Tips on how to be thankful for chronic illness – it sounds counterintuitive but it can be achieved!
A few years ago if I read the title “Thankful For Chronic Illness” I would have wanted to slap the author. Forcefully. But hear me out for a few minutes, and try not to think murderous thoughts towards me, ok?
One of the lessons I learned from managing my chronic condition is that mindset and mood greatly affect the amount of pain and discomfort we feel. This is true for everyone, even non-chronic illness peeps. Numerous books have been written that clearly establish a strong link between mind and body health.
That said, those of us with fibromyalgia and other chronic conditions often suffer mood or anxiety problems that arise from our health challenges. Actually, the trouble is rooted in what we THINK about our health challenges and the negative self-talk we often torture ourselves with. Have you ever thought:
- This is so unfair.
- Why did this happen to me?
- Why am I so unlucky?
- What have to done to deserve all this pain?
- I’ll never get better.
- I may as well give up; my life is ruined.
- Why even bother trying to be healthy– I have (fill in the blank) and my doctor said there is no cure.
These kinds of stress-provoking thoughts, playing on an endless loop, do nothing to help your pain. In fact, they often intensify symptoms like headaches, back and neck pain and IBS issues. So what’s the antidote?
Well, it’s not enough to just vaguely “think positive.” And unrealistic, Pollyanna, toxic positivity is also unhelpful. But I can tell you this—keep wallowing in negativity and you will constantly suffer. And who wants that?
There are many tactics that helped me repair my health and I can share that #1 among them is a daily expression of gratitude.
Some days it’s difficult to find much to be thankful for but I challenge you to cultivate a sincere “attitude of gratitude” in your life. What if you can’t get out of bed? Be grateful you have a safe, clean place to sleep—not everyone does. Maybe your head feels like it’s going to explode. Be grateful that you know you can calm yourself with deep breathing and inhaling essential oils like peppermint.
There is ALWAYS a bright side, however dire the situation may seem. Make it your mission to find it and truly give thanks for everything. If you believe in a Higher Power, give thanks to that entity. If you do not, thank the Universe.
A good tool for strengthening your gratitude muscle is to keep a journal and each night before bed, write 3 brief things you are most grateful for that day. This is beneficial in many ways. First, knowing that you will do this each night keeps you on the look-out all day for positives. Also, when you are feeling low you can go back and review these highlights, to keep you focused on the upside of life rather than the suffering.
A last word on how to be thankful for chronic illness; believe it or not, there will come a day when you actually see the silver lining in dealing with your health issue, whether that’s fibromyalgia or another ailment. I know that may seem impossible and I also know none of us would choose feeling ill over being 100% healthy but consider this: if you didn’t have this health issue, would you put as much value on eating right, making time to exercise, learning to de-stress, or tending to your self-care? I know I didn’t…until I had to in order to function.
I also realize that half a lifetime of unhealthy habits could have caused me even worse damage than fibromyalgia. I’m fortunate that I do not have a terminal illness. I have a manageable condition. I see it as a wake-up call to make my health a priority while I still can. My “curse” has turned out to be a blessing. And this is a major tip for how to to be thankful for chronic illness – consider the alternatives and what your journey has shown you that you might not otherwise have known.
To be clear, I do not in any way diminish anyone’s experience of chronic illness and fully recognize the pain and suffering. I was there too, for many precious years. The great news is that we can all make mindset and lifestyle choices to lessen our discomfort. Practicing gratitude is a great way to begin.
In what ways have you tried to learn how to be thankful for chronic illness? Has this post caused you to see some examples? Please share with us and leave a comment below.