How Practising Gratitude Helped Me to Heal
Although it is not a new thought, the power and practice of gratitude has become more talked about over the last few years.
With more and more people discovering it, the practice of feeling grateful everyday, has become very popular.
The question is, however, does it really work?
Does expressing gratitude really make your life any better?
In this podcast episode, Clarity Junction host, Gillian, shares her story of a challenging time in her life where she undertook the practice of daily gratitude, and she believes that this process helped her to heal.
Please note that Gillian also went through medical treatment during this time, and would never recommend substituting any medical treatment for practising gratitude alone.
Hello and welcome to the Clarity Junction podcast.
There seems to be a trend at the moment, where we are told that if we want to resolve issues in our lives, we need to try the practice of gratitude.
To many of us this will seem ridiculous. Perhaps you are in a really challenging situation in life and need to find a way out of it, then someone tells you to start being grateful for what you have. This, when you are already stressed, can have the reaction a red flag would have to a bull.
If you feel that your life it a complete disaster area, then why on earth would you feel grateful for anything?
Well, I can understand this reaction, as I have experienced it myself, but I also have another experience that relates to how I managed to change aspects in my own life, through the practice of gratitude.
So, keep listening to discover how practising gratitude helped me to heal during a time when I was very poorly.
My name is Gillian Duncan, Positive Life and Wellbeing Coach, inspiring women to live the life they want, and I am delighted that you are here with me today.
A few years ago now, I was undergoing a series of operations to my bowel. It was a very dark time for me.
I was in a lot of pain. I was told that the outlook wasn’t going to be great and I would likely need more operations through my life. Although it wouldn’t kill me, it was going to have a massive effect on the way I lived my life.
I needed to figure out how my husband and I would cope with looking after our children, and how he was going to manage caring for me, as well as them, while holding down a full-time job.
It was all rather bleak.
I was scared. I couldn’t take antibiotics, due to allergies, and that added to the worry of infection after each operation. I wasn’t sure how I could get through this.
The pain was so intense that, at one point, my body went into shock and I had to be admitted to hospital so they could operate on me again to try and ease this agony.
Not being able to take prescription pain medications, again due to allergies and intolerances, also made it so much worse for me.
I spend months feeling uncertain of my future. I was in constant agony and basically lived on the sofa. For some weeks, I had daily visits from nurses who would make sure I was as comfortable as possible, but with the dressing changes they had to perform, all they ended up doing was causing more pain that took hours to settle down once more.
To be honest, my life had turned into a nightmare, and there wasn’t going to be a rainbow at the end of it. This was my new life, and it was the one I needed to accept.
Accepting this as my future was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to face. How can you accept that you will be in a life of such acute pain, and that you will need to be cared for?
How can you accept that you can’t be the mum you want to be to your children, or the wife you promised to be to your husband?
What about all the dreams that you had made for your life?
I was a very dark realisation that my life wasn’t going to be a fraction of what I dreamed it would be.
In fact, just getting through each day, was a huge, and exhausting, challenge.
But that’s the life I was living and the future I was facing.
I am, however, ever the optimist, and if I had to accept that this was going to be my life, moving forwards, then I would need to make the most of it.
It was at this point that I discovered the book, ‘The Magic’ by Ronda Byrne.
Ronda is the author of the book, ‘The Secret’ and to be honest, I had never heard of it before.
This book looked like it was the keeper of magic spells. I certainly wasn’t something that I would have normally looked at reading, probably dismissing it as ‘nonsense’, but I was in such a different place in life, and I had nothing to lose by reading it.
If this book could offer me some insight on how to make my life better, then fantastic, if not, then it was just another way to keep my mind off the pain for a little while.
I soon discovered that the purpose of this book was to teach us how to be more grateful for everything that we have in our lives, and from there, we can attract more positivity to the life we are living.
So, I dutifully found a little notebook and followed the instructions that the book gave me every day, including writing down things that I was grateful for in my life.
To begin with, this was really difficult. It was such an awful time in my life with such a bleak outlook, and as I struggled with the constant pain, it was hard to find anything to be grateful for. But I did.
I was grateful for everyone who was looking after me and trying to help me to live through this time as best I could. I was grateful for my children, who always made me smile, no matter how bad I felt. I was grateful for my morning coffee and for the days I felt well enough to walk to my back door and sit outside in the sun to drink it. I was grateful for the warmth of the sun and the bird song that entertained my while I sat there. I was grateful for the fresh air I breathed. I was grateful for so many things.
Before I knew it I was writing in my gratitude journal with so much ease. Even on my really bad days, I still found more and more to be grateful for.
On my bad days, I would still make sure I was up, showered and dressed and camped on the sofa with my books, tv remote, a collection of films and my knitting. Yes – I took knitting up as something productive to do. I actually knitted a few jumpers, shawls and cardigans. This not only engaged my mind but gave me a reason for each day. Each day I had a job to get on with. I had something to create.
On my good days, I would work on writing meditation scripts. At this point, my main career had been being a yoga and meditation teacher, so I planned to publish a meditation book. This period of illness gave me time to set to work creating this.
These writing days were blissful. I would play my meditation music, and float off into a dream world, then write it all down.
For those hours, I would start to forget my woes. When I was writing, I felt normal. I felt strong.
Soon I had daily routines set out.
I would always start with writing in my gratitude journal, and then depending on my health, I chose to either write my book or chill with my knitting watching films.
Even though I was so poorly and in so much pain, I began to feel stronger in myself. I began to have hope again. I was actually coping with it all.
