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Practicing Gratitude Can Help with Healing

"When diagnosed with breast cancer, it helped for me to reflect daily upon my gratitude list as a way to overcome adversity."
PUBLISHED November 30, 2019
Tamera Anderson-Hanna is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, Certified Addiction Professional, Certified Rehabilitation Counselor and became a Registered Yoga Teacher while coping with breast cancer in 2015. She owns Wellness, Therapy, & Yoga in Florida where she provides personal wellness services and coaching and she is a public speaker on wellness-related topics. You can connect with her at www.wellnesstherapyyoga.com.

Adversity is a part of life, but suffering does not have to be part of how we cope. At least it is not where I try to take things when difficulties present themselves. Personally, I have learned to rely upon practicing gratitude to help me cope. When diagnosed with breast cancer it helped for me to reflect daily upon my gratitude list as a way to overcome adversity.

Since my own diagnosis of breast cancer, I have experienced a couple of difficult years. In September of 2017, my home was damaged from Hurricane Irma and in January of 2018, my daughter was injured in a common team sport. Her injuries resulted in multiple surgeries, hospitalization, and eventually a PIC line and in-home nursing to fight an infection she developed. In January of 2019, I learned two more family members were diagnosed with cancer, one being my husband. Through all this, some ask what keeps me going and I would say it is GRATITUDE!

It's gratitude for life and assessing what I have that personally helps me overcome the difficult moments in my life. When you hear a about a diagnosis of cancer, whether it's your own or that of a loved one, the first reaction is often fear, which is often followed naturally by many other emotions, including anger. Then, once acceptance and healing begins, gratitude is helpful and a recipe for enjoying the days ahead despite the circumstances. There are many times in life we are handed information or a situation we have no control over other than the manner in which we cope with it.

Where am I in life today? My home is finally undergoing major interior renovations after Hurricane Irma, my daughter is now healthy and beginning college at the age of 16 thanks to to her academic skills, and my husband is NED along with myself. But it has taken gratitude to get me to this point. Without gratitude, life can seem tiring and overwhelming. I have felt this at times, but I return to ending my day or starting my day by thinking about what I do have and what is going well, as opposed to what might be a challenge of the day.

I try not to think of every step included in a journey, as some of what might be experienced with cancer or another setback in life may not even happen. I use the philosophy similar to that used in 12 step recovery, which is "one day at a time." I reference this as it helps me with a feeling of being able to stay grounded and centered in times where life can most certainly feel overwhelming otherwise.

Sometimes it does no good to worry when the worry may never come up in life as a real problem or threat. I find positive quotes and find ways to tackle the day or moment one breath at a time. I use this philosophy with individuals I coach in life or recovery. If you have a book to read which seems overwhelming and there is a deadline to read it, I sometimes calculate the number of pages needed to read daily. The calculation might turn out to only be 5 to 8 pages over the next 50 to 60 days. When you consider almost 500 pages, thinking about 5 to 8 pages a day seems more achievable. That is the idea behind taking things one moment and one day at a time.

I reflect now upon the concept of gratitude as November is the honorary month of gratitude. I am happy when I reflect upon what I have in life and all the possibilities the unknown future holds. I can say I honestly love my life and would not trade with anyone else, even with the adversities I have faced. The healing and progress I have made is likely attributed to having positive support networks, but also relying upon the use of practicing gratitude.

If you're looking to improve upon your practice of gratitude, focus on it daily and find one to three things to begin or end your day with. For we only have today, carpe diem!

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