Gratitude and My Back Pain
Taking a positive approach to healing made a significant difference in Dana's recovery and life.
It can be extremely difficult to deal with a negative person. I worked with someone who was never positive. In the beginning, I felt sorry for her. Something always seemed to be wrong. Life was a struggle, and she seemed unable to find joy in anything. Have you ever met someone who is negative?
Negativity Drains Your Energy
Negative people can drain your energy and make you feel anxious or depressed if you let them. You may avoid being judgmental knowing it’s difficult to understand someone else’s situation and how it may be affecting them. Eventually, your patience wanes and that little voice inside you gets louder until you hear it say, “I can’t stand to be around this negativity anymore.”
My Back Pain Fostered a Bad Attitude
During recovery from my back injury, I felt negative and my thoughts always seemed to wander toward pessimism. It may have started when a physical therapist told me I was negative. Looking back, she was right. It wasn’t just the questions I asked her, but my defensive tone and sour attitude. Maybe you’ve asked your therapist or doctor, “Will the pain ever go away?” or “How long will it really take for my injury to heal?”
Turning Negative to Positive
Before I injured my back, I had been an avid runner. If you are a runner or involved in another sport, then you know a ‘can do’ attitude may help you overcome obstacles. Why wasn’t I applying what I knew to my current health situation?
Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m usually a happy person who seldom complains. However, I had never been faced with lying down for almost a year to help relieve back pain and related symptoms! It wasn’t an easy transition, but I started consciously applying a positive attitude toward my personal healing process. Other favorable changes included improving my diet and gradually increasing physical activity.
I’d long been a fan of Jim Taylor, PhD, a sports psychologist who is well-known for his work in using psychology to improve athletic performance. I had read his books and followed his advice. Then one morning while surfing the Internet I came across an interesting National Institutes of Health study supporting the theory that being grateful can determine whether you win or lose—not only in the good or bad day sense but in life in general, too.
Mulling over the study reminded me of a past summer when I volunteered in Jamaica with a group called Medical Mission International. I assisted doctors to help people without access to medical care. Whether we worked beneath beautiful palm trees or in dilapidated buildings without running water, long lines of people waited for treatment.
One day, an elderly Jamaican man showed up with a painful knee. He walked 10 miles to see us. His knee was very swollen and resembled a football, but he was smiling as he slowly hobbled towards us. With no pain medication to numb his knee, the doctor inserted a needle to drain fluid from the man’s swollen joint. The procedure must have been uncomfortable, although the man kept smiling and didn’t complain once. We gave him antibiotics and he went on his way, leaving us with much more than what he received from the doctors—a memory of gratitude.
Journaling About Gratitude
My memories of volunteering in Jamaica encouraged me to retrain my thinking. I started to focus on what I was grateful for and writing them down. I forced myself to record 5 things I was grateful for every single day. Coffee came to mind right away. I love my morning Joe and felt truly grateful to be able to get out of bed and enjoy a warm cup in the morning. I was grateful to play with Legos on the floor with my kids! I was grateful for my husband and my best friend who was with me throughout my recovery. I was grateful for my mom, my mother in-law—even the birds in my backyard!
After a few days of taking note of the fullness of my life, I honestly felt less stress. Here’s the main point: as you start to realize what you have, you stop complaining about what you don’t. As I surrendered to these feelings, I felt happiness start to creep back in. Instead of being preoccupied with worry about when my back would get better, my mind went to happy places. In a sense, my back injury set me free. It allowed me to live in the moment, and enjoy every second of it.
Has your injury changed your life for the better? If so, what are you grateful for now? Share your comments on our Facebook page.