A friend or mine is going through a bad time right now. She just found out she has cancer.

Her test results aren’t back yet, so she doesn’t know how aggressive it is, or whether it’s spread to other organs.

My friend is scared. Her mind is flooded with visions of painful treatments, and maybe having to leave everything and everybody she loves. She told me she’s desperate to escape those awful thoughts, but can’t seem to do it.

I offered two suggestions. One is using EFT to neutralize her fear. I’ll talk about that next week. Today, I’m going to talk about escaping into gratitude.

Yep, gratitude. When our brain is busy searching for the positives in ANY situation, it is physiologically impossible for us to worry. That’s because we cannot have two thoughts at the same time. We may think we can, but what’s really happening is the brain is switching rapidly from one thought to another.

When I suggested my friend use gratitude to escape her anxiety for a while, she said, “I don’t have much to be grateful for right now.” “Well,” I responded, “we’re sitting on your front porch, drinking iced tea. I know you love your home. Can you tune in to how grateful you are for it?” She said she could. I asked her to focus her thoughts on her house – when she and her husband had bought it, the remodeling they’d done, the decorating. I told her revisiting all that in as much detail as possible – colors, sounds, aromas, sensations – could provide as many minutes of distraction as she was willing to allow herself. Her body would get to take a break from stress. Her blood pressure and heart rate would decrease and her breathing would slow down.

I coached my friend in identifying additional people and things for which she is grateful. She mused aloud about her kids, her husband, the dog, the birds she can see from her kitchen window. Every now and then, her brain would switch to, but if I die, I’ll lose all that, and she’d tear-up. I’d gently direct her back into pleasant memories and gratitude for the blessings in her life, and the tears would subside.

Once we realize we can control our thoughts, we become less helpless in the face of adversity, whether in the form of illness, divorce, or financial loss, etc. The trick is staying in the present, and not allowing the brain to construct terrifying what-if scenarios. We all have myriad blessings we generally don’t think about, but can bring to mind when we need them: most of us can see the sky, feel the breeze, enjoy a good meal. We have cars and T.V.s and money and friends.

We have kidneys. I’m reminded of mine every time I rise in the middle of the night to visit the bathroom.

Have you thanked your kidneys today?