I’m a pretty healthy person generally so being knocked off my feet for two weeks this month was a rare experience. Yup I was sick as a dog. The last time I recall being this sick was 22 years ago when my children shared the chicken pox virus with me. That episode lasted almost 6 weeks until I was fully recovered. Thankfully this time I am regaining my strength in week 3.
Having the flu is a wonderful mindfulness practice. There’s not much else you can do when you literally cannot get out of bed. Something as simple as sitting upright became a chore, requiring more energy than I was able to muster. I became acutely aware of every joint in my body as they ached. Food had no appeal but knowing it was important to eat, each bite became not about enjoyment or celebration or self-soothing but simply nourishing my body.
I learned that malaise is actually a flu symptom – an overall sense of being unwell, feeling unhealthy, weak, uneasy. Yup that pretty much sums it up. But I also learned something else.
There is no end to the depth of the gratitude we need to practice for our health. Laying there on the couch, I became overwhelming grateful for my immune system that was doing its darnedest to beat the virus into submission. I imagined people less healthy than I who end up in the hospital with the flu. In Alberta alone, more than 80 people have died of the flu this season. I longed for the energy to do something – anything. Laundry or sweeping the floor or cooking would have been a treat. Amazing how our perspective can shift when circumstances do.
Let’s face it. We all take our health for granted.
Sure we say that our health is the most important thing to us but on a daily basis we tend to forget. We don’t pause and take notice that we have the strength and energy to do the tasks that are part of our usual routine. It’s not until our health is compromised and we have a visceral experience of what life can look like when we are not well that we actually pay attention and perhaps give thanks.
And once we do it’s not long until we become complacent again.
Perhaps it’s simply human nature. Deep down we are grateful, but in the midst of busy lives we forget to bring that gratitude forward in our consciousness. Combine that with a tendency to deny that serious illness or even death is happening to us any time soon, and we are encouraged to stop counting our blessings. Here’s a fun fact: after a life threatening incident like a heart attack, 90% of people don’t make changes to their lifestyle even if their doctors tell them it’s a do it or die situation.
I’m not suggesting that most of us are reckless with our health. It’s a more subtle problem than that. We simply don’t pay attention.
Do I make choices every day that honour my health? Not always.
I bet you don’t either.
Do I take my health for granted? On more days than I should.
I bet you do too.
Will this intense feeling of gratitude I have for my health wear off?
But this flu bug has reminded me once again that we need to make gratitude a practice. We need to create daily rituals that reinforce our thankfulness for life. What we don’t need to do is continually wait for the next nasty reminder to jog our memories about what is important.
How do you give thanks for your health?
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