Hypothyroidism has many common symptoms, but perhaps one of the most prevalent is fatigue. This type of fatigue is markedly different from the usual tiredness experienced after a long night or a tough workout; it is bone-tired exhaustion.
Common remedies for tiredness include caffeine, exercise, and medication. However, a gratitude practice may make a world of difference. Recently, I read an article concerning how gratitude practice can positively impact your sleep. I realize that my exhaustion has a great deal more to do with my thyroid than my sleeping habits, but I figured it was worth a try.
I have been struggling with hypothyroidism for about five years, since the birth of my first child. Raising two kids is exhausting, working and maintaining a household even without the presence of children can be exhausting! Having hypothyroidism compounds the exhaustion.
In most cases, my thyroid levels don't justify my fatigue. If I feel exhausted, my labs don't always show that my thyroid levels are out of whack. This difference can be common. The thyroid and the hormones it produces, or lack thereof, are temperamental things. My medication dosage may not change. Still, my uptake, how empty my stomach is when I take my meds, and a variety of factors can minutely influence my hormone levels.
I had seen a great deal about gratitude and mindfulness, but I wasn't entirely on board. So, I decided to do more research.
What is a gratitude practice?
A gratitude practice is similar to mindfulness practice in that you take time to reflect. However, during a gratitude reflection, you primarily dwell on things for which you are thankful.
To practice gratitude, you might find moments of stillness and reflection, keep a gratitude journal, or write a letter of appreciation.
I struggle with reflecting, and in the past, I have had little patience for keeping moments of stillness and peace. Though, after battling through a particularly trying day, I figured an attempt at a gratitude practice could at least lower my stress levels and look at the silver lining if nothing else.
I started my gratitude practice before bed, jotting down a few things I was thankful for after taking a couple of moments to reflect on the day. It can be not very easy to work something new into your schedule, especially if you do not make it a priority. Therefore, I had to make a strong conscious effort to practice gratitude each day.
I sat quietly by myself and thought of a handful of things I was thankful for throughout the day. Most days did not have a momentous occasion to be grateful for, like a raise or some considerable achievement, but rather small happy moments.
Most often, as is recommended, I chose things that were separate from myself and my abilities. I was thankful for my health, thankful for my child's joyous spirit, and thankful for a delicious bite of chocolate flourless cake. I found that just by recalling these pleasant experiences, I became more relaxed and was able to let go of negative emotions.
How gratitude impacts symptoms?
The first week or so, I did not notice a significant change, but as time went on, and I kept up with my gratitude practice, I noticed that I seemed to sleep better. I also worried less, stressed less, and found myself becoming irritated less often. The combination of these factors made me feel more energized in general.
When you are resentful, worried, envious, or regretful, it is easy to let these emotions build up and take a toll on your mental and physical health. If I felt fatigued, I was worried that I wouldn't be able to make it through the day and be the coworker/spouse/mom/human being I wanted to be. In turn, the more time I spend stressing, the more exhausted I became. It was a vicious cycle.
Maintaining a gratitude practice took the focus off of what could go wrong and placed it on what did go right. There are so many things throughout a day for which to give thanks.
Researchers have found that practicing gratitude has quite a few benefits. Keeping a gratitude practice can help you get a more restful sleep.
Scientists assume it’s due to the release of negative emotions and anxious thoughts. One study mentioned in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research found that a gratitude practice could net you an additional thirty minutes of sleep each night. Those thirty minutes make a world of difference when suffering from hypothyroidism fatigue.
Other benefits of a gratitude practice may include:
- Better sleep
- Better social relationships
- Improved mental state
- Reduced depression
- Fewer aches and pains
It may seem difficult at first to take time out of your busy schedule to "meditate." It may even seem a bit silly to reflect on such minute pleasantries. Still, a gratitude practice can help you to feel less tired, less anxious, less depressed, and more joyful. Indeed, a small and straightforward activity with huge benefits.