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Happiness, Gratitude and Appreciation

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This article, originally published on ProHealth in November 2014, is such an excellent reminder of the benefits of being thankful that we’d like to share it with you again in this Thanksgiving season.

One very valuable lesson I’ve learned from my experience of chronic illness is that happiness has little to do with what happens to us. I don’t mean to say that we’re not going to have all sorts of difficult emotions in response to a chronic illness. We are and we’re going to need to accept them and allow them to flow. But these are just moments. Whether we are happy or not depends upon what we pay attention to during the rest of our moments.

Before my illness I chose to pay attention to my career, my fitness and my social life and I was pretty happy. Then I got ill and for quite a while my attention was drawn to how bad life was and all that I had lost. Not surprisingly I was unhappy. But even once I accepted that life had to be lived differently for a while, I still couldn’t do all the things I used to do that made me happy. I realized I had to learn some new happiness skills.

Two simple and related happiness skills that require nothing more than a bit of attention are gratitude and appreciation. When we live an energetic life; we get used to events demanding our attention. Our attention tends to be a response. Our mind isn’t used to choosing to pay attention to smaller simpler pleasures and it can take a bit of training. But it is a choice and it does pay off.

When we choose to appreciate little things like the color of a flower in the sunshine, a kind word, the sound of a bird’s song, a soothing touch or a pleasant aroma, we get to choose a positive experience of comfort or joy – even for only a moment. But the more of these appreciative moments we choose to pay attention to, the happier we can be.

I found that training myself with a daily gratitude practice led to me noticing these moments more freely. Each morning at the end of my meditation I spend a couple of minutes paying attention to what I’m grateful for. I have a regular list of things that I’m constantly grateful for, but I try to add to the list each day with fresh things that are happening in my life.

Now I’m far more likely to experience a joyful appreciation of a moment of pleasure. In fact, each day I experience a wide variety of them. I still experience pain, frustration and disappointment when my energy levels hold me back, but that’s OK. That’s life. They don’t get in the way of my happiness because, even in those moments, I know that it is temporary and that for the rest of the time I’m able to pay attention to things that can bring me happiness.

Could you introduce a gratitude practice into your life? It doesn’t just have to be a part of a meditation practice. Many people use social media to express their gratitude, sometime using words, sometimes using photos. Or maybe, like Anna who writes the M.E. Myself and I blog, you could make yourself a happiness scrapbook and add something every day that you’re grateful for or that made you happy that day.

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Julie Holliday (www.mecfsselfhelpguru.com) is a writer and coach committed to helping people overcome the challenges of chronic illness and live the best life possible. Having completely recovered from ME/CFS once, Julie enjoyed 7 years of vibrant and active health before being struck again. She is now dedicated to sharing all that she has learned about what has contributed to her initial recovery and her present happy and fulfilling life as a chronic illness warrior.

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5 thoughts on “Happiness, Gratitude and Appreciation”

  1. richcarson says:

    I am thrilled to announce that Julie Holliday, the author of this article, is ProHealth’s new CIO– our Chief Inspirational Officer. We will be hearing a lot more from Julie as time goes by, as she’s lining up an amazing staff of talented inspirational writers to keep us faced towards the sun, and Julie is at the top of the pyramide. I’m so happy that Julie is now working for ProHealth. Welcome aboard Julie!
    -Rich Carson
    Founder, ProHealth

  2. Lainy0168 says:

    INSPIRATIONAL was the word which came to mind when I read this, then I saw the post announcing Julie’s new title – very appropriate!! Julie I’m so pleased to be back in touch with you and to be able to follow you along your new journey.

  3. LindaQuebec says:

    the first thing i did when i got diagnose with a chronic illness disease. I was thinking really hard and it was hard for me to accept because i knew that ever since I was 16 i did everything i could to deserve my paradise. And instead of blaming Him, i decided he had a bigger better plan for me. And I was right 🙂

    One of the first thing i did when i got sick was to appreciate the little things around me. I couldn’t play with my children anymore so with my iPhone i would film them and watch it with them.

    Night time i am in bed before the kids so we have other game then just watching tv. Since i need to be kn my back, we talk. We pretty much have no secrets. We paint on each other’s back, we just spend time together without all the distraction from the technologies

    We didn’t have that closeness before and now that we do, i would even change it for my health back

    Thanks for the post it is beautiful

  4. LindaQuebec says:

    the first thing i did when i got diagnose with a chronic illness disease. I was thinking really hard and it was hard for me to accept because i knew that ever since I was 16 i did everything i could to deserve my paradise. And instead of blaming Him, i decided he had a bigger better plan for me. And I was right 🙂

    One of the first thing i did when i got sick was to appreciate the little things around me. I couldn’t play with my children anymore so with my iPhone i would film them and watch it with them.

    Night time i am in bed before the kids so we have other game then just watching tv. Since i need to be kn my back, we talk. We pretty much have no secrets. We paint on each other’s back, we just spend time together without all the distraction from the technologies

    We didn’t have that closeness before and now that we do, i would even change it for my health back

    Thanks for the post it is beautiful

  5. itreeit says:

    After 10 depressing years of suffering with fibro and cfs, I decided that I had two options- continue feeling sorry for myself or start to count the MANY blessings that I have overlooked during these years. To this end, I decided to post for 100 days things that make me HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY! I am on day #80 and this has made a HUGE difference in my life. It is the little things that I post about on Facebook- a beautiful sunrise, the antics of my 5 dogs, the fresh eggs my chickens present me with every day and the changing of the seasons. I have received such a wonderful response from friends and Facebook friends who I have never met face to face. Many have told me that my simple, yet inspiring posts have renewed and brightened their lives. Whether blessed with good health or battling chronic issues, we can all find things every day to be grateful and happy about. Try it for yourself and see if it makes a difference in your life.
    Blessings!

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