The healing power of gratitude

Using the healing power of gratitude helps to transmit positive messages that create new neural pathways in your mind.

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Victor E. Frankel

Dr. Kill, my trauma doctor, came into my hospital room and told my husband John and I that I needed a fifth surgery. This would be my fifth surgery in 15 days.

John, a recently retired emergency physician, knew the risks involved in another surgery.

When Dr. Kill left, John started to cry.

“Why are you crying?” I asked.

“Because I don’t want you to suffer anymore.”

“I’m not suffering, you’re suffering,” I said. I have to have this surgery. I’ll be fine.”

After my surgery, I was brought back to my hospital room following two nights in the ICU.

I heard a clear voice. It said, “You get to choose how you go through this experience. What will you choose?”

I’d never heard a voice like this – it was so real.

It felt like the voice of God, and it was offering me the opportunity to grow in consciousness from this experience.

You get to choose how you respond to any given situation in your life.

It was as if I was watching my own mind from above and witnessing how I responded to what was happening.  It wasn’t the medications that caused my change in awareness. This was different.

There was no fear in my mind about surviving. There was a peace that took over by the acceptance of what was happening.

I knew that I could fight the reality of my situation becoming a victim of my own story or I could use this near-fatal accident to grow and evolve.

I chose the high road and my wheels were gratitude and love. It was as if my ego was off-line. The anxious fear-based thoughts were gone.

I showed gratitude and thanks to each person who came in to care for me. I knew they were helping survive.

Surrender to What Is Happening

Sharp Memorial in San Diego is considered a ‘nurse magnet’ hospital. That means it attracts the best nurses because it’s a great place to work.

Shankar was a nurse assistant who was in nursing school. He was not only good looking but also kind and compassionate.  When it was time to get out of bed to stand with a walker for the first time, it was Shankar and another strong male nurse who were there to help me.

I had fractured my sacrum in the accident. To stand up it took everything I had to withstand the pain. The pain was so great that I had diarrhea the moment I stood up.

I was mortified because two male nurses had to clean me up. It was then I realized I had to surrender to everything. Gratitude helped me get through this.  Shankar became one of my favorite nurse assistants.

After a month of sponge baths, Dr. Kill finally said I could have a shower. It was Shankar who helped me shower and wash my hair.

Gratitude is Good for Your Health

Being in a place of gratitude while healing transmits positive messages that create new neural pathways in your mind.

“Research shows that when we think about what we appreciate, the parasympathetic or calming part of the nervous system is triggered and that can have protective benefits on the body, including decreasing cortisol levels and perhaps increasing oxytocin, the bonding hormone involved in relationships that make us feel so good,” said Robert A. Emmons, a psychology professor at UC Davis.[1]

In the article How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times, Emmons says that a grateful attitude is essential to get us through tough times.  “Realize the power you have to transform an obstacle into an opportunity,” he said.

If you’ve experienced a difficult situation in your life, try reframing it to one of being thankful.

Emmons says to ask yourself these questions:

  1. What lessons did I learn from this experience?
  2. Can I find ways to be thankful for what happened to me now even though I was not at the time it happened?
  3. What ability did the experience draw out of me that surprised me?
  4. How am I now more the person I want to be because of it? Have my negative feelings about the experience limited or prevented my ability to feel gratitude in the time since it occurred?
  5. Has the experience removed a personal obstacle that previously prevented me from feeling grateful?

Have you used gratitude to get through difficult circumstances?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Dunn, Be Thankful: Science says gratitude is good for your health. Today. 1

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  1. Thanks for writing this article, Sherold! I hope you are in full recovery and are doing well. I have recently gone through post partum depression and gratitude was crucial to my healing.

    1. Claire – thank you for writing! It’s so good to hear from you and I’m sorry that you went through that. Congratulations on your beautiful boy;)

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