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Lauren Zaleski and I are talking about one of my favorite subjects – gratitude. I feel like gratitude has become somewhat of a cliche recently – which is not where it belongs. Gratitude is so powerful, when it’s done right. There are less effective ways to use gratitude – I’m sure you’ve heard people say things like “you should be grateful for this” or “Just be grateful this worse thing over here didn’t happen” You’ve heard those I’m sure. That’s not the gratitude we’re talking about. Lauren is the self described gratitude addict and she’s doing a deep dive on how she used the practice of gratitude to turn her life around from a very dark place. And her “secret sauce” for a deep gratitude practice is priceless. Lauren’s story is not to be missed – and it will inspire you to start using gratitude to it’s fullest.

Guest Spotlight: Lauren Zalewski

Live Your Life Not Your Diagnosis podcast guest Lauren Zalewski

Lauren Blanchard Zalewski is an enthusiastic champion of all things gratitude.  She is a self-diagnosed ‘gratitude addict’ hence the name of her blog at gratitudeaddict.com.

She is the founder of the Facebook community “Attitude of Gratitude with Chronic Pain” helping thousands of people living with chronic emotional and/or physical conditions to thrive while finding joy and purpose despite life’s struggles.  She also hosts the weekly live broadcast “Gratefully Living the Chronic Life” which streams on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.

Lauren is a student of the human experience whose passion lies in spreading the message that gratitude and connection are the ‘secret sauce’ for resilience, hope, and joy through life’s challenging plot twists.  She has lived with chronic pain and illness herself for more than 20 years and is the author of the books “5-Minute Gratitude Journal for Teen Boys” and “52-Week Intention Journal.”  Her third book, also focused on personal growth, is due out in September.

Connect with Lauren Zalewski


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Transcript

NOTE: This podcast was transcribed by an AI tool. Please forgive any typos or errors.

