When we are ill it is natural to think only of ourselves and how we can cope. Sometimes we have the energy to think of our loved ones and how they are coping with out illness. But opening your heart to allow you to think of others and their suffering; you will not only think less of your own problems, but you will actually speed up your own recovery.
Don’t just thing generically e.g. the thousands of starving children around the world. Pick one person and think of them. If you are in hospital you will be surrounded by other patients. Some of them are truly suffering, emotionally and physically. See if you can think of something you can do to support them.
I have some printed greeting cards of my beloved Cavalier King Charles dogs and Ragdoll cat. I got my husband to bring me in some cards so that I could give them to my fellow patients. Naturally they asked about my animals and I was only too happy to tell them stories about them. Before long all patients in my ward were sharing stories about their beloved pets. Opening your heart by helping others is indeed rewarding.
Sometimes just listening to their stories is of help to them. There is something therapeutic in fellow patients being able to open up to each other. Perhaps it is because we are all suffering together in hospital and therefore understand what we are all going through that enables us to open our hearts. It is often easier than trying to speak to people we know and love.
In my book ‘Thank God I Had a Stroke’ I tell the story of a young man who was married with two children. One was intellectually challenged and his wife had just recovered from breast cancer. He had just discovered that he had a brain tumour that was inoperable and he desperately wanted to talk about it. So he talked to me; we both shed many tears but somehow it helped us both. I never even knew his name, but I was able to help him simply by listening.
Opening your heart helps both you and the people you make an effort to support.
Tips and Hints
Open your heart and feel for others and their suffering. Don’t be afraid to hold their hand, give them a hug, or simply listen to their story. Their story is more important than yours. Become a listener and show your kindness and empathy. Your thoughtful and sympathetic approach will not only help them with their healing process, it will also help you.