Kat Naish explains how actively "practising gratitude" helped her after an MS diagnosis.
When you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic condition like multiple sclerosis (MS), it can be hard not to give in to feelings of depression. After receiving this life-changing news, I felt as though my days were filled with pain. Time seemed to yawn before me as I tried to come to terms with everything I couldn't do anymore.
This kind of sadness is such a horrid thing to experience. The feelings can creep up on you and make you feel like life is dark and hopeless. That you are somehow too weak or less deserving of happiness than everybody else is. It brings all your past disappointments and suffering to the fore. It tries desperately to convince you that your future will be no different.
But that’s just not true.
I wanted to write this article to remind you that you can overcome these feelings. Sometimes these feelings are exaggerated, like a metaphorical monster in your wardrobe. So let’s call the monster's bluff. Let’s switch the lights on, open the wardrobe, and confront it head-on.
One thing I know that helps me overcome these feelings is practising gratitude. I have a notebook beside my bed, and I try to fill out one page every night. I start by writing a small paragraph that sums up my day, which then helps me think about five things to be grateful for. And when I find them, I take my time to ponder them until they put a smile on my face.
You can do this too. I realise that everybody has a different definition of what an accomplishment is. But when you have a chronic condition to contend with, like me, even the smallest achievements are important and should be noted.
Include anything you like - like a pretty sunset, a compliment from a stranger, or a catch-up with an old friend. Even your favourite band releasing a new album can count as a win!
Refocus on the positives
Once you find these things to be grateful for, meditate on them. Build practising gratitude into your daily routine and make it a non-negotiable part of your to-do list.
Never leave the house without a shower? Make “practising gratitude” as important as your daily bathing routine.
Never go to bed without giving it a go. Do it with all your strength and conviction.
Remember falling in love? A new relationship feels amazing because you can only see the good in your new partner. Gratitude works in the same way. You need to constantly remind yourself how many blessings are in your life.
Practise makes perfect
I understand that practising gratitude might seem difficult at first, but it gets easier over time. Some days are fine, but I struggle through others.
Those days when you’re feeling low and don't want to practise are the most important days to do it. You need to remind yourself of everything positive in your life when things seem bleak – regardless of how small the positives may seem.
In my personal experience, my depressive feelings had a beginning, a middle and, yes, an end. For me, they did pass. I didn’t allow the feelings of sadness to steal my hopes and dreams. I didn’t let past experiences determine how my future would pan out – even after my MS diagnosis.
So, try and give feelings of depression the boot. Call them out for what they are. An exaggeration of horrible things that have happened to you in the past.
Focus on the things that you are grateful for instead. Prove that your life is filled with a joy that sadness tries to hide from you. Believe me, you will completely change your mindset if you constantly focus on the positives in your life.
NPS-IE-NP-00701 February 2023