Using Gratitude to Reduce the Mental Challenges of IBS
Last updated: June 2018
A tool that I regularly use personally, and in my practice, is the cultivation of gratitude. I find this simple strategy incredibly helpful for people coping with the mental challenges of a chronic condition.
What is a gratitude practice?
‘Cultivating gratitude’ is a simple practice where you take time to acknowledge the things in your life for which you feel grateful. This can be anything at all, but normally it’s focused on the small things that happen from day-to-day which make you smile, give you joy, or generally make your life better.
As an example, today I’m grateful for heating because it’s suddenly become very cold in Melbourne, but also for an unexpected phone call from a friend that allowed us both to have a good rant – just what we needed for some stress relief.
How does being grateful help with mental challenges?
The main benefit of gratitude is that it helps to offset the negative things that happen in your day. While it can’t stop negative things from happening, shifting your focus to the positive things you’re grateful for makes it easier for you stop thinking about the negative things. And when you switch to this more positive frame of mind, you’re less prone to stress, anxiety and depression. While practicing gratitude won’t cure mental health challenges, having a more positive focus can give you the head space you need to work on the things that will help you the most.
The other important benefit of gratitude is that it improves your overall satisfaction with life. That’s because focusing on the positive things makes you happier and more satisfied with your day.
But what is there to be grateful about when you have IBS?
First, there’s the ‘normal’ things that anyone can be grateful for, such as:
- Spending time with loved ones
- A beautiful day spent at the beach
- An unexpected compliment or gift
- Having someone do something to make your life easier
- A positive email or phone call thanking you for doing a good job
- A few peaceful minutes to yourself
But then there are specific things related to IBS:
- A delicious meal that doesn’t make you sick
- Waking up without feeling bloated or gassy
- Finding a new food or recipe that you can tolerate
- Getting through an event without stress making you run to the toilet
- Not having to hide your IBS anymore
- Knowing that your symptoms have started to improve
How you can bring a gratitude practice into your life
First, take a few moments to think of three things that you’re grateful for today.
Next, consider why you’re grateful for those things. Don’t skip this part. Saying you’re grateful isn’t enough, you need to acknowledge the reasons for your gratitude and specifically how this thing made your life better. This is the part that shifts your focus from the negatives to the positives.
And that’s it. Simple.
If you’re new to gratitude, try doing it daily until you get used to the practice. Then you can relax your approach and do it whenever you want to. But, and this is important, if there’s a day when you really don’t want to do it, then you probably should do it. Because it’s the days when your negativity is the highest that you’ll benefit from gratitude the most.
Do you have trouble trying to balance your diet with multiple illnesses?
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