Papercut and colored pencil art by Sheryl Aronson X 5

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Attitude of Gratitude

I had been thinking of doing a post on gratitude, and this week it kept coming up wherever I went.  Must be a sign.  There are a couple of Sjogren's Syndrome (SjS) email discussion lists that I follow, you can access both at dry.org. (There are lots of other good SjS resources there, the email info is at the bottom of that page).  One list is SS-L, which is informational and medical oriented. The other, Talk-Sjo is more social support.  On Talk-Sjo, there are some people who post their gratitude lists every Monday.  Monday seems like a fitting day for this, since Monday often seems like the lowest day of the week for many people.
At my job as an Occupatonal Therapist on the psych units at a hospital yesterday, I was leading a group on Stress Management.  one of the topics that came up to help with coping was gratitude.  So what is an 'attitude of gratitude?' Here is a qoute from M. J. Ryan, auther of  Attitudes of Gratitude: How to Give and Receive Joy Everyday of Your Life "Gratitude helps us to return to our natural state of joyfulness where we notice what’s right instead of what’s wrong. It makes us feel complete, that we have everything we need, at least in this moment.”  This book is easy to read, and inspirational, a guide back to what is really important in life.The 10th anniversary edition came out last year.

An 'attitude of gratitude' is refocussing of the mind towards what is good in life, rather than the bad.  It sees the glass as half full, rather than half empty. To go beyond that, it acknowledges how tasty the contents of that first half of the glass were. According to research, as reported in Wikipedia,  people with an attitude of gratitude have decreased stress, increased happiness, more satisfaction in life, and have more positive ways of coping with adversity. 

They also tend to have higher levels of control in their environment, and higher  levels of self acceptance. These are areas in which people with chronic illness or pain tend to struggle. It is so easy to feel sorry for ourselves, to focus on the pain, or on the things we have lost. As you probably know from personal experience, that is not a pleasant way to live.

How can you develop an attitude of gratitude?  Look for the good in life, and acknowledge it.  Practice saying "I am grateful for...", or "Thank you, God, for..."  Do it frequently.  Let people around you know you appreciate them and what they do for you.  Try to catch yourself whenever you think or say something negative, and counter it with something positive.  When I get into bed, I always run through my day, and think of at least 3 things for which I am grateful. I usually include such things as my husband, and the ability to continue to work (part time), but I try to find unique things for each day as well.  I have found that this helps me sleep better.

Another practice I have heard of is to keep a gratitude list or journal.  These are more formal ways of what I do whan I get into bed.  By writing it down, you have extra benefits.  You think it, write it and see it, so it is engraved more firmly in your mind. Also, by having it in writing, when you are feeling down you can read through it, and remind yourself just how lucky you are. Here is info from ehow on creating a gratitude journal.   There are lots of gratitude journals you can buy from Amazon, or here is a place you can write one online:  At first, it may be hard to find things to be grateful for, but with practice it gets easier, and you may find yourself naturally looking for the positives.  This is a much more pleasant way to live than focussing on the negative.

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