Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Cultivating Gratitude

Feeling grateful can be a calming, serene and spiritual way of life, but for people on the cancer journey, gratitude can be -undestandably - a difficul concept.

Gratitude isn't a new idea. Most spiritual traditions emphasize the value and importance of having compassion for others. In the past several decade there has been a shift to look at gratitude as a useful tool rather and an idea.

Practicing gratitude means appreciating what you have and focusing on the support you receive from others.

With regular practice, gratitude, often can reduce anger and blame, while increasing joy and peace of mind. Being in a grateful state does not mean being blindly optimistic or ignoring unpleasant or negative things. It does involve, however, a shift in the thought process to look at things through a positive lens. 

Can gratefulness become a part of your life during the cancer journey?

Yes! However, it takes thought and intention to practice gratitude. Gratefulness can be another way to cope during the cancer journey. One ritual that promotes feeling grateful is writing a word or sentence describing what you feel grateful for and placing it in a "grateful" jar or box every day. This can help you put life in perspective. When you need a "gratitude" boost, dip into the jar and feast.

Here are few more simple and easy ways to beging practicing gratitude:

  • Write a thank-you note -- it feels good to make others happy. 
  • Work in a garden -- it is almost magical to see flowers grow.
  • Walk barefoot on a beach -- the ocean waves wash away fears.
  • Listen to music -- let the sound take you away.
  • Enjoy nature -- everything under the sun is the gift of life.
  • Tell someone you love them -- we know it but the sound of those words are very powerful and reassuring.

Recently, Eileen, a 46 year old cancer survivor, shared and experience of walking, deep in thought, gazing down at the sidewalk. She happened to glance up and see a big, beautiful maple tree in it's autum splendor. The tree reminded her of all the beauty of the world. As she looked higher, she noticed tree tops formed a circle over her head and opened up to the deep blue sky to reveal a couple of big puffy white clouds.

Following that experience, Eilieen noted," I felt really uplifted and grateful for the moment and all the little blessings I've seen since I first felt my lump. I couldn't help but feel close to my [deceased] mom and dad because I know they are there for me. I told them to hold hands form a big prayer circle and get to work! When I got home and turned up the driveway.  I saw a huge rainbow arching all the way accross the treetops in my backyard, full of color and bright with promise."

Rather than continuing to look down, Eileen literally changed her focus and looked up. Her inward, focus shifted from fear to being able to feel grateful -- for nature and for the support of those who loved her and whom she loved.  When you are grateful, you can become more optimistic, energetic, joyful, better equipped to handle challenges and more likely to help others. Additional benefits include closer ties to family and friends and a deeper sense of purpose.

A grateful heart is part of experiencing a full life -- one where you feel energized to reach out, help others, and have the power to make positive changes in your personal life and in your community. Try it for yourself and see what changes occur.

Editors Note: Article first published by Coping Magazine February 2008 Mary Bornstein is a program staff member at The Gathering Place, a cancer support center located in northeast Ohio. Betsy Kohn is the organization's director of volunteers. They have developed gratitude workshops to help individuals and families find additional ways of coping while on the cancer journey.

To reach Mary or Betsy call (216) 595-9546 or you can  
email   Mary
email   Betsy

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