Finding Gratitude in MS

Vicki Health Guide
  • Last Tuesday, September 21, was World Gratitude Day, described by Jennifer Angel in the NYDailyNews. This observance was established by the United Nations Meditation Group in 1977.  Ms. Angel’s article says "It’s a time to celebrate your existence, passions, local hero’s, relatives, friends and all the little things that bring joy into your everyday existence. What do you value? Who do you appreciate? How do you express your gratitude to others?"

    In honor of this day, I decided to find out more about it. Gratitude is often confused with indebtedness, but there is no sense of obligation in gratitude.

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    There is a new psychology movement that promotes mental health rather than just treating illness, called Positive Psychology. Being studied is what has gone right in people, things like gratitude. Studies show that people who feel grateful more often are happier and experience less stress than those with less gratitude. Grateful people accept themselves and have more positive coping methods, and they even sleep better.

    Studies show a correlation between gratitude and economic generosity. Sacrificing personal gain for community gain, empathy and increased helpfulness are all effects of gratitude. It is clear that being grateful is more than simple manners.

    I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought;

    and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. ~G.K. Chesterton

    Every day should be a personal gratitude day. I have an online friend, Michael B. Gerber. He has included gratitude as an integral part of his life and is a model for us all.

    He explains why he thinks it is important for him and valuable for us all to be grateful as a natural part of everyday life. If we don't live with gratitude, we live with thanklessness. In his post, Opposite of Gratitude, Michael explains how the opposite of gratitude is taking someone for granted.

    MSers often express an unexpected discovery that they are grateful for MS. Read Dan's comment to my last article on Finding Happines in MS. So many of us have been surprised by that delightful phenomenon.  This disease has allowed us to have an all new perspective on many situations and on life and living. Michael's opinion is explained in his post called Choosing our Perspective.

    John Kennedy’s quote from  Ms. Swan’s article on World Gratitude Day says it very well:

    As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.                                              ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

    There was a time, a lifetime ago, when some friends and I had 'orphan' Thanksgivings. One person volunteered a home, and we each contributed time and ingredients for turkeys and pies. We did not really invite children who had lost their parents, but our joint celebration invited people who had no other place to go. Often that was simply a person from the office who could not go home this year. Sometimes it was a person who could not afford a feast, or even a dinner.

  • Leftovers were passed out, and it was nice when someone stayed behind to help clean. People always said "thank you" as they left, and we thanked them for coming. After this meal, I felt gratitude for a long time. It was nice to provide the festive feeling of the holiday, and some companionship, but I was consciously grateful that I had enough to share.

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    Here are four simple exercises that increase gratitude:

    1. Do you remember when Oprah encouraged her audience to keep Gratitude Journals?  Her idea was to get a notebook and write in it every day. Every day write three things you are grateful for. These are not the same thing every day. The items don't always have to be big. Sometimes they can simply be small, but pleasant items.

    2. You can join the GratitudeLog on the Internet. GratitudeLog says it is the Happiest Place on the Internet. If you join here, you can begin your gratitude practice, writing appreciative remarks, reading tips from experts, and more.

    3. Some people note their blessings or write something that went well and why, explaining what made it special. If you do it every day at the same time so this ritual becomes a habit, you will have long-lasting positive effects.

    4. Write about a person or situation that made you feel particularly thankful. On a bad day, read that story, or go to the Gratitude Journal and read a page or two. These exercises, writing then reading about pleasant circumstances, make you feel grateful and happy.

    He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which

    he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. ~Epictetus

    Notes and Links:

    Gratitude according to Wikipedia
    Michael B. Gerber's personal blog
    Case study in Positive Psychology News Daily; be sure to read the "Entries in his Gratitude Log"

Published On: September 28, 2010