'Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.'
Although I am not American, I love the Thanksgiving holiday and the opportunity to be thankful for everything in my life - good and not so good. It's a special time for family and friends to gather together, enjoy each other's company and have a truly meaningful time together. Our lives are so full of to-do lists, commitments, and appointments that we often find ourselves distracted from the important things. We often need to 'schedule' in those thankful moments. Whichever way we look at it, being thankful is important for stress relief and keeping our minds in a healthy place.
Thankfulness in the Chaos
I had to do some thankfulness prioritising a few days ago! The house was a catastrophic mess with toys strewn in all directions. It was laundry day and so there were piles of it lying everywhere. Some clean, some dirty. My son was in a particularly strong hurricane mode, making mess wherever he went while I tried to clean up what I could. It was a losing battle. The more I tried to put things back in their places, the more he took them out again. We just couldn't get back to zero again!
After a while, I just gave up, went and sat with him and did a focused activity. It turns out that this is all he wanted - my focus and attention. He wanted to know that I was more important to him than keeping the house clean. In that moment, I stopped stressing about the clutter and enjoyed the moment with my sweet but rather active three-year old. It was freeing. I gave myself the opportunity to be thankful. I felt so much better after that and we were both in a better place to keep persevering with the house (which eventually did get clean).
Should we be Thankful for MS?
It's all very well being thankful for our amazing loved ones but what about our MS? I know that many of you are thinking how ridiculous it is to actually be thankful for an illness that causes such difficulty in our lives. MS is a difficult burden to bear. It is unpredictable and we know that symptoms can worsen or strike at any moment. Yet, if we choose to dwell on these negatives, it is only going to lead to feelings of anger and depression which will definitely make things worse!
I believe that thankfulness is a valuable part of the healing process. Gratitude is probably the most important attitude to nurture in order to keep one’s mind and life on a positive track. This is something I have worked through over the last four years. I have made the choice to view my MS as something positive in my life. It has given me a reason to stay healthy and start eating this way on the MS diet. If I didn't have MS I would probably still be eating loads of bread, chocolates, cheese and meat - all the foods that have been implicated in the steady increase of disease in our society.
I'm super thankful for the MS diet and the food that I eat. Every-time I down a nutrient packed smoothie, I relish the feeling of my body being nourished and healed. I wouldn't have discovered the extent of this vast world of wholesome eating if I hadn't been diagnosed. My eyes have been opened to a way of life in which my body feels and functions better than it ever has. I'm also thankful for my family's sake. My husband has cut down on his meat and dairy consumption and eats a lot more fresh fruit and vegetables. My children have Vitamin D and flaxseed oil every day. If only my parents had known to nourish me with these nutrients. Hopefully my loved ones can avoid being diagnosed with a chronic illness in their lifetime.
The Art and Science of Gratitude
Giving thanks means that you accept yourself and where you are 'in the moment'. It means you open yourself to the present experiences of life even when they are painful or difficult. This is an art that must be practised and nurtured every day. You'll soon be reaping the benefits.
From a scientific point of view, research shows that whatever you focus on strengthens its related neural pathways. If you focus on anger, lack or feeling sad, you build those pathways. Likewise, if you focus on expressing gratitude, love, peace and wholeness, you strengthen those pathways. This means that just by feeling gratitude, we can contribute to our own healing!
Expressing gratitude for something doesn't mean you have to feel happy about it all the time. It doesn't mean you wish nothing was different or that you can do nothing to improve circumstances for yourself and others. It certainly doesn't mean you choose to just accept your suffering.
Another thing I'm thankful for is the fact that I'm able to connect with so many other women around the world, in the same boat as me. I am built for community. It is in my nature to connect with people and I feel completely fulfilled and happy when I am part of a community like this one. Our MS has lead us to each other and I will always be thankful for that. I'm so honoured to hear your stories and be a part of your journey to healing. You are all incredible, courageous women.
I would like to leave you with a special recipe that I thought you might enjoy on Thanksgiving. It is an MS diet friendly Butternut Squash Soup and it is tasty! You can find it in the recipe section. It would be perfect to use it as a starter to your main meal. Sipping soup on a cold evening, surrounded by people who cherish each other is my idea of absolute bliss.
I hope you have beautiful Thanksgiving this year and that you are able to get past the business and to-dos and just focus on the important and meaningful things.
Love and Blessings