Lauren Zalewski

Intro: [00:00:00] This episode is close to my heart because Lauren's Zalewski and I are talking about one of my favorite subjects. Gratitude. I kind of feel like gratitude has become somewhat of a cliche recently. Which is not where it belongs. Gratitude. Is so powerful. When it's done right now, there are less effective ways to use gratitude. I'm sure you've heard people say things like you should be grateful for this, or just be grateful that this.
Worst thing over here didn't happen. You've heard those I'm sure. That is not the gratitude that we're talking about. Lauren is the self-described gratitude addict and she is doing a deep dive on how she used the practice of gratitude to turn her life around from a very dark place. She also talks about her secret sauce for a deep gratitude practice that is priceless.
Lauren story is not to be missed and it will inspire you to start using gratitude to its fullest. Please enjoy this week's episode. And visit Andrea Hanson [00:01:00] coaching.com for more on Lauren. Resources that we talked about in today's show. And transcripts from today's episode.
Welcome to the live your life, not your diagnosis podcast. I'm Andrea Hanson, author, motivational speaker. And master certified coach. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I was told. I would never reach my goals. But I did. And I'm on a mission to prove that life with a chronic illness can still be expansive and quite remarkable.
Everyone has their own unique path. I'm talking to people, living with a chronic illness that come from different backgrounds, have different points of view and are achieving amazing life goals of all kinds. Do you inspire you? To achieve what you thought was impossible. These stories are raw. Uncensored and judgment free.
This means that there may be some adult language sensitive topics and
possible triggers for listeners. Listener discretion is advised
Andrea: I'm here with Lauren Blanchard. Zalewski she [00:02:00] is an enthusiastic champion of all things gratitude, which I love. She's a self-diagnosed gratitude addict. Hence the name of her blog at gratitudeaddict.com. She is the founder of the Facebook community, attitude of gratitude with chronic pain, helping thousands of people living with chronic emotional and or physical conditions to thrive while finding joy and purpose, despite life's struggles, she also hosts the weekly live broadcast gratefully living the chronic life, which streams on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Lauren is a student of the human experience whose passion lies in spreading the message that gratitude and connection are the secret sauce for resilience, hope, and joy through life's challenging plot twists.
She has lived with chronic pain and illness herself for more than 20 years. And is the author of the books. Five minute gratitude journal for teen boys and 52 week intention journal. Her third book also [00:03:00] focused on personal growth is due out in September. Join her community at attitude of gratitude with chronic pain on Facebook.
Hi Lauren. How are you?
Lauren: Hi. Great. Thank you for having me. It's an honor to be here Andrea.
Andrea: I am so excited to have you. I was instantly excited when I checked out. Website, it's all things gratitude. And I love it. I think gratitude is one of the essential pillars when it comes to having a good mindset, especially when you're looking at a chronic illness. And so I can't wait to talk about gratitude and just do a deep dive.
And talk about how you help people with what you say is both chronic pain, but also that chronic emotional pain.
Lauren: right, because I think. I've been sick like you for a couple of decades. And when many of us get diagnosed with something, some, first of all, many of us, it [00:04:00] takes a long time to get a diagnosis and.
When we eventually get a diagnosis, we're given treatments and medications and all of that from our specialists.
And then we're kind of, I like to say we're kind of thrown into the deep end without ever having had a swimming lesson because who expects these major plot twists. Right.
And nobody in, the 23 years that I've lived with chronic illnesses ever said, you really should have. Do something to help yourself with the emotional pain because the emotional pain, at least for me, and a lot of members of my group is often more debilitating than the physical.
And it led me down a very dark path.
Andrea: I, totally agree. What I found for me, at least it was brought up to me, not as, we have emotions that are normal. That everybody feels you're going to have some negative emotions. No how it was brought up to me was almost like having normal emotions was going to be another chronic diagnosis that I was going to have to get, like pills [00:05:00] for
Lauren: Right.
That's a good point.
Andrea: Yeah. Like feeling sad was going to be like a clinical diagnosis instead of just an emotion and like here's how you deal with it. So I, I feel like it's, it was that part of things are mismanaged.
Lauren: Yeah. it's, it's tough to deal with, what, all of a sudden you're you're handed, what can often be a lifelong, struggle. Physically, and for me, at least I, you know, I, I isolated. I was, was a former very social person And eventually I just, I isolated. I, I thought I was unique. And that nobody understands me, you, know, nobody knows what I go through.
So I just kind of kept to myself and with each tried, medication that didn't work or therapy that didn't work, I just got deeper and deeper into a depression and, developed all sorts of resentments. And yeah, it, it really led me down a very dark path and I'm, I'm grateful to have gotten out of.
Andrea: Yeah. And you, you have a good point often [00:06:00] things like chronic pain or not.
To other people. And it's not that we want other people to say, oh, poor baby. And do all sorts of things for us because we're sick. It's just that we would like some kind of acknowledgement that you're hurting, something's going on.
And it's tough, especially, I don't know about you, but when I was first diagnosed, I was. Also very self-conscious and I just, I didn't talk about
Lauren: Me too.
Andrea: And so unless you knew, you didn't know, and that can be very isolating because it's almost like you have the secret that nobody else can know, and you don't want to slip up because you don't know how they're going to react.
And people have all sorts of weird reactions when they find out that you have a chronic illness and it, it is, it can be very isolating.
Lauren: I isolating.
