I recently read a bit on the science behind gratitude, and it’s fascinating.
By reducing the stress hormones and managing the autonomic nervous system functions, gratitude significantly reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety. At the neurochemical level, feelings of gratitude are associated with an increase in the neural modulation of the prefrontal cortex, the brain site responsible for managing negative emotions like guilt, shame, and violence.PositivePsychology.com
As I embark on a path to heal my entire body from inflammation and stress, gratitude seems like a great new tool to try out.
The concept of gratitude came to mind last night as I was getting ready for bed. For the past few months, I’ve been having a little bit of ocular inflammation in my left eye, which is my “good” eye. Thankfully, my doctor is helping me manage it with eye drops and not systemic corticosteroids (which suppress your immune system and are scary to take during the COVID pandemic!)
I put the eye drops in my left eye and kept that eye closed for 30 seconds, as the instructions indicate. During that 30 seconds, I was reminded of the vision loss in my right eye. I looked in the mirror and could only see part of my reflection; the lower left quadrant of my vision is completely gone in that eye. The vision that remains is distorted, very blurry, and colors are muted to sepia tones. I picked up lotion and tried to read the small print on the back of the bottle with just my “bad” eye, and it was difficult. My poor peripheral vision in that eye made the text swirl as I concentrated on finding my focus and discerning each word.
In that moment, I was immensely relieved to open my left eye and have both eyes working together for improved vision once again. Vision loss is life changing, and while it is still scary to not know what the future holds for my battle with uveitis, I’m enormously grateful for the vision I still have right now.
I shut off the bathroom light, walked to the bedroom, and crawled into bed and reflected on the day and the week. It’s been a long one: the worsening pandemic and riot at the Capitol weighed heavy on my mind, and I struggled through some anxiety and very long work days this week, too. Life is hard right now.
Yet… My bed felt warm and soft and cozy. I remembered some very fun and meaningful exchanges I’d had with sweet friends throughout the week. My cute, little dog was quietly snoring in his bed on the floor. My husband texted me to let me know he was driving home from work. I’d eaten a warm and nutritious dinner. I used the remote to flip on the large flatscreen television to an array of shows and movies. With the help of my glasses, I could read all the text on the television from 20 feet away, in my spacious bedroom, in my safe home. In this moment, I recognized that I live a life of luxury compared to many people in the world, and there are countless things for which to be grateful.
Going into the weekend, there is more opportunity for quiet time, for relaxation, reflection, and self-care. It’s a nice time to sit back and think… What are YOU grateful for?