Achieving Personal Wellness With an Attitude of Gratitude

by Brittany McNabb

Part of the cancer journey is learning to thrive with tools like positivity, hope, and gratitude. Gratitude is a specific choice to change your perspective and view your situation with thankfulness and appreciation. A genuine feeling of thankfulness can be difficult when cancer comes into your life. However, for those WhatNexters who have learned to embrace gratitude, it seems to lighten their load.

Achieving Personal Wellness With Gratitude

Gratitude is not a blind acceptance of a situation. Gratitude is a calculated choice to view your whole situation and decide to find joy throughout the struggle. It takes into account all things and brings the person out on top instead of bogged down with all the negatives. Here are examples of benefits, obstacles, and ways to achieve personal wellness with an attitude of gratitude this holiday season. 

Benefits of Gratitude for Patients, Survivors, and Caregivers

Benefits Of Gratitude For People With Cancer

It seems that gratitude begets gratitude. The more you find, the more you cultivate and then give to others. Here are some benefits of gratitude.

- A better mind and body connection and a good attitude towards your overall health.

- Reinforcement of healthy behaviors and lowering risk of health issues. When you have a good attitude you may eat healthier, feel like exercising more, and find ways to relieve depression which in turn can encourage wellness, cause resilience to your illness, and increase your immune system.

- Fosters better relationships with family and loved ones.

- Opens you up to new opportunities including new ways of coping, new relationships, or creative ways of healing and keeping your mind off cancer.

- May decrease stress and help you to approach crises in a more composed way.

- Gives you a clearer picture of your short term as well as long term goals.

Gratitude manifests itself different in everyone and it can be important to find your own formula in order to achieve your personal level of wellness.

Potential Obstacles to Gratitude

Obstacles For Cancer Patients

The benefits of gratitude are plentiful but that does not mean it is easy. There are physical side effects as well as emotional side effects of cancer that can get in the way of achieving gratitude. Identifying these specific obstacles may help you face them and dissolve them in this process of finding wellness. 

- Depression and fatigue. These two things can wear you down physically and emotionally and dramatically affect your outlook on life. If you find ways to battle depression and fatigue this might help you reach your goal of gratitude. 

- Anxiety, scanxiety, and obsession with all things cancer. These can take over your mind and leave no room for other emotions like positivity and acceptance. Of course they will overtake your mind at times but finding a way to take your mind off cancer can help.

- Negative loved ones or friends that are absent from your life after diagnosis. Negative people can be a big obstacle to positive thoughts and gratitude. Some WhatNexters say they have had to leave drama and certain friends in the dust when diagnosed because they were not contributing positively to their situation.

- Side effects of chemotherapy, surgery, or other cancer treatments. Physical side effects like hair loss, fatigue, chemo brain, metallic taste, etc. can be mentally discouraging.  Try focusing on what you do have.

- Anger and the "Why me?" mentality. Both of these mental states are valid and hard to fight. The hope is that through gratitude you can help yourself ward off these two thoughts.

Ways to Foster Gratitude

Family And Holidays

Now that you have a clear picture of the benefits as well as the realistic obstacles you may face, here are some specific suggestions on how to foster more gratitude in your life.

- Gratitude Journal: It is as simple as writing five things you are grateful for each day. They can be small or big. For example, you may be grateful for a supportive loved one, a good day, good scan results, good weather, grandchildren, laughter, or whatever else gives you joy. Writing it down will help you realize what you are grateful for and you will be able to flip back and remember them when you are feeling down.

- Talking about Gratitude: Implementing gratitude in your daily conversation can help reframe your attitude. You can bring up things you are thankful for to your caregiver and loved ones. Something as simple as going around the dinner table and identifying things you are grateful for can help.

- Silver Lining Mindset: When you are in the thick of a negative situation, try to find the positive aspects of it.

- Holiday Letters of Gratitude: If you feel like you want to put your gratitude into action or spread it around, you can send a note, email, letter or even text message to someone that has influenced your life in a positive way. If you are not 100% invested in gratitude, by giving it to others it will most likely help you become more invested in it yourself.

- Quality Time: Spending quality time with loved ones can make you grateful. If nothing else, you have the moment you are in with the people you love.

If you are interested in finding out what specific things WhatNexters are thankful for, follow the Days of Thankfulness on the questions board (by typing in 'days of thankfulness' in the search bar) through the month of November posted by GregP_WN. There is an example featured below.

Days Of Thankfulness

The holidays are not only a time to embrace loved ones and embrace festive traditions but to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Maybe the holidays won't be like they were last year or the year before, but just as you adjusted to cancer, you will find a way to adjust this holiday season. Make the holidays your own. Find your own way to achieve personal wellness through gratitude. Does anyone have any additional suggestions or comments about gratitude and their plans this holiday season?

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