Finding Silver Linings in Life & Appreciating What We Have

Recently, Linda, a woman in my water exercise class for cancer patients, told me that she was scheduled  for a major surgery. To stave off her fear and in anticipation of the unknown, she made a list of everything she is grateful for and all that is good in her life.

That is something, I thought, we should all do occasionally. Sure everyone gets down about stuff; everything from the major, life-changing things like a cancer diagnosis to tiny myriad daily annoyances like a rude salesperson or the robo-calls that interrupt our dinner time with family.

But it pays to remember all the good things that happen in our days. The young man who gives us a seat on the subway when our feet are killing us; the glimpse we get of a group of tiny ballerinas at the gym, twirling and swirling in abandon; the nice thank you note from someone you helped.

Keeping a positive attitude not only elevates your spirits, but may even extend your life. According to a study at the University of Pittsburgh, optimistic women were 14% more likely than pessimistic ones to be alive after eight years. Researchers speculate that optimists have more friends and deal better with stress. After all, no one wants to hang out with a Debbie Downer.

It makes practical sense that there can only be health benefits in finding the positive in situations instead of focusing on the negative. Hollye Jacobs is one woman who has a mission of finding silver linings in all aspects of life. After a breast cancer diagnosis she found the silver lining in her mastectomy by noting that “my chest will be as perky as my personality.”

Now she finds silver linings all around her. Beets are one of her favorite foods. She even liked them before she had breast cancer. But the silver lining, she writes in her blog is “that there are gobs of anti-cancer benefits of eating beets.” Plus, she notes, they are available all year-round so you can find them readily available anytime.

Now, that’s making lemonade out of lemons!

Look for silver linings whenever you can, she suggests. They “will provide the balance and perspective to get you through anything and everything!”

Another woman who surely has the right to complain, but doesn’t, is Jen Smith, 35. She discovered her breast cancer when her son was nine months old. He’s now six and her cancer has spread to her ribs, her scapula and her spine. At Stage IV it is incurable. But instead of bemoaning her fate, she is “Living Legendary,” she says, pulling all the fullness and fun she can from life and celebrating each day she is alive.

Her silver linings: living to take her son to his first day of kindergarten, to Disney World and Hawaii. “I’m making choices of how I’m going to spend my time,” she explains. Instead of a one-day celebration for her recent birthday, she celebrated for a whole month with the theme: “I’m 35 and still alive.” The silver lining: “I had dessert every single day of the month!”

When my friend Liz recently lost all her hair due to chemo, she found a silver lining: Hermes scarves!

Some people call cancer a blessing because it’s taught them compassion, patience, acceptance and strength. For many, at least, it’s made them appreciate the little things and be grateful for good health, friends and even modern medicine. Instead of the bad, they think of the good it’s brought into their lives – friendships, closeness with family and an inner strength they never knew they had to tackle life’s battles. The best thing that can come from the experience is that it makes us recognize and appreciate the good that can come from a rotten situation….in other words, finding the silver linings. They’re all around us, notes Hollye, “All one has to do…is look for them.”

So maybe it’s time to let some of the bad things go and focus on all that is good in our lives and count our blessings every day. As a quote I read says: “Survivors isn’t just a term – it’s an attitude.”

Have you found any silver linings lately?