the-importance-of-gratitude

Gratitude

Looking for an easy way to hack your brain? Consider practicing gratitude on a daily basis. It’s rather simple, but sometimes hard to do. When we practice gratitude, we are stating to ourselves and those around us that we are worthwhile and we appreciate our life. Gratitude is so important to our overall well being, it really does re-wire your brain to focus more on the positive and make healthier choices.

Gratitude can help you manage your stress, your illness, and how you operate in the world on a daily basis.

In the month of November, I try to focus on gratitude in some capacity. I decided to do it a few months early this year because gratitude should be a year-round thing. Doing it for a month out of the year, a week, or a day, is not enough to make meaningful changes.

Gratitude should come as a daily practice if we want to truly rewire our brains to be healthier.

The Science of Gratitude

Often we look for quick and easy solutions for our problems. Living in an age of instant gratification dulls our ability to be patient, so finding a solution to a long-term problem is difficult sometimes. With that in mind, gratitude is one of those easy to do exercises that offers a short-term response with long-term ramifications.

Have you found yourself feel better after doing something nice and unexpected for someone? Or when you express your appreciation for someone without cause? It might be a temporary good feeling, but science backs up that these moments, when added up, can re-wire your brain to be more receptive to positive experiences.

But when you are dealing with a chronic illness, sometimes the last thing you want to do is express gratitude for yourself or the world around you. After all, your body’s betrayed you. Often all we can think about is what we lack, such as our health, and not what we have.

When we take the time to incorporate more gratitude in our lives, despite our illness, we rewire our brains to spend less time on the negative aspects. Focusing on the positive brings us into a space to make healthier decisions for ourselves and can lower our overall stress.

And stress is something we strive to avoid in chronic illnesses.

Creating Space

We must be present in our lives, chronic illness or not. We choose to take a chance to do what needs to be done, or we choose to let life happen to us. If you struggle, like I have, with incorporating gratitude, consider creating a five-minute space to practice one instance of gratitude each day. Often the recommendation in the morning to set the tone for the rest of the day, but if that’s not possible, do whatever time works for you.

I learned this lesson recently: there’s an expectation to do things at a specific time because “that’s what’s right,” but that may not work for you. If your moment of gratitude is in the middle of the day or before going to bed, then do it then. When it happens does not matter. Just that you are doing it.

Try to set the alarm at your preset time if you often forget to do something, and commit to a short practice of gratitude for five minutes. Five minutes out of all your day is but a drop and passes by rather quickly.

Practicing Gratitude

Find the practice that works best for you, there are so many ways to practice gratitude. Try until you find something that works, don’t settle on what you think you’re supposed to do. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

  1. Buy a gratitude journal and follow the prompts
  2. Think of something silly about yourself that you love
  3. Do a random act of kindness for a stranger with no expectations of a acknowledgment/validation (i.e. don’t post about it on social media)
  4. Compliment a stranger on something you genuinely like about them
  5. Create and maintain a list of things you appreciate everyday. Add a new one during your gratitude time
  6. Find a silver lining in a difficult situation
  7. Relish a challenge or adversarial situation, rather than taking on a victim role
  8. If you are able to, volunteer your time
  9. Surround yourself with people who are grateful and make you feel good about yourself
  10. Find a gratitude rock or object that you can keep near yourself at all times to remind you of being grateful

The Importance of Gratitude

We don’t have to wait until November to practice gratitude in our daily lives. If you want to work towards rewiring brain towards a more positive outlook, just start with gratitude. It’s still going to take time to undo what might be years of negative thinking, but it gets you into the head space you need to be in to be receptive to change.

That’s the best space to be in: open to making positive changes in your life if you’ve previously struggled with it. Gratitude truly is one of the easiest and quickest ways to get into a positive space for yourself. I am already finding that I let things go a lot quicker than I used to, and appreciate the moments I have more.


