Sparking Gratitude

I thought about starting a blog for at least a year before I put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). I knew I had things to share but what held me back was my fear that, because of my pain and fatigue, I wouldn’t be able to post consistently. When dealing with stress and chronic pain, the urge to hibernate often becomes undeniable and the motivation to complete any sort of work wanes to non-existence.

The last month has been one of those times where the stress was high and my motivation nearly disappeared. This, of course, resulted in a healthy dose of procrastination on my part, so I’m sitting here the night before I’m scheduled to upload my next post, searching for the right words.

I don’t like the pressure of an impending deadline but I’ve been stressed and distracted by a crisis at work which could have resulted in my looking for another job, a crisis with my Jeep which may result in my needing to buy another vehicle long before I’m ready, a difficult time in a personal relationship, and the elimination of my last remaining comfort foods because I committed to a ketogenic diet in the hopes that it would reduce the number of migraines I suffer through. Mix that with some chronic pain and you have a perfect recipe for procrastination.

If I hadn’t openly committed to the Pleasure Challenge last month I would have given up on the challenge completely but I’m glad I didn’t.

When I was writing my last blog post I was focusing purely on the concept of learning to intentionally create pleasurable experiences but as I started the Pleasure Challenge I realized that creating pleasure could be an important catalyst for bigger things.

In the midst of difficult times I’m often blinded by the glare of stress and pain so I don’t notice the more subtle light offered by the small things I experience every day. I mistakenly start to think that because I can’t see the subtle light, it isn’t there. As many of you know, this can lead to a very dark place.

Last New Year’s Day I made a resolution to start a gratitude practice and find at least one thing that I could be grateful for each day for the next year. You would think that would be easy right? Wrong! For a while it was easy, but when the pain and stress inevitably intensified it became harder and harder to recognize things to be grateful for and the gratitude practice ground to a halt.

Months later I was surprised to notice that when I started focusing on recognizing small moments of pleasure, gratitude magically appeared. The more I focused on experiencing, or creating, pleasure the more grateful I became. For some unknown reason I hadn’t recognized the connection before but it materialized before my eyes.

Studies have shown that a gratitude practice can be a powerful tool in coping with hard times and creating happiness so I’m grateful that the accountability I asked for two weeks ago helped me to get through this tough time and opened my eyes to the fact that I truly do have things to be grateful for.  It turns out that those scientific studies truly were helpful in the real world.Grass and leaves

Here are some of the simple moments where I experienced the most pleasure in the last two weeks:
1. Walking barefoot through the grass and crispy fall leaves.
2. Eating frozen raspberries.
3. Driving through the warm October sun with the top down on my Jeep.
4. Treating myself to a pedicure (I haven’t had a pedicure in years!).
5. Lying in bed listening to a CJ Box novel on CD.
6. Listening to the university students play their instruments in a street performance.
7. Driving my friend to the Emergency Department and chatting with her while she waited for treatment.
8. Coaching a fellow migraine sufferer.
9. Snuggling with my special guy.
10. Hearing my favorite song on the radio on the way to work.
11. Taking pregnancy pictures for a friend and her husband.
12. Listening to live music while sipping tea at the local tea tavern.
13. Texting with my niece.

I’m not through the woods yet but these small moments have helped fuel me for the journey and I’m going to continue to use these two tools in the future.  I may need more accountability partners in the future to help me use the tools consistently but there is a comfort in knowing they’re there whenever I need them.

If you’ve been participating in the Pleasure Challenge, have you noticed that participating in the challenge has sparked gratitude for you?

If you haven’t been participating in the Pleasure Challenge I want to invite you to join us. I have two more weeks to go so I’d enjoy your company. You can check it out here.

And remember, it’s never too late to experience more pleasure, spark more gratitude, and feel more happiness.

Mindy Kissner, HHC, LCSW

Thrive Wholistic Health


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