There is no better time to tap into your gratitude than when you’re sitting in the dialysis chair. When I first started dialysis, I noticed that there were two distinct groups of people: grumpy people and sparkly people. The grumpy people were always complaining. Complaining about anything and everything, they didn’t get enough sleep, they didn’t want to be in dialysis, their chair was uncomfortable, and why did this have to happen to them.
There was another group of people in dialysis I call the sparkly people, the people that smiled and waved hello when they arrived for treatment. These people were the staff’s favorites and the people you were genuinely happy to see. The people that made your day with their smile.
My favorite person was a very tiny older woman with short-cropped silver hair. She would come in blowing kisses, waving to everyone, always dressed in fun colorful clothes. She was very old and certainly not eligible for a transplant, meaning she would be in dialysis the rest of her life. Yet, there she was, smiling away, making us all feel better about being there. She was my hero and I wanted to be sparkly like her.
Gratitude is a Choice
It was apparent that there were two energies at work here. It was also apparent that it was a choice as to which side you would chose. The situation was the same, we were all in dialysis, but some were miserable and some were even joyful. Sign me up for Joyful any day.
I’ve always been a person who believes that when you choose to see the bad in everything, it makes everything worse. Dialysis was the real test on this theory. I decided to do an experiment which was a variation of what my son was doing in school. His English teacher was having the kids write a Gratitude Journal. I’ve heard of a similar, more abbreviated version where you write down three things a day that you’re grateful for. It didn’t have to be earth shattering, like I’m grateful to be alive, even though that was on the top of my gratitude list. They could be simple things, like, I’m grateful it’s a warm sunny day, or I’m grateful I’m having dinner with my best friend tonight, or I’m grateful I get to sit in my favorite chair during dialysis.
This experiment is still ongoing. In fact, this is a life long experiment. I keep my list in my mental back pocket and when I find myself heading down the rabbit hole, I pull out something I’m grateful for and say it to myself until I can feel it in my bones.
My big realization is that gratitude trumps everything. It’s impossible to be resentful and grateful at the same time; gratitude wins every time. I remember someone saying that you can only have one thought in your mind at a time. Just try thinking of two things at once. It can’t be done, so if you catch yourself being held hostage by negativity, just change your mind. You have the power to change your thoughts and become a member of the sparkly club.
The Rubber Band Experiment
I had a friend who wore a rubber band around her wrist and would snap it every time she was aware of being caught in an unpleasant inner dialogue. I asked her why she did this and she said, “I need to interrupt the monster in my head.”
We may not all have monsters in our head, but now I’m a big believer in not feeding the monster, not feeding negative thoughts with more negative thoughts. Snap that rubber band and change your mind. Pull out one of your gratitude thoughts and chase that monster away.
When I started writing down three things a day I was grateful for, it was like my brainwaves changed the channel. I become more aware of the present moment and began noticing other things I was grateful for throughout the day. Like that robin singing his heart out, or that excellent latté that tasted so perfect.
Gratitude Changes Everything
It’s not an exaggeration to say cultivating gratitude has made a huge difference in my life. It made my dialysis more than bearable. I came to enjoy the time I spent in the chair as time to reflect. Before gratitude, my inner life had been relegated to the time I spent in traffic. My usual morning routine would be to get up and instantly check email or FB while my time dripped down the drain. I don’t do that anymore. Now I start my morning with my list of three.
Gratitude is a Practice
I have to practice gratitude every day. When I catch myself in the middle of a negative rant I have to admit that sometimes it’s fun to be irritated and mad at the person who cut you off at the intersection. But being angry certainly doesn’t add to my wellbeing. If I can catch myself in the middle of a negative mood and switch my choice of what I want to focus on, practicing gratitude can save my day. Even Willie Nelson says, “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”
What are three things you’re grateful for?
Best of Health,