Sunday, November 27, 2011

Brain Injuries and Gratitude

As a brain tumor survivor, I must admit that going into and coming out of my operations I felt many, many emotions…and gratitude isn’t one of them.

I have felt sad, upset, despondent, anger and sorry for myself.  But I don’t remember feeling “grateful”. I suspect that neither has other brain tumor victims and friends and families.

Strangely, I’ve had folks tell me something like “you should be grateful, it could have been a lot worse”, which I have always found particularly unhelpful. While that may be true, it seems like whoever is saying it is trivializing my tumor, i.e. “it’s not so bad”.  My emotional, ungrateful and unspoken response is something like “Not so bad? Why don’t you try it?”

As you can see, my anger (even a year later) is not far from the surface.

Yet there’s a lot of research which suggests that “gratitude” is just what a brain tumor victim needs to feel.


In the Journal After Brain Injury Barbara Stanhura writes about work being done by Robert Emmons, PhD, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, is one of its leading researchers. He has conducted several studies that demonstrate the value of being grateful.

What kind of research and what did he find?

As reported by Ms. Stanhura, in one of his first studies, some of the respondents were asked to write in a weekly journal about five things they were grateful for. Other participants were to write about five hassles they had experienced, and the third group was to write about neutral topics.

At the end of 10 weeks, people who wrote about their gratitude:
“… felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the future than participants 
in either of the other control conditions—a full 25 percent happier.

“They reported fewer health complaints and even spent more time exercising than control participants.

“They had fewer symptoms of physical illness than the other two groups.

“The gratitude group exercised 1.5 hours more than the hassled group.”

Want to learn more?  Here’s a link to the article in the Journal After Brain Injury - - and another link to an interview with Dr. Emmons:

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