How Gratitude Helps Pain

I know it sounds odd, but here it is…the more you feel and express gratitude, the less pain you will have. Here’s how it works: Happiness, joy and contentment are processed in the brain by the neurotransmitters Dopamine and Serotonin. When we feel happy, the levels of these hormones rise. And when that happens, we feel less pain. Studies show that when we practice gratitude on a regular basis, we teach our brains to feel happier, therefore increasing the happiness hormones. The more we do this, the better our lives get, regardless of external circumstances. Interestingly, when we feel happier more often, our life circumstances tend to improve.

For people with Fibro, gratitude can be a challenging practice. When we wake up in the morning, day after day in pain everywhere, our minds struggle to find a reason to keep living. We don’t look forward to the day, we dread even the most mundane of activities, like showering, making coffee, even wearing a pair of jeans. For people like us, finding the joy can be elusive. We can try to make our self-talk more positive, but sometimes we just don’t make good cheerleaders. This is where a gratitude practice can help.

I would like to invite you to try this simple, gentle exercise, starting today. When you wake up in the morning, even before you open your eyes, make a list in your mind of 10 things you’re grateful for right now. With each item on the list, take a moment to experience the gratitude. Take three breaths with each item, feeling the gratitude fill your mind and body. When you reach the end of your list, take a moment to notice how you feel. You might also want to tell one of the people on your list about your gratitude, because that makes them happy too. In my home, we have a long-standing custom of expressing gratitude at the dinner table every Friday night. You’re welcome to adopt this custom. Feel grateful, feel happy, feel less pain.

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