Thoughts of Gratitude
There are so many factors that affect how we feel and how our symptoms change from day to day. You will most certainly have ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’ with Parkinson’s or any chronic illness for that matter. How well you sleep, the quality of your diet, exercise, the quality of your relationships with others, the ability of medicines to treat you symptoms and your mood will affect how you feel. Just reflecting on the picture on the right may bring a smile on your face or positive thought to mind.
So positive thoughts affect how we feel. But what if we have trouble being positive? We have heard so much about the benefits of a positive attitude. Some people just seem to be more optimistic than others. So how do you work with pessimism if this is your nature? Gratitude may be the key to a more positive attitude of mood.
Gratitude comes from the Latin root gradia meaning gratefulness or grace. Gratitude is not easy to define but generally is a quality, action, emotion or feeling toward something else or received from someone else- whether other people, life circumstance, opportunities, or life experiences.
Gratitude is linked to happiness and wellbeing.
Some people with Parkinson’s focus on the negative, all that they have lost and not what they have. Many people with Parkinson’s find a lot to be grateful for and many of you have shared what you are grateful for in Meaning of Wellness.
Practicing gratitude may help us deal with life’s problems and find a sense of meaning, place, contentment and purpose even when dealing with setbacks. For some of us gratitude is a way of life. For others, practice helps increase our sense of gratitude.
In researching this topic, I came upon an interesting article conducted at the University of California and University of Miami. The researchers studied people with neuromuscular disease, a group of conditions that can cause weakness, muscle paralysis, breathing, walking, speaking and swallowing problems. These individuals were divided into two groups. The two groups were instructed to give daily reports over a 21 day period as follows:
- Gratitude Group 1: This group was instructed to record what they were grateful for over a 21 day period. The group was also asked to record how the feel, their sense of well-being and global assessment of their day.
- Group 2: This group was instructed only to record how the feel, their sense of well-being and global assessment of their day.
The group that focused on gratitude reported a more positive affect, reduced negative affect and even improved sleep. These effects were ‘real enough’ to be noticed by the person’s spouse or partner. The benefits of gratitude were even more marked when compared to groups that focused on hassles and life problems only (this study however was completed with college students not people with neuromuscular disease).
What is the take home message? Taking a moment and reflecting on what you are grateful for can improve your sense of wellbeing, mood, and perhaps health.
- Tell yourself something you are grateful for, thankful of, or appreciative of each day.
- Take this exercise on step further by writing your thoughts of gratitude down in a book or journal.
- Share your thoughts of gratitude with you partner or someone special in your life.
- Take a moment out of each week to read your thoughts of gratefulness.
Reference: Robert Emmons and Michael E McCullough. Counting blessings versus burdens: an experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 2003. 84:377.