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Featured photo credit: Canva

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How to Love Myself

I would love to wave a magic wand over everyone and say, “Poof! You now love yourself and embrace all that you are.” But I know that’s not how it works. It’s not something that happens instantaneously or over even a short period. My personal journey to self-love began two years ago when I learned that my brain lesions were gone and I had a new lease on my health. I had the opportunity to make important life changes, and part of that was figuring out how to love myself.

This blog is my chronicle towards self-love and self-acceptance, even if I haven’t overtly admitted to it.

It isn’t an easy journey, and I am still in the beginning stages of self-acceptance. It’s been easier to focus on my exercising, food, and self-compassion than admitting to what I love about myself. I will spend the rest of my life contending with myself over whether or not I am worthy of my own love.

I think it’s like any other relationship we have: loving someone takes work. We have to constantly reaffirm that love, engage with it, and nurture it. Our love is no different.

Love, Don’t Just Like

We can all find things we like about ourselves, but can we find something we love? If you did the exercise from Monday, listing of five things you love about yourself, how many of them are really just “likes?” Be honest.

Sometimes it’s easier to approach ourselves from a slight distance like implies less depth of feeling over love, and that is a fine place to start. But we do want to work towards turning some of those “likes” into “loves.”

Any new relationship is based on “likes” that develop into something more, so this is very similar to that. Look over some of the qualities you like about yourself, are any of them worthy of your attention? You may appreciate how you handle your exacerbations, but you may not celebrate that perseverance to the degree it deserves.

Take a moment and see if a particular quality is worthy of an internal appreciation upgrade. Embrace those qualities and start to look at them with love. Embrace what makes you unique and amazing. You are worthy of your love.

The Science of Loving Yourself

Science backs up the importance of loving yourself. When we focus on our negative qualities, it impacts our relationships, health, and ability to overcome adversity. When we engage in self-appreciation, we give ourselves a chance to cope with stress and any mood/anxiety disorders we might have.

While this won’t cure our depression, it may help you lessen symptoms or get you to a space where you can ask for help.

I found that when I take a stand to care more about myself, that I am able to back away from negative relationships. My drive to be healthy is greater, and I find that I self-assess my abilities as a mother to be higher.

When we engage in self-appreciation, we are more open to making healthy medical decisions. This isn’t necessarily about eating right or exercising, we are more open to fighting for what we need to manage our chronic illness.

Speaking of chronic illness…

Chronic Illness and Loving Yourself

When you have a chronic illness, you’re stuck with it. Until they find a cure for our particular illness, we are biding our time managing the best we can with what we have.

Chronic illness is an obstacle in our wellness journeys. I’ve said this before on the blog: it’s so hard to want to get well when our bodies betray us. It’s hard to love ourselves if we view our bodies flawed beyond repair. Asking someone with a chronic illness to take the steps towards self-love seems unreasonable, but it’s not.

I will be honest, if someone who didn’t have a chronic illness tried to tell me that, I would probably give them the biggest eye roll possible. Even today. Why? Because it’s usually said to make themselves feel better, not me.

Because we cannot change whether or not we have a chronic illness, there is a level of self-acceptance that must happen. When we fight against the illness, via ignoring it or caving completely to it, we signal to ourselves that we are not worth caring for and we signal to the illness that it wins. Patients with negative attitudes, tend to fare worse than patients who are positive with their healthcare approach.

It’s easy to get lost in our illnesses. It’s part of the grieving process, which is perfectly healthy on its own. But it’s a process, which means there needs to be forward movement in our journey, not stalling for an unhealthy length of time. We sometimes forget that we aren’t alone in this world, even though it often feels like it.

We have to fight to love ourselves and keep on fighting despite our health setbacks, lest the illness wins. Chronic illness takes so much away from us, leaves us feeling helpless and worthless, but why let it? Why allow it to take more from us? We have to give it permission to leave us feeling unloved, and we can revoke that permission at any time.

How to Love Myself

So how do we begin loving ourselves? Very slowly, as mentioned in Monday’s post. We’ve been slowly building up to this point throughout the year:

Find ways to start incorporating self-appreciation in your daily life. Get a workable morning routine that allows you to feel good about yourself. Include affirmations if that works. Find some way to exercise to boost the feel-good hormones.