for sure. And I, I did talk about it with my inner circle a little bit, but because it [00:07:00] wasn't visible um, you know, be, you know, very kind and all that, but not truly understand if I had to cancel something at the last minute or, or whatever, I went on like that for years, I would go through good periods and yeah.
Bad periods. I no. longer have that. It's usually just pretty consistent pain now, but, but at the time, it was, I, I would go, go go. The, this was when I was first diagnosed. Like when, my kids were toddlers, this was back in the early two thousands. And but then I'd be okay. And I go back to being super mom and, doing the PTA thing and all of that.
So it was really just kind of periodic and eventually the. Took a turn and it became constant. And that's when things really started getting difficult for me, you know, I, I like many people that live with a chronic condition. I tried everything because we're desperate. Like pain is not fun.
our, our fight or flight mode, right.
Just, just wants to [00:08:00] be proactive. We want to cure ourselves. I'm using air quotes. When I say that
Andrea: Yeah,
Lauren: And, I felt like I was doing something wrong. I should be, that's an air quotes too. I should be able to cure myself and I couldn't. And the more I tried to control things, the more out of control I got .
So I turned to other ways to deal with it because medication wasn't working treatments, weren't working. And I tried every crazy kind of thing under the sun,
And for some people, they, they say that it works for them and you get that hope up. Right. We get, we get that hope like maybe this is the thing, maybe this is the doctor.
Maybe this is the treatment. And when it doesn't work,
Andrea: Okay.
Lauren: For me, at least I felt a lot of resentments, I doing something wrong. Um, and so I just got deeper.
Andrea: It's hard I mean,
the good part is that there's this huge world available to us of all of these different types of [00:09:00] therapies and things that can help you at the same time. There's no shortage of people saying this is the thing.
Oh no, no, no, don't do that. That's actually not good. This is what you want to do. Oh, no, wait, wait. Don't do that. And it is so confusing.
And it adds to the overwhelm. It adds to the hopelessness. I kind of went into this learned helplessness, this kind of a period where I just felt like nothing was going to work and I had tried everything.
So why would this other thing, who cares if they say that it helps them? I know it's not going to work for me. And it sounds like that happened to you and. What happened with you I think happens to a lot of people. I think a lot of listeners can resonate that you started to say, okay, forget it.
I'm going to start self-medicating I'm going to start going into something that makes me feel instantly better.
Lauren: Right. So I developed a pretty serious alcohol problem. Because a glass of [00:10:00] wine was helping with my pain, but I didn't stop at a glass of wine. And my problem didn't last a long time. It was about a year, but it got very serious. It was, a glass of wine turned into vodka, which I don't even like vodka, but it went from trying to numb my pain, my physical pain.
To just trying to numb myself, period, emotional, spiritual, physical pain. And so, I hadn't been sleeping so my days turned into night and so I just drank and my, my family didn't even know. I, to be honest with you, I didn't really know. Uh, The extent of it. I mean, I was hiding bottles, so obviously I knew I had a problem, but I wasn't showering.
And when I say that I'm not, I, I would go one month without showering. It was, I wasn't eating, I was skin and bones. I wasn't answering text messages. I was really in about as dark of a place as you could get. And so. It, it just, I numbed myself and my family thought I [00:11:00] was so in such a super, because of the medications that I was on, they didn't know I was drinking on top of those medications, which is incredibly dangerous.
so Yeah.
Andrea: you know, when there's a chronic illness involved. There are so many things that you can use as an excuse like, oh no, no, no, no. It's not my drinking. It's the illness. It's not, I don't feel this way because I'm hung over or I, stayed up all night I feel this way because I've got this chronic illness.
In fact, I heard you say something that really hit home for me. It's almost like you use the chronic illness as an excuse to go like, will I deserve. Like I can do this
Lauren: Yeah. Like w I, I would, friends of mine would see me having a glass or two of wine. Cause that's all I would show the friends that would stop by.
They
wouldn't see
the other
Andrea: very socially
Lauren: Right. It is. It's very socially acceptable, now. And so they would say things like, if I had your pain, I would drink too.
So that gave me what I considered to be permission [00:12:00] to do that. Like I deserve this. Nothing else is working. Nobody understands the pain I'm in and you're right? The vomiting in the morning. Totally because of lupus and fibromyalgia, not the drinking sleep, not sleeping at night. That's not because I'm drinking, which, leads to passing out, but not really good sleep.
So I, and Oh and the red wine, the reservetrols in there. Good for my illness. I could convince myself of any of them.
yeah, so, so that was what I was doing and it ended with a screeching halt. Thank God. On June 20th, 2013, I woke up in a hospital bed having no idea how I'd gotten there. And I wake up and my parents were there.
My husband was there and they told me that I had driven in a complete blackout and passed out behind the wheel. And the, I didn't go anywhere at that point. The only places I went were to the liquor store and I, I did what I, I jokingly referred to as my magical mystery tour of liquor stores. So that God forbid [00:13:00] the owners of the liquor store think I'm an alcoholic.
Andrea: Right.
Lauren: So I'm.
Andrea: It's not, I'm having another party. It's not just for
Lauren: yeah, Yeah.
yeah. At nine 30 in the morning in my pajamas, like series that's how bad it was. And so, so, My basis for gratitude is based on that day, it was the worst day of my
life, but it was also the best day of my life. In hindsight. I would've never said that at the time, but you know, I um, am not in prison for killing anybody.
I did not hurt anybody and I'm still alive to tell the story. So, I was fortunate enough that. I mean, my family wanted to send me to rehab and I didn't really have a leg to stand on the blood alcohol level that I was at. How my life was so unmanageable at that point they found out my sister found a rehab for me in Connecticut, which had a chronic pain program, a 30 day inpatient chronic pain program, which sadly is no longer there.
