Stories of Resilience: How a daily gratitude practice provides structure, energy and personal healingJan 24, 2020
*This story is the third in a series of short narrative vignettes; educational stories of women using proven self-care techniques that promote personal empowerment and resilience. They are a teaching tool for your benefit; please read, absorb and utilize the techniques to promote your own resilience and empowerment!*
Susan discovers how practicing gratitude provides structure and healing to her day
Susan lifted her head and sighed. She was just so unhappy with things. She'd had no structure in her life since she'd been off on long term disability (LTD) after chemo and radiation had knocked her sideways. She's tried to go back to work too early and her nervous system had revolted, put her in a permanent "fight or flight" condition that had resulted in a host of other illnesses. She'd had cancer of the right breast originally; the lumpectomy, chemo & radiation were supposed to take care of that but instead, her body had gone haywire and now she was on LTD.
The past 5 years had not been fun. She'd always thought she didn't want to work and have the days to do as she pleased, but now she had that, and all she wanted to do was work! She missed the structure, the camaraderie, the connection with others; the sense of meaning and purpose work gave her. She wanted to dig her teeth into a project! Grab it and turn it in to something inspiring, productive. But every time she tried to push past her body's limits, she paid the price as her body gave way and collapsed.
So here she was. Out of work, depressed, spinning her wheels in the sand and unsure of how to get herself out of the trap, back on to solid ground. Idly, she picked up a book lying on her bedside table. It was covered in dust and poking out from underneath a pile of magazines. She'd gotten it as a gift several years ago but never really looked at it. She'd instinctively thought she'd be bored by it, or it wouldn't be as interesting as her gossip rags. What was this book all about anyways?
Looking at the front cover, she noticed a nice photo. Feeling the cover between her hands, she relaxed into the subtle texture of it, like it was covered in linen. "How nice", she mused, "I wonder why I didn't notice that before..." Once she started reading, she felt like her prayers had been answered! Why, here was the perfect thing! A gratitude practice!
She read about how starting your day with a practice of mindfully cultivating gratitude for what was in your life provided some structure and changed your perceptions of your life, the world around you, and how you interacted with it. It changed how you experienced your life. It produced endorphins from the happiness naturally generated by feeling gratitude, which in turn gave you energy.
Most important to her at this point was the aspect of structure. At a time when her life felt like a sheet blown about haphazardly by the wind, a daily gratitude practice would give her an anchor, a base from which every day would grow; fertile soil from which her gratitude seeds could reach towards the light. That's want she needed, a firm base of support that her day could rest upon.
Enough of this unfocused idleness and obsessing over all she couldn't do! She would instead start her day with a nurturing activity that promoted happiness, energy and gratitude. Feeling a rare but healthy surge of energy, Susan got up off her bed to create her "gratitude space". The book recommended creating a "zone" where she could consciously do gratitude-related activities, such as writing in a gratitude journal, where she would consciously engage with a view-point of appreciation for all that was in her life, even the tough stuff. She could do visual arts and crafts, or find other ways to express her gratitude for herself, her life and circumstances therein.
The book also recommended making this space attractive and comfortable, so it was a place she liked going to, where she was comfortable and her surroundings nurtured her spirit. Being sensitive to environments, Susan liked this suggestion. Inspecting her room, she realized over the past 5 years she'd accumulated a lot of clutter and mess, a state her eyes had glazed over recognizing. Creating her "Gratitude Zone" therefore led to a spontaneous de-cluttering of her room and spring clean of her closet.
During the process, Susan was careful to move within her comfort zone, in a steady and sustainable way. This allowed her several more hours of activity than she'd thus far been able to do, and without the burnout at the end. Because she actually felt refreshed by her activity, rather than painfully tired and empty, she deemed this a good sign.
Yes, this was going to be good! She was going to take charge of her life and the aspects of it that were in her control, and her perceptions were most definitely within her control! She'd forgotten that she had a say in how her days were spent. In all her previous focus of what she couldn't do, she'd overlooked all the things she COULD do. Feeling a warm flush of gratitude radiating out from her heart, Susan resolved to keep this little linen-covered green book handy and to practice her new daily self-care routine. It was time to turn her life around; she was worth it!