Tell yourself that you are worth fighting for.


Like this post? Make sure to follow me on your favorite social media platform and show some love by sharing it. Links found below.

Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton


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The Importance of Self-Reflection

After spending a successful month discussing #MSAwareness, it’s time to get back on track with our wellness journey. In January, we covered the importance of self-improvement with a chronic illness; and in February, discussed using self-compassion to work through difficult personal goals. This month, we’re moving onto the importance of self-reflection.

Self-reflection needs to be included when taking the time to make improvements. We need to ask ourselves important personal questions: why start the journey, why it’s important, what we want to achieve, among other important questions to ask. When we know the answer to these questions, we know how to continue forward.

I will frame most of this month through the lens of chronic illness, with my main example being MS. Chronic illness greatly impacts the questions we must ask ourselves and the honest answers we need to give.

What is Self-Reflection

Simply put, self-reflection is taking a few moments to examine your life from a distance. This internal reflection includes: why you think certain thoughts, why you feel a certain way, or the way you react to situations. An external reflection includes: your life as it is, who surround yourself with, and your professional (or lack of) life as it stands.

This practice of self-reflection goes as deep or as superficial as you want. In fact, it’s rather natural for us to do it on an unconcious level. Without even thinking, I take a moment or two of self-reflection every day. Prior to embracing self-compassionate, all self-reflection tended to be negative, but now I am more forgiving.

If you practice religion or spirituality, your prayers or meditation are forms of self-reflection. When speaking to your higher power with a request or desiring a connection to them, their response or your internal monologue functions as self-reflection. In meditation, your thoughts lead you down a reflective path.

The Science

Bringing in science, self-reflection is one of the most important things you can do for yourself if you want success in your goals. Self-reflection gives an honest assessment of yourself and your life. Many successful people take time to check in with themselves a frequent basis. Are they happy with their success or is there more they can do? What didn’t work with that last task that they should fix for next time? Why am I feeling self-doubt even though I know this can succeed?

Self-reflect is not a one-size-fits-all sort of thing, but it will get you on the path you need to find personal success with your goals.

Psychologically speaking, self-reflection is critical for success in goal-making and goal-keeping. It helps a person to recognize the difference between their goal and not completing it, and then taking the necessary steps to complete their personal goals. Self-reflection, like stress, can push a person into moving forward to succeed.

The Importance of Self-Reflection

As a woman who grew up in New England, I find it difficult to be comfortable with the “selfish” practice of inward reflection. I am afraid of the negative stigma attached to any “self-serving” behaviors. When taking a moment for yourself, you are neglecting others or prioritizing your needs above theirs.

Despite the current cultural push to encourage women to be focused on their needs, I grew up in an in-between space that discouraged female empowerment and encouraged it. So it’s confusing to want to do selfish things to become a better person.

Let’s be honest: Self-reflection is a rather selfish exercise. It’s important and necessary if you want to make positive life changes.

  • You check in with yourself and your goals
  • Pushes you forward and provides motivation when you start to lose momentum
  • Grants the necessary time to approach a problem objectively rather than from an emotional standpoint
  • Provides the necessary perspective to ourselves and goals
  • Gives you the opportunity to learn on a deeper and more lasting level
  • Challenges (in a positive way) your deep-set beliefs

We will be slowly working through self-reflection this month: from dealing with a chronic illness, parenting, tips for practicing self-awareness, and acknowledging how difficult it will be to engage in self-reflection and how to manage it.

If you haven’t already, please sign up for the MS Mommy Blog Newsletter. In the newsletter you’ll gain access to exclusive posts and content not available publicly on the site.


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Featured photo credit: Randy Jacob on Unsplash


Gratitude for all Things

For the month of November, I am taking each day to highlight some element in my life that I want to express my gratitude about. This could be something deeply personal or just a passing appreciation for something more superficial. 