But I, I didn't want to go, but I, I really just didn't have a leg to stand on. Like I [00:14:00] said, so I went and I, at that point, I'm like, I'm in it to win it. I'll give it a shot. And the program was really devoted to. Ways to deal with the emotional aspects of chronic pain in a better way. Yeah.
And so that's when my life really turned around was from that. And I am happily sober next month will be nine years since I've been sober, which is a
fantastic. Thank you.
Thank you. Thank you. Yes, it is a, it's a blessing for sure. And it's amazing what you can see when. You're not numbing yourself to life,
Andrea: Yeah. And I think that what you're speaking to is something that. A lot of us can resonate with, which is we have a chronic illness. We have everything that comes with our specific chronic illness. I would argue that everybody has the emotional aspect of a chronic illness and then there's something else that happens.
And we feel like [00:15:00] we're dug in, even though. Into a hole because you have your chronic illness, which may or may not be managed may or not be not be, really invasive in your life. And then there's a layer on top of this, which for you was okay. Now I have this alcoholism that I want to cure. I want to dig myself out of.
Lauren: Yeah.
Andrea: And I think something it's, it's funny, you kind of glossed over it in my, my my brain just went. No, no. That was such a big thing. It's the coach in me. Right? It's the fact that when you were looking at your family saying here's a rehab, it was the idea of, you know, what, I'm going to go. I might as well just go all in.
I don't know if that was a conscious decision at the time, or if it's something that when you look back, you're like, oh, this is what I was thinking, but that I think is so pivotal, even more so than like, once you got in [00:16:00] and you have all this other, all these other tools that you're using. And I think that's.
Tell me if I'm wrong with, that's kind of where this gratitude practice started. But before that you had this mindset of I'm all in,
Lauren: Yeah.
Andrea: just going to do this.
Lauren: I appreciate you picking up on that. Thank you. It was a conscious decision once I was there because I had no choice. I was there for 30 days and my life was so incredibly unmanageable. Andrea, as I've just shared, it was so unmanageable that I was broken. Emotional and bankrupt, emotionally, spiritually, I was broken and bankrupt in every way possible.
And I really just thought my life was over. I'd gone from like PTA president at one point and very social happy, joyful person. Great. Great marriage, great kids, wonderful family to. Scum of the earth drunk drivers, how I saw myself at the time. I I, you get choked up talking about [00:17:00] it because I am so grateful.
But I, I just thought, th anything will be better than this. And I didn't know that I had anything left to offer the world, but I knew that, God willing, I have a lot of life left to live. How can I. How can I find some kind of joy and purpose? And so I, it was a conscious decision to be in it to win it, but it was also the scariest thing I've ever done in my life.
It was terrifying being away for 30 days. And I really didn't think at the time when I got there, that it would be much of a help to me, but I figured I'm there. I will give it a shot.
Andrea: might as well give it a shot. What I found in some of life's darkest times, what helps us the most. And sometimes we don't have that conscious decision. Sometimes we just automatically go there. It's almost like we melt down and we're just, and I don't necessarily want to say rock bottom. I don't love that term.
But it can be a point where we just, like you [00:18:00] said, we just feel like I have nothing left. I have nothing left to give. And there's something I think inside us on, I don't know, on a subconscious level, I don't know where it is, but it's almost like you just melt down
Lauren: Great way
to describe.
Andrea: you just have to
just. Allow yourself.
Right. And that's when I think that clarity comes from, or you start thinking, oh, let's look at things like purpose. Let's look at, let's just, look at the simple question of why am I here? next.
Lauren: Yeah, let go. Yeah. You touched on it perfectly. I had to let go clearly what I was doing was not working for me at all.
Andrea: Right.
Lauren: And so, I've really just had to rebuild. Brick by brick very slowly and intentionally and listen intently and give it a try. And that's exactly what I did. And so I learned some really great things about, [00:19:00] mindfulness was a really big thing in the program meditation, which I really wanted nothing to do with at the time at all.
Andrea: Meditation's a weird one. It can be hard.
Lauren: It is hard. And I, I do it in my group. I, I don't call the meditation, so I call them breath breaks it, which is really just a play on words and other they're always around five minutes because I know people, they get that mental block. Like I can't do it my mind wanders, not realizing that it's a very normal thing
that was a big part of a gratitude of course. And just trying to realize that we're much more than our illnesses and that is what I have. Created with my life today. Although what I do is based on having a chronic illness, I think a lot of people identify with perhaps what their occupation was prior to illness or what they did prior to illness.
And maybe you lose your occupation or you lose your, your hobbies or whatever you did, and you feel like you're nothing anymore. And so trying to find out who we really are inside. [00:20:00] Nothing to do with what we did. That self-growth, and for me it was what they, I'm sure, you know, like post-traumatic growth using that situation.
And I certainly didn't set out to do what I'm doing now and say, this is what I'm going to do when I was there. I really just wanted to dig out of that whole. That was so, you know, so deep my, my husband was so supportive. He could have left. My kids could not be talking to me, but they didn't. And so I'm very fortunate to have that support as well.
Andrea: That's amazing. You're right. You're when you're digging out of it. It's not about, it's easy to look at someone say, oh my gosh, you had this, this really bad circumstance, but look at you now. And there's a whole life in between that. Including when you're first starting to dig out of that hole.
It's not about I in, my five-year plan is this,
Lauren: Right. No there's
Andrea: there is no five-year
Lauren: no, no, but there isn't even a five minute plan
Andrea: Right. Right. [00:21:00] It's like, this is what I'm doing right now. And then you learn to kind of feel your way into that next. Step, which is going to be, like 60 seconds from now,

