lyubomirsky and her colleagues found that people who wrote in their gratitude journals once a week for six weeks reported boosts in happiness afterward; people who wrote three times per week didn’t. “We adapt to positive events quickly, especially if we constantly focus on them,” says Emmons. “It seems counterintuitive, but it is how the mind works.”
For more information on keeping a gratitude journal go to the following link: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_keeping_a_gratitude_journal
I think I earned another nap.
Live more joyfully despite chronic illness.
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