Three ways to use gratitude against pain

Three ways to use gratitude against pain

8 min. reading time


Louis Zantema

20 April 2020

Louis is a GZ-Psychologist with a great passion for gaming. For him, a game training that offers therapy is the most valuable thing you can develop: especially for pain complaints, which are on the interesting intersection of body and mind. His aim is to make himself dispensable as a therapist.

In my previous blog you could read briefly about gratitude. Researchers have discovered that a feeling of gratitude is the most positive feeling people can have! When experiencing pain, we see that the brain creates many negative feelings.

This is very interesting, because our brains can only have one feeling at a time! So you can't experience gratitude and negative feelings at the same time. 

We also know that feelings can be 'trained'. This is unfortunately the case with chronic pain, which makes your brain get better at producing pain. The good news is that this can be reversed. By becoming better at feeling gratitude, you can make the networks of pain in your brain less active.

But... how do you train gratitude? Fortunately, there are several effective techniques for this! Some of them are listed below. For many of the exercises it may take some getting used to the first time you do an exercise. Don't expect immediate success, exercise makes perfect.

Three exercises to train gratitude

1. Visualization 1

The first visualization exercise is as follows. Think of one of your favorite events in your life. You can make a list, which makes it easy if you do the exercise more often. Sit back and close your eyes. Then go back to this event in your mind. Slowly play the event in your head, trying to enjoy as much as possible what you are thinking about. Say 'thank you' to yourself, or even to yourself out loud, or 'I am grateful for...' at times when it is appropriate to your memory. The latter may feel a little crazy, but expressing gratitude works very well in strengthening the feeling.


2. Visualization 2

In this visualization exercise you don't take memories in mind, but people. Close your eyes and think of people you know who are dear to you. Take them out in your mind one by one, and mention in yourself or out loud what you are thankful for these people. For example, "I am grateful for your support," or "Thank you for always listening to me. 

Tip: It can happen, especially if you do the exercise a little longer, that you start thinking about people who are less close to you. Maybe you even think of someone you don't like at all! Then challenge yourself, by thinking of something for these people that you are grateful to them for, even if it is something small.


3. Diary

A proven effective way to experience more positive feelings in your life is by keeping a positive diary. Write down three things you are grateful for each morning, and how you are going to get the most out of your day. At the end of the day, write down three things that have made your day the most enjoyable, and how you can make it even better tomorrow. The Journal app can also help you with this.

Enough ways to work on positive feelings and make the networks of pain in your brain less active! Remember, as always, that it can take a while before the exercises have an impact on your life. The advantage of the above exercises is that you often experience positive feelings immediately when you do them!

Share this article