It's something where you're focusing on, where you feel like you need to go and letting go of the idea of knowing where you're going to be in five years.
And I think that's where some of the most beautiful things come from because you really are feeling authentically into what you're doing right now. Which is fantastic, which is bringing, especially this one part of gratitude and that at the risk of sounding cliched, it's this power of gratitude, but it, it really is very powerful.
Lauren: It is. And, at the time when it was suggested to me in the program, it may in the program was very small. They only allowed eight people in at the time or at a time I should say, but, gratitude and [00:22:00] chronic pain just to meet. Can't co-exist at all. Like how can I be grateful? I, I've been handed this lousy deck of cards.
Yes. I'm grateful for my family. Yes.
I'm grateful that I am not in prison and I didn't hurt anybody in that I'm alive. But practicing gratitude, give me a break is what I thought at the time that really has evolved over time. And I think I mentioned to you before we went we started recorded. I think gratitude is a very, very misunderstood thing.
Which it's a practice. It is a feeling of course, too, but it is a, it's a very deliberate and regular practice in order for it to work the way it does.
Andrea: I think it gets a bad rap. When I see gratitude, the irony, is it can both be something that you can use against yourself, right? Like, ah, I should just be grateful. Why am I not grateful, but I should just, or other people. Come there. They think they're helping, bless their hearts.
They think they're helping, but you should be so grateful. You should be [00:23:00] grateful that this is not happening or that this is happening. And, or look, you have, a roof over your head. You should be grateful.
Lauren: is Not helpful at
Andrea: Not helpful at all, or it's also something that can be used to almost bypass actual, like if you're feeling negative, right.
Those negative emotions that we talk about that come up, especially when you have something like a chronic illness and that when you have chronic pain with that chronic illness, I feel like there's something automatic that just happens in our brains. When we have chronic pain, it's like this, I don't know how to even describe it.
But it's just as automatic weight that we have that can lead to things like hopelessness and just, it's just this overwhelming, heavy feeling that can get in the way. And if it's an emotion that I believe emotions are meant to be. I believe that even if they're negative, if we're calling them negative, even if they feel yucky, they need to be [00:24:00] felt.
And sometimes things like gratitude can be used in a way to bypass that because it's, it's almost like a little short circuit in your brain because it works so well. So I see these two sides of gratitude that are pretty pretty gnarly. And I think give it a bad rep.
Lauren: Yeah, we have that negativity bias in us, innately. Just as an example, somebody, you could have 100 great things said to you in a day and one negative thing. And what do we focus on? We focus on that one negative thing. And I guess that goes back to our fight or flight mode, but we do have that negativity bias.
And so a regular gratitude practice. And like you said, living with chronic pain adds a whole other layer to it. It doesn't. It does it, it's not a magic pill, it doesn't solve everything, but it really does help. The more we practice it like a muscle, the more we practice it, the easier it is to get out of those negative thoughts that we have.
And that, that hopelessness is I think very [00:25:00] common because we have. Not everybody. I shouldn't speak for everybody, but many of us have tried everything. And so with each hope, we get with something may be working, that doesn't work. I think it chips away at that, at that hopefulness and, and turns into hopelessness.
And so you S you had said it earlier that eventually it comes to the point where somebody may suggest something and just, I don't even want to bother, it's not going to work because nothing works. I've tried everything. and yeah.
Andrea: Don't tell me one more restriction that I just need to do that. That's
Lauren: That everybody that sells, supplements and these direct marketing things. Oh, I've got the thing.
that's going to help you. And, you just kinda roll your eyes and Yeah. Okay. Appease them because there's very, for me, at least there's very little I can do to control. My illness there, there are certain things I do, diet, dietary, and, things I can do to help myself. But as far as my illness goes, there's very little, I can actually do to control that aspect, but I [00:26:00] do have control over how I respond to things. And there's a great quote I have here by Victor Frankl, who was a.
Yeah, I know his quotes are awesome. He was a Holocaust survivor and a psychologist, I believe. He has a great quote that says everything can be taken from a man, but one thing, the last of the human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances to choose one's own. And I have that on my website.
I know his, his man's search for meaning is, is the name of one of his books and it's just chock full of these quotes. But, so, so that is kind of the work that I do is focusing on what we do, what we can control, because I feel like I was spinning my wheels for such a long time, trying to control my illness.
And the more I, like I said, the more I tried to control things, the more out of control things became. So if I can control my emotions. What can I do to do that? And gratitude is a great way to help [00:27:00] offset that negativity bias and helped me, know, living with chronic pain and illness, I'm convinced does not need to be game over.
It does not need to mean game over. It's a different game.
Perhaps our, our futures are very different than what we envisioned them. And that's not exclusive for people with chronic pain, you know? I can turn on a dime with a diagnosis or a divorce or, job loss, something like that. And So all of a sudden we have to shift our mindset and the more we resist that change, the more pain. Emotional pain that we come in, or we can kind of roll with it and just sort of pivot
and try to work with what we're given and accepted and accepting doesn't mean we have to like it. we do have to accept it in order to grow
Andrea: And it's part of that post traumatic growth, which you mentioned I'd love, I'm obsessed with this idea because I think that it's, it talks to that [00:28:00] resilience where. You're right. Everybody in life is dealt. These curve balls. You never know. And one of the key things that determines if you're going to be able to go into this post-traumatic growth is the resilience and the resilience comes from not to minimize it, but kind of rolling with the punches, like, okay, this happened.
Don't like, it don't have to like it, but I'm not going to resist it.
Lauren: Right,
Andrea: I'm not going to talk about it. Like it didn't happen or shouldn't happen. The idea is it should have happened and it should have happened because it did that. Like it's done it's it's already like the second that it happens.
It's in the past and talking about whether or not it should happen, isn't going to help
any of us and digging into that resilience or sorry into that resistance creates that emotional block and creates that. That loop, [00:29:00] where we stay in those negative emotions. And so I think that's one of the, one of the ways to step into a path that's going to go towards emotional growth is where you're accepting it.
And you're saying to yourself, I understand you allow yourself to feel those emotions of grief, anger, frustration, even hopelessness anything like that, but then you pivot.

