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Gratitude as a Self-Care Strategy for Diabetes

7 Minute Read
Explore how gratitude can positively impact diabetes care.

As we head into the holiday season, gratitude is top of mind for many. Hear from people with diabetes on what gratitude means to them and other positives they’ve learned along the way. 

“When you’re feeling extra thankful for all the positives that diabetes has given you. The community, the strength, the vulnerability, the resilience, the drive to pursue your dreams. I wouldn’t have nearly as much of that if it wasn’t for type 1 diabetes.” 

Kate Hall, division 1 NCAA long jump champion and type 1 diabetes advocate, recently posted this on Instagram, sparking a conversation around whether we can, or if we should, try to be grateful for a chronic condition that’s taken so much.

Of course, no one is “grateful” for having diabetes, but expressing gratitude could be useful in managing the mental health challenges many people with diabetes face. More research is needed, but studies suggest gratitude is linked to improved psychological well-being. 

Because people with diabetes are more likely to deal with issues like depression compared to those without diabetes, gratitude could be one part of a self-care toolkit for building resiliency and reducing stress. Studies have found stress to be associated with higher A1C levels and more difficulty with diabetes management, making stress reduction techniques an important part of self-care.

Here are a few ways people living with diabetes and those in the supporting community are practicing gratitude and what it’s done for their health.

The power of community

Technology has done quite a bit more for people living with diabetes than free them from syringes. Continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and insulin pumps have united people through conversations and community building because they are a visual indicator of an otherwise silent condition. 

“Seeing others with Omnipod pumps and Dexcom or Libre monitors on their arms feels like connecting to a community of friends,” said Allison Sheridan, who lives in Iowa and has had diabetes for over 16 years. 

“Though many of us with type 1 diabetes go about our routines in silence,” she said, “You still recognize that white contraption adhered to the upper arm as a badge of both struggle and hope – a commonality all people with diabetes face.”

Sheridan recalled feeling grateful on a recent trip to Orlando where a young girl approached her at a theme park. 

“She pointed at the Omnipod on my arm and screeched ‘I have one too!’ and showed me her pump,” Sheridan said. She was elated to find that there were people like her out enjoying one of the happiest places on earth. Her parents, a short distance away, mouthed silent thank you’s as she gave me a high-five.

Sheridan is also thankful for CGM as a technological advancement, calling the relief from pricking her fingers a “godsend.”

Reclaiming control over your health

Diabetes is a condition that needs to be looked after daily. That is a huge weight to carry, but on the flip side, it also offers the chance to take control of your health. 

Danielle Gaffen, a registered dietitian nutritionist in San Diego, described seeing this firsthand with one of her patients who previously had blood sugars that were too high. The patient approached her about weight loss after having problems like overeating and falling asleep during meals.

After a few months on a diet to lose weight, he showed significant improvement in A1C levels, moving from 11.8 to 5.7, Gaffen said.

“He sent a heartfelt testimonial emphasizing the magnitude of the change, describing it as ‘literally life-changing’ and expressing gratitude for the guidance provided,” she said. “This transformation not only underscores the power of informed dietary decisions but also exemplifies the profound gratitude patients feel when they reclaim control over their health.”

Making better life choices

Dr. Yamuna Gorantla, an endocrinologist in Iowa, echoed Gaffen’s comments. 

“An advantage with a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is patients learn to do lifestyle modifications, such as healthy eating and exercise, and typically lose weight, which also improves their cholesterol levels and blood pressure,” Gorantla said.

Even though it’s extremely challenging, diabetes forces people to examine their current habits and work with a healthcare team to make necessary improvements. 

“Patients with diabetes are often disappointed when they are diagnosed,” said Megan Demeritt, a registered dietitian in Redlands, California. “However, they soon find out that by eating for blood sugar control and general healthfulness, they feel better and have more energy. Balanced blood sugar levels lead to a clearer mind to focus on things that truly matter.”

That’s what Robby Barbaro, health coach and author of “Mastering Diabetes,” described experiencing. Barbaro was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was a teenager. 

“This mindset of living healthy, for me, is my greatest joy in life,” he said. “I don’t see it as a sacrifice. I like making healthy food, I like being active, and I like waking up well-rested because I went to bed early. I love being out in the sun because the moment the sun hits my face, it feels good.” 

Again, while this might not mean feeling grateful for having diabetes, successfully implementing healthy lifestyle choices could foster a sense of gratitude.

The chance to matter to others

Giving back is one of the most profound ways those with diabetes might see a positive impact from living with the condition. 

While nobody with diabetes would wish the condition on anyone else, this season leads to reflection, and maybe even gratitude, for the wins along the way.

Read more stories about perseverance and overcoming diabetes challenges here: