Expressing Gratitude with Lupus
Having to deal with lupus can be challenging at the best of times. It's not always easy to feel gratitude for anything when you're struggling emotionally or in a bad flare. Still, this drove me to delve into self-help/self-improvement books and videos, and the one thing that would come up time and time again was how important it is to express gratitude daily.
Lupus and gratitude research
Some studies have been conducted on this, and the results have shown it to be beneficial to our physical and emotional health. One such study published in the Journal of Health Psychology in 2015 showed that after 2 weeks of gratitude intervention improved sleep quality, decreased blood pressure, and overall wellbeing.
It's funny because when I think about how many years I have lived with lupus, it has definitely made me more appreciative of the little things in life, but my self-talk wasn't always so good. Having to cope with a chronic illness can be overwhelming at times, and dealing with that can have a negative impact on how we see ourselves and the world around us.
Finding something to be grateful for
When we talk about gratitude, it doesn't mean we have to be happy all of the time. I think it's really important we don't hold any negative emotions back as it's not good to keep stuff in. Like everything in life, it's about finding a balance, but expressing gratitude helps to get our brains into a more positive mindset and takes the focus off the negative chatter our minds often produce.
We can all find something to be grateful for even when we aren't feeling our best. A few examples are:
- Feeling grateful for your family and friends.
- Having food in the cupboards.
- Having somewhere to call home.
- Seeing a beautiful sunset.
- A walk in nature.
- Enjoying music.
- Our bodies (even when we might not feel like giving thanks to them when we are experiencing illness and pain, it's important to focus on the wonderful things our bodies give us, such as our sense of taste and smell, our hearing, our sight, etc.)
- Hearing the rain when we are cozy and warm indoors (a personal favorite of mine.)
Gratitude exercises for people with lupus
I've compiled a list of exercises that you might like to try.
One very common way of starting your gratitude journey is to keep a journal where you can write down a few things each day before you go to bed about what you were thankful for that day. It might be something exciting that happened, or it might just be a simple joy. As you reflect on your journal over the weeks and months, you should start seeing a shift.
Another one is to write a gratitude letter. This is where you think of a person who has been present in your life and has positively influenced you. It might be a teacher, friend, or family member.
Taking a gratitude walk, if you can manage it, can be hugely beneficial. Take note of the different smells around you, the colors of the flowers and trees, the bird song, and the weather.
Asking yourself a few questions at the end of each day can be another great way to focus on gratitude.
- What inspired me today?
- What made me smile?
- Who was kind to me today?
- How did I show myself compassion today?
I have personally found practicing this has been immensely powerful and helped me develop a more positive mindset. It's also helped me to build on my self-esteem and self-compassion. I used to wake up in the morning with a sense of 'here we go again,' but I'm now feeling thankful for a new day full of possibilities.
Have you written a letter to your local congress representative to advocate for lupus research and education funding this year?