Right. It's feel it. But then, like you said, let's pivot, let's look at something like gratitude.
Lauren: Yes. And you, you nailed it. And I think, for a long time, I just stewed in my own pain, I just kind of was treading water in this and why did this happen to me? And what did I do something to cause it, and none of that is helpful. And I think. It's natural. Like you said, to be able to feel those fields and walk, instead of trying to skirt around them or walk over them or under them, we have to walk through them and feel them, but then,[00:30:00] move forward.
And I think a lot of, you know, there's some people that their pain just, they're not there yet. I think we're all on a different journey with, with our pain. And my group is not for everybody, but for those that really just want to get past it, to say, okay, I've got this. I don't like it, I deserve to be happy.
I deserve to find some kind of joy. What can we do? What can I do rather to. To do that and think a bit differently. Doesn't mean we have to like that pain because who likes paying it and it's, it's not like, Hey, I, I've discovered gratitude and I'm a super happy person and, and, happy, happy, joy, joy, and you should be happy to.
It's not that at all. It's just, I like to
say that I love my life more than I hate my pain. And that is
what I try to share with people with my group.
Andrea: I that's, I love that because you hit it. There's going to be people out there saying yeah. Easy for you to say, to just go ahead and look on the bright side, but gratitude is so much more than just looking on the bright side.
Lauren: Oh gosh. It's not [00:31:00] even looking on the bright side and it's you, you said it earlier, like, people saying to you should be grateful. We can do that to ourselves too. And, and my, my Facebook group, which I created eight years ago is called attitude of gratitude with chronic pain, which was kind of the.
After rehab and I had started a local face-to-face chronic pain anonymous group. And then I started this Facebook group initially just as like a meeting reminder, but it evolved into what it is today which, and we don't talk about the specifics of our conditions in the group, because. There's that natural need for us to compare our situations to each other.
And that's not healthy. I shouldn't say it's not healthy, but for, for what I try to accomplish with my group, it's not what we do. Because we can look and say, oh, I really shouldn't be complaining because this person hasn't much worse than.
Right.
Andrea: Yes.
Lauren: Or we can be like, why are they complaining? Cause I'm much worse than them.
And our pain is valid And it deserves to be honored and, and all that. [00:32:00] So we just kind of, don't talk about it. We do have live chats twice a week where people can openly chat about whatever they, they need to chat about, but we just say, all right, we're all in the same amount of pain. Where do we go from here?
And so that, that reduces that need to compare. And for us to feel like our pain is not valid because our pain is valid. For sure.
Andrea: And I think part of perpetuating that pain comes from when we diminish our own pain and it's that whole should. Right? It's we don't have to like the fact that it's happening, but it's happening and telling ourselves that, oh, I shouldn't be feeling this because Jane is so much worse off
than me.
Lauren: Right.
Andrea: Everything is relative. Somebody can say the same thing. Like, I shouldn't feel this way. Cause Andrea is so much worse off than I am.
Lauren: Yes, exactly.
Exactly.
Andrea: your own pain, it's, you're perpetuating that emotional pain.
Lauren: Yeah. Somebody is always going to be worse off than us, I'm not a Holocaust survivor. But, but that [00:33:00] doesn't mean I don't deserve to. Feel that pain and feel what I feel our feelings are valid. And, and, they D they don't deserve to be diminished because I think that just adds to our pain.
Yeah.
Andrea: So you said that gratitude. It's not really at all, looking on the bright side, which I think a lot of people say or think that it's about looking at the bright side, it's about looking at what we should, what we have or what should we should be grateful for. So talk a little bit more about what an actual gratitude practice looks like.
Lauren: Yeah.
I think there's a lot of talk nowadays too, of toxic positivity, which in relation to gratitude. And I can't stand that either because I don't feel that a true gratitude practice is that at all, it is not looking on the bright side. It is, it's a practice of choosing. Joy and choosing to look at things that don't hurt in our lives and trying to offset that negativity bias.
And [00:34:00] so, but it requires regular maintenance. It's not just, I write in my gratitude journal for a week and nothing's working and, brush my hands. I'm done. It's not working. It really requires regular maintenance. And there are many, many studies, especially in the eight years I've been doing this more and more studies come out about.
Health benefits of gratitude. It helps with your sleep. It helps with your relationships. I like to say that I believe the secret sauce to living with, with joy and meaning, especially with chronic pain and illness is a combination of gratitude and connection because when we, we share our gratitude with one another becomes even more.
Powerful. But so gratitude can be practiced in a lot of ways. It can be a gratitude journal. Of course it can be joining a community like mine and sharing with others. It can be some people have a gratitude buddy. They text one thing they're grateful for each day to each other and they hold each other accountable.
But it's really just looking, like I [00:35:00] said, what, what doesn't hurt in our lives? What is going well, because. Right now I'm, I'm talking to you, I've got internet access in order to talk to you, I'm able to connect with you. I I'm able to connect with others on, on Facebook. I am in a warm home.
That's keeping me safe. I've got clean clothes to wear. I've got clean drinking water to bathe in and drink. So. Seeing those things helps to offset the pain that I'm feeling in my hips and my knees. Right. You know? Um, And I think our brains really focus our brains will automatically focus on what we give attention to.
And so gratitude really, really helps a lot to shift the focus from what. The pain is and it doesn't take away my condition, but it really does. It does help me emotionally. And I would argue that that has helped me physically in, in various ways as well.
Andrea: Yeah, well, cause you're releasing all these [00:36:00] feel-good chemicals, right? When you're going into gratitude, there's all, I mean, I can't
even
Lauren: and dopamine, I believe, and yeah.
All of that stuff,
Andrea: Which are actually physically helping
your body,
Lauren: Yeah,
Andrea: which can help with things like inflammation and all sorts of
Lauren: Yeah, you're Right. That's another one that they say it helps with. It helps heart disease. I mean, it's, it's staggering. What, you know, in the past, even five years, what the scientific studies share about gratitude. I've had many of the researchers on my, on my live broadcast.
Talk about it and the power of sharing it with others. And so it's becoming less of a woo woo type thing that it was when I first started the group. And more, I'm getting more and more men in the group too. It used to be about 98% women and more and more men are coming around to it because they're seeing the.
Health benefits of gratitude. And it's refreshing to see how many people are willing to kind of think outside the [00:37:00] box and look at gratitude as another tool for their toolbox in order to live, a life of joy, a lot of the Facebook groups that I was finding before. You know, Starting this group in 2015, I don't want to knock into groups because I find them all very important and I've found some great, treatments for all my illnesses from there.
So I'm certainly not knocking them, but I would often go into them and leave more depressed than when I went in,
Andrea: Right.
Lauren: because people are talking about their pain constantly and I'm an empath. So I would go in and
I would, I would also take on the pain of
others.
Andrea: It really, It can sometimes, and I get it. It's, it's where people are in their healing. And I think that, I certainly was there. I know you talked about being there. I'm not sure how long, some people stay there versus others, but some people just need to be. [00:38:00] And need to have someone and, and there's, there's a, I think there's a catharsis in telling that story,
but you're right.
As I'm also. Very much take on those emotions, which by the way, on the flip side is why that connection is so great because emotions, human emotions, we, we kind of catch them from each other,
right there can teach us. And so it can also be the same when. Have people that maybe aren't in the same place as you are, and they need to be heard and they're not pivoting out once they are heard.
And once they do satisfy that, it's, it's the understanding of when that is satisfied and when you're ready to pivot into something like gratitude.
Lauren: Such a great point.
Yeah. Like I, said, we're all, we're all on different journeys and some people really just, you could offer them a million different suggestions and they, they really don't want to hear it and that's their journey and
that that's fine. Yeah, my group [00:39:00] exists for people that are willing.
It's not for everybody. it
is definitely not for
everybody,
Andrea: And that's, I think what makes it good is that it's not for everybody, right. It's specifically for the types of people who are in there and that's what makes it so helpful.
Lauren: Yeah,
And knowing that we may be, we don't know the specifics of each other's conditions, but we know. We know what they go through emotionally because we go through it too. And seeing them, we have different posts. We, we post throughout the day in the morning, we do daily intentions. And so people post what they intend to do that that day.
I like to say it's a loose roadmap written in pencil. So it kind of gives us a bit of guidance, which I feel is more helpful than being loosey goosey about the day. With our conditions, they can change in five minutes. So I like to say intentions versus goals, because I think a goal not met is, is a way to develop resentments against ourselves.
I should have been able to do this. I wanted to, I said, this morning I was going to do it. I can't do it, but an intention [00:40:00] is just an intention. So. I'm intending today to do X, Y, and Z. And maybe I only did X, but that's okay because it was really just a loose road map. So, being able to share that with other people who go through the same things and seeing, Hey, this person in a, in our three things we did well today, post at the end of the day, we see this person took a walk, they took a shower and they called their mother back.
And that's amazing. Yeah, that's amazing. And so it feeds off of each other, like you said, it's contagious. And so that helps to build it. It's motivating, it's, it's meant to be motivating and inspiring and wanting to help us want to get up in the morning and get out of bed if we can. and kind of motivate us to, to know that there is a life out there outside of our.
Andrea: Yeah, and I, I love that it is really inspiring. Is like slowing things down when you realize, Hey, I took a [00:41:00] walk this morning, I took my dog out this morning. We can get so caught up, especially, as people who have. Chronic illness. And so that's affecting our life. We're often surrounded by people who don't have chronic illness, who take a walk all the time and go to the grocery store all the time and do 50 things every single day.
And, by the way, they're still up at, nine o'clock on their phones, responding to emails and it's no big deal.
Lauren: And we see it all on, on social, media
Andrea: we see it all on
social, right? Whether or not it's
true. We see it all on social media and it can be so easy to think like, oh, well, I'm, that's fine. I mean, going for a walk is no big deal.
I mean, they go for 10 walks a day. So the idea of slowing it down and just bringing it in just to you and to your, your little world and saying, whoa, hold on me going for a walk with everything that's going on right now is amazing.
Lauren: [00:42:00] Yeah.
Andrea: And that is something to sit and be grateful for and feel right. Feel that, that juice that comes when you feel grateful, all of those emotions.
And there's something very cathartic about that. Being able to slow it down and say, no, wait, this is something it's something very healing. And it's something it's it's it's self-care it's,
you know, it's necessary.
Lauren: and it deserves to be celebrated.
Andrea: Yeah.
Lauren: And celebrating it with people who understand what a monumental thing it can often be. Today I shower, I now shower. I didn't unlike nine years ago, but to this day, every, when I shower, I say out loud, good girl to myself as positive reinforcement. People sharing in the group that they showered that day.
