How to Practice Gratitude For Your Health

Woman with heart hands showing gratitude

Managing hormonal changes, or a chronic condition like endometriosis and PCOS, can have a big impact on your mental wellbeing and happiness. Dealing with pain or discomfort daily, or even managing symptoms of perimenopause can be tricky and demanding on our mental health. And that’s not even before we talk about navigating healthcare, and the frustrations that many women experience when seeking a diagnosis for their conditions.

Research shows that by consciously practising gratitude, we can reduce feelings of anxiety, low mood, depression and stress. In fact, studies have shown that even one small practice of mindful gratitude a day produces an immediate boost in happiness by 10%, and a 35% decrease in depressive symptoms. It also improves sleep cycles, creates stronger interpersonal relationships and can even enhance your immune system. For those of us with inflammation related conditions, gratitude has shown in studies to reduce inflammatory responses in the body. 

It’s accessible and easy for all

The beauty of building a gratitude practice into your life is it’s so simple, everyone can do it. It really starts with nothing more than time, and space to think about what you are thankful for – but there are some ways you can benefit from developing this practice further. 

“For me, the idea of adding something ‘extra’ felt far too much. And I can’t remember what I needed from the next room most days so the idea of remembering something like a gratitude journal wasn’t gonna happen!”, explains Sheree. She decided to instead build gratitude into her yoga practice instead and found that a much easier balance. “I spend a few minutes at the end of each session just sitting in my thoughts and thinking of three positive things that I am grateful for that week.”

Taking a deliberate pause in your day to reflect on what you are grateful for helps to refocus your thoughts, and think about what you have, rather than what you lack. We can’t remove every challenge that we face in life, and we don’t always have control over them – but you can choose how you view the world.

Beware of toxic positivity

When we are seeking to be more appreciative of what we do have, it’s important to not fall into the trap of toxic positivity. Toxic positivity is where you believe that no matter how awful a situation is, that we – or worse, others – should maintain a positive mindset no matter what. 

“When I started practising gratitude, I went a bit overboard”, shares Tiana. She has Endometriosis Stage III, and has had two surgeries within 12 months. “I was overhauling my life and determined not to let what I was going through overcome me. I met everything with a positive frame of mind but that got really hard to manage over time and I started spiralling even more.” This is a trap that so many people who are new to the idea of practising gratitude experience. Reframing a situation to find the positive elements is important, but it’s a matter of balance. 

Gratitude isn’t about replacing negative thoughts and emotions with positivity; let’s face it, that’s impossible and not a healthy coping mechanism – especially if you are managing the reality of significant pain and disruption to your life or work as a result of what you are going through. Rather, we should embrace difficult emotions in order to process them in a healthy way and by facing challenging feelings, we can ultimately gain more insight into how we manage the challenges we face. Acknowledging and embracing both what is great in our lives and what we find challenging with our health and hormones provides us with a balanced view and helps us be objective about difficulties, pain or management of symptoms that we dealing with. 

3 Tips to help you build more gratitude for your health

The great news is that practising gratitude is so simple, making it an easy habit to build into your life. Let’s look at how:

Say thanks every day

Taking a mindful moment to acknowledge what someone has done for you is a good way to start building gratitude into your life. Perhaps your partner cooked a delicious meal, or made a cup of coffee for you in the morning? Maybe you spoke to your physician and felt heard and supported? Think about how you can show appreciation for the generosity of others’ actions. Some people like to send cards, or write notes; others use social media to express their thanks, or send a text. A bunch of flowers or box of chocolates can be a wonderful way to show your gratitude, but just the simple of act of saying ‘thank you’, or ‘I appreciate you’ goes a long way (and doesn’t cost a dime!)

Create a gratitude journal 

Gratitude journals are useful as they can help to focus your thoughts and start to build an ‘activity’ around the habit of gratitude. Using a notebook or diary, take a moment in the morning or evening to write down three things that you are grateful for. Allow yourself – if you have time – to free write for 5-10 minutes too, listing anything that you are grateful for. If you are struggling to start a gratitude journal, you might like to try Morning Pages. Julia Cameron shared in The Artists Way how to commit and use Morning Pages as a way of expressing your emotion, cajole thoughts and help you express your inner most feelings. Essentially, Morning Pages are three longform pages that allow you to freehand write a conscious stream of thought – and through this, you can unpick the moments of gratitude that you would like to focus on. 

Find joy in the little moments 

Finding moments of joy in your day is a good way to work through negative feelings or moments of frustration, sadness or despondency when dealing with difficult hormonal changes or pain. It helps to find opportunities and work through blocks to find solutions easier. Moments of joy help to amplify  positive emotions, and fully participate in our lives rather than feeling like we are observing others’ enjoyment which is especially important when managing chronic pain.

When we are caught up in managing a chronic condition like endometriosis, or PCOS – or dealing with menopausal symptoms like brain fog and fatigue, it’s easy to miss the small moments. But by stopping to appreciate the positive detail in our lives, we can take a powerful pause for our wellbeing.

Taking time to practice gratitude in your day helps you to move the focus from what’s not gone so well to moments that are positive, less challenging and affirm your self-satisfaction. Over time, you’ll find yourself feeling more positive, satisfied and happier, which is great for your mental wellbeing. 

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