We are at the end of my short journey through things that I am grateful for and I want to thank you for coming along with me. I know that people listing off things they are grateful for can be boring, but hopefully it’s provided some food for thought. Whenever I hear others talk about their gratitude, it gives me a moment to think about those same things in my life and wonder if I’ve expressed my gratitude for them as well.

While I know I missed discussing a lot of important things in my life, I wanted to highlight topics that I rarely discuss on my blog but are deserving of my thoughts. My blog, my parents, my companion animals… all are extremely important to me but don’t get as much love as they deserve here.

I also found that reflecting on the positive impact my MS has had in my life has helped reaffirm my perspective. I cannot change my diagnosis and the impact it has in my life, but I can change my attitude and how much I allow that impact to be negative. By turning towards the positive elements of my illness (perspective change, refocusing of priorities, etc.) I no longer feel the bitterness I once did, nor do my symptom heavy days keep me down like they once did.

The Advantages of Gratitude

In my more successful meditative practices, I get my grounding faster when expressing gratitude to even the more mundane parts of my life. It feels weird being thankful for a house, car, or the privilege to take a few moments to meditate. For me, expressing internal gratitude for these items allows me to recognize where I would be if I did not have them. I feel like it motivates me to do more when confronted with others who don’t have as many privileges as I do.

I also find that when I am grateful for what I have, I have less stress in my life. There is an element of recognizing what I don’t have (and might wish that was different), but as long as I don’t focus on that part as much, I am fine. It goes back to how I approach my illness: don’t focus on the negative or the lack, but on the positive and what I can achieve.

Moving into December

Spending time reflecting on how important gratitude is in my life and how important it is to be grateful for what I do have makes a smooth transition into December when I spend a little more time about the prospect of giving and compassion.

It makes a lot of sense for one seasonal idea to follow the other: after recognizing what we have we can take the steps to help others in many different but meaningful ways.

What have you to be grateful for at the end of this month? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


Like this post? Make sure to follow me on your favorite social media platform and show some love by sharing it. Links found below.

Featured photo credit: Michelle Melton


Keeping a Clean Living Space

I have a love-hate relationship with cleanliness.

I love to be clean and organized, but I hate the work that goes into it. Having a toddler makes cleaning and staying clean Sisyphean at best. Nothing stays clean for more than ten minutes at a time with a human tornado.

This gets discouraging very quickly. Why bother keeping clean and organized if it’s only going to become a mess immediately?

It’s hard for me to get organized and easy to allow clutter to take over. I am ashamed to admit that it took until June to finally put all the holiday decorations away. They were removed from the main areas of the house but sat waiting to make it inside the storage closet we have in our room. Ash and I had to move around the boxes and clutter that kept piling up on a nightly basis as we got ready for bed.

For that, I hated spending time in our bedroom.

It took so long because it required a cleaning and reorganizing of our storage closet. We’ve accumulated a lot of old baby and maternity items that we’re not ready to part with just yet, so there wasn’t any room to put holiday decorations back inside.

This required an organization session, cleaning, and purging a lot of items. Making the time to do this is difficult with the fatigue and have limited energy stores day-to-day. Because a cleaning session wasn’t important in my mind, it kept getting pushed back in favor of working on other projects.

But that doesn’t mean the cluttered chaos didn’t cause issues.

Benefits to Clean House

Over the years I’ve recognized the benefits of having an organized house without a child: it’s a way to find things easily, everything has its place, and generally makes life easier.

I am also one of those people who gets depressed if my living space is messy. I am not just talking super messy but depression starts to set in even if there’s a little bit of clutter. So when the house “gets out of control,” I tend to freeze and get frustrated.

I am, by no means, obsessive over the cleanliness. When I can’t even get myself to spend 15 minutes tidying up because of either fatigue or feeling overwhelmed I feel frustrated.

There’s a lot of research available online that shows there’s a connection between healthy living, healthy habits, and healthy decisions and a clean/organized home. So my reaction isn’t surprising.

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