It is a big deal. Or we, we have something we've renamed reboot days. So those days where you really just need to Netflix on the couch and just regroup yourself and where people without living with a chronic illness may [00:43:00] not understand how much self-care that is. We celebrate those reboot days, as long as that's not every day, but reboot days are over. Wonderful thing that we celebrate and in attitude of gratitude with chronic pain. So it's, it's reinforcing with people who understand and it's not, the group is not just for people living with chronic physical conditions. We now have people joining with, you know, anxiety, depression, cause I think pain is pain.
And considering. Deal with the physical aspect, it, it is the emotional aspect. So we, we have people joining that really just, you know, th the world is uh, there's so much pain in the world today. And so if I can offer a bright spot for people and offer tools that will help them throughout their day, that's really, that's a big win for me.
Andrea: huge win. So what would you tell. The listener. I know there are people listening that are thinking, this is amazing [00:44:00] because it
is, but they don't know where to start. They're in that point where they've decided I want to pivot out of where I am right now. I know I can, but what do I do? I think.
There's such that emotional aspect to gratitude that, just saying the words don't always do it. Right. So how, what would you tell them as far as what that first step is to pivot into a meaningful practice?
Lauren: That's a great question. A great question. I, I would. Without trying to be salesy, but I don't charge for the group. I would recommend joining attitude of gratitude with chronic pain and lurking for awhile and seeing what other people do I have. My broadcast has called gratefully living in the chronic life.
We've got 85 episodes with all sorts of authors, expert, guests and stuff who offer suggestions. A gratitude journal is a great way to start. It's not for everybody. Some people [00:45:00] really just, it works for some and not for others. There's lots and lots of information online about gratitude, but baby steps.
Don't, I think you can have all right, I'm going to go all in on a gratitude journal and then,
Andrea: Yes,
I'm going to do five things every day.
Lauren: right, Right.
And then that's another way to have developed self resentment. If it doesn't work out. T, you know, meaningful change requires slow, steady growth in my opinion. And so taking baby steps and maybe just list, one thing you're grateful for each day and try to think outside of the box, try to think a little bit deeper than like I'm grateful for my spouse or.
My kids try to think, like, I've got a pillow in my bed that really rests. I rest my head on things that look around in your surroundings and see what is there that perhaps you take for granted. But I would recommend, even if it's not my community, find a community of people you can share it with, because that really does add that extra.[00:46:00]
Like I said, the secret sauce, gratitude and connection really, really helps to build on that, holds you a little bit accountable and, and helps you to keep up with it and is inspiring. But don't try to go all in on a huge gratitude practice because, because. New year's resolutions that, whatever, it's 80% don't work slow, steady change, and just, just cut yourself a break.
You may have some days where you're feeling it and other days where you're just not, and, and you really should practice that the more you're feeling ungrateful or the days where you really should. Try to practice it. At least they, they say that even if you're not feeling it kind of like a smile, if you're not happy, put a half smile on your face
because it helps to reduce to bring out the serotonin.
Um,
Andrea: bite like a pencil,
Lauren: yes.
Andrea: makes your
Lauren: Yeah.
Andrea: move like a smile.
Lauren: I had a laughter therapist on my show a couple months ago and she, she said that same thing, a chopstick or a straw, and that it was a great, great tip. But even if you're not feeling great, [00:47:00] Write it, write something down that you're, you're feeling grateful for. And eventually with that practice, like a muscle, it does get easier and it does grow, but you're going to have good days and you're going to have bad days and you're not doing anything wrong.
If you're not feeling grateful that day, it's just, it's just life. We're very perfect. We're very human imperfect, perfectly imperfect human beings. And it would be a lie to say that I feel tremendously grateful each day, but I can always find something around me that I'm grateful for. So be gentle and slow baby steps.
And I think, that paired with connection I think is a really great place to start.
Andrea: I love ads. I can't think of a better way to leave it. Then at that perfectly imperfect, you don't have to do it every single day. Don't beat yourself up about it, right? If there's one thing not to be yourself about, be up, beat yourself up about is your [00:48:00] gratitude practice.
Lauren: Sure. Yeah. I mean, we don't need to put more pain on ourselves. We need to, try to embrace ourselves and be our own best friend. We're we, our own health advocate, like we're told all the time at that, that includes loving ourselves and cutting ourselves a break. We didn't ask for this.
It was given to us and we can't control it, but we can control how we respond to it.
And so gratitude might be helpful for you and I hope it is.
Andrea: well Lauren, thank you so much for being here and sharing all of this. This was such a packed hour to hear all the different ways that gratitude can help you all the different ways that you can step into gratitude. I'm certainly going to share all the links to join your groups and watch your live show in the show notes.
And thank you so much
Lauren: Thank you so much for asking me you're a fantastic interviewer. This was a lot of fun. [00:49:00]
thank you Thank you for tuning into this episode of Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis. If you like the show, don't be shy. Please give us a five-star rating and review. Follow us on apple podcast, Amazon music or wherever you're listening right now. To see complete show notes and resources mentioned in this episode
visit AndreaHansonCoaching.com. Thank you for joining me And until next time take care

About Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis

Live Your Life, Not Your Diagnosis podcast

Hear inspiring discussions with people living with chronic illness. These people went after their passions and big goals -even when everyone told them they couldn’t. Listen to stories of resilience and gratitude in the face of uncertainty.

I’m your host, Andrea W. Hanson, Author, Motivational Speaker, and Autoimmune Rebel living with multiple sclerosis. You’ll not only fall in love with these guests, but you’ll soak up positive mindset tips and ideas to find your own unique path to success.


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