Sure, there were still rough times, and I often felt scared for the future, but I felt more in control. I felt with my writing, and my knitting, I had given myself a reason for getting up each day. I was still a mum to my boys. Perhaps not the one I hoped to be, but I was still there and sharing in their life, and that was all that mattered.
With each day, my list of things I was grateful for increased.
Life didn’t seem so dark anymore. I felt connected to the world around me, and probably for the first time in my life, I felt at ease with who I was and what life was all about.
I just had this deep sense of harmony and peace.
Soon, it was time to face my 4th operation in 4 months. This was to be a big one, but certainly not the last. It was likely that I would have to have a colostomy bag fitted as a result. It would be life-changing, but if it helped my condition, then this would be something I would just need to learn to live with and make those changes to my life.
I went to bed that night feeling that whatever faced me in the morning, I would be grateful for. I knew that the surgeon was working so hard to give me the best possible outcome, and I had every faith in him. I was grateful for everything he was doing for me, as I knew it wasn’t an easy task, and yet, he kept focused on ways that he could help me have the best possible outcome each time.
During my sleep, I had a wonderful dream, and not the nightmare I expected to have.
I dreamt that the surgeon visited me after the operation and told me that I was healed, and that I would not need any more operations.
I told my husband the next morning, and he just reminded me, that although it was a nice dream, it was a dream, and that I shouldn’t pin any hopes on it.
He was right. I knew he was. I was dreaming about the impossible. But it did feel good!
I was very positive as I was prepared for the operation. I had been through this so many times before, so I knew what to expect.
My operation was delayed, and I sat calmly in the waiting room, reading and watching everyone go past filled with fear and nerves. I didn’t feel like this at all. I was comfortable enough and happy to have time to read my book.
I was eventually called to see the anaesthetist. As I sat in front of him, he looked at me huge folder of medical notes and asked me what was going on that I had such a huge file.
Now, this file has followed me on my journey through chronic illness and injury for at least 20 years, and I am very familiar with it.
That morning, however, I looked at it as if I had never seen it before. It was as if I didn’t recognise it. I answered the anaesthetist with an honest, ‘I have no idea’.
Instead of feeling stressed about seeing the folder, I felt calm, as in my mind, they weren’t anything to do with me.
After our chat, it was time for my operation. My allergies and intolerances mean that it’s safer for me to have a local aesthetic rather than a general, so this means that tend to be awake during my operations.
This is fine by me, as I feel more relaxed knowing what is going on around me.
Soon I was lying there, and the operation had started. I am chatting to my anaesthetist all about yoga as he takes classes and I am a teacher, so soon I am talking him through a routine, as my surgeon and his team operate.
It’s all a bit bizarre, but I am in my element. I am happy and my mind is engaged in something I love doing.
Then mid-flow, we are disturbed, and my surgeon announces to me that he is not sure what has happened, but my body has healed in a strange way.
My body had created scar tissue around the area he was working on, and he was able to use this new tissue to patch me up and, by doing so, heal me of this condition.
I had flashbacks to my dream. So, it had come true. My mind had told me that my body had been healing all this time and soon this ordeal would be over for me.
It was so surreal. This whole day was just amazing!
Sure enough, over the next few weeks and months, as my body healed from the last operation, everything seemed to settle down and soon I was back on my feet, feeling stronger than before.
Of course, it will never be perfect – but it all works good enough for me! What a chance I have been given, to have more freedom in my life once again, and to be in less pain.
As I look back on this time, I don’t just remember the agony, fear and the despair. I remember a time in my life when I was calm, peaceful and connected in body and mind.
When I start to question why I healed, when this was not even a realistic outcome to my condition, I can’t help but look to my practice of gratitude.
I truly feel that had I not began to realise just how many wonderful things that I had to be grateful for in my life, at that time, the outcome to my situation would have been so different.
The realisation that my life was still filled with so much beauty and wonder, allowed me to overcome the feeling that my life was over and there was no point to it anymore. As I started to appreciate the simple things in my life, I understood that I had been taking so much for granted, and that there was still so much joy to be had, even if I was struggling with my own health circumstances.
Life didn’t seem so bleak. My practice of gratitude opened doors for me. It opened my mind to writing and becoming an author. It allowed me to connect more with myself and the natural world around me, and realise how important this connection is, and the energy that you can derive from it.
Whatever happened in my physical body during this time, I truly believe that it related to the psychological and spiritual journey that I found myself on. I gave myself permission to submit to the flow of life, and follow it, wherever it led me.
Now, with a background in science, I can be the first to dismiss these sort of ‘woowoo’ stories, but I also know that the mind is indeed extremely powerful, and if you can find a way to connect with it, then there are no limits to what it can do.
And that’s what I think happened. I think that my practice of gratitude and the subsequent acceptance and positivity that I experienced in those months, spoke to my mind and it was able to send the relevant signals to allow healing to take place.
I am truly grateful that I discovered this practice, and I hope that this has perhaps made you think about start feeling more grateful for all the things that bless your life.
Even if you start with feeling grateful for the air you breathe and the water you drink, then, I know that this can open up a gateway to your thinking that you will never have thought possible.
So, why don’t you try it. Grab a notebook and a pen, and every day write down 10 things that you feel grateful for each day. And really, try to find those emotions deep in your heart, that will allow you to truly feel grateful for these wonders.
What do you have to lose?
That’s all for this episode.
Remember to hop over to clarityjunction.com to find out more about our membership for women who want more from life!
Thanks for listening.
Bye for now and keep being awesome!
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