Since this week is Thanksgiving in the US, I’m thinking a lot about the word gratitude. Being in the mental health space, I heard this word quite often. One of the most common tips for people dealing with depression centers around finding gratitude in our lives. There are many ways that people can find gratitude (and I hope to make a post about that in the near future!), but what isn’t talked about as much is that people’s relationships with gratitude can be tricky. There’s a fine line to balance if we feel like we’re being forced to look on the ‘bright side’ if we’re struggling to cope with mental illness. That’s why, before I reflect more on this word and what it means for me, I want to share some of the ways that you can improve the way you view gratitude and your relationship with this tricky concept.
Gratitude doesn’t have to be ‘saved’ for something special.
The most important thing I’ve learned about gratitude is it doesn’t matter how supposedly big or small something is – if you can feel gratitude for it or about it, you should feel good. People often feel bad when they’re not grateful for the ‘right’ things, which can lead to missed opportunities to feel good about other things we do. Gratitude is good no matter when or where it happens!
Being constantly grateful is exhausting – and impossible.
I’ll be honest – I don’t have enough energy to constantly find gratitude throughout my day, and I think most people are in the same boat. Nothing changes over night, and if you have to slog through your day hoping to feel gratitude for every little thing, it might actually have the inverse effect and things could lose meaning. There’s nothing wrong with pursuing gratitude when you’re able.
What works for some people doesn’t always work for others
Nearly every therapist I’ve ever met with has suggested that I start a gratitude journal. And to be honest, I’ve listened to about four of them. Each time I tried, I ended up more frustrated than I was before I started. It took me a long time to admit, but eventually I had to face the fact that they just weren’t working for me, and that was okay. There are so many ways that we can find gratitude and seek it out – what works for one person won’t always work for another, and the sooner we can understand that, the easier it will be to find what works for us.
Sometimes, things just suck.
This is one of the most helpful things I’ve learned on my mental health journey. Sometimes, things suck. And they suck so much, the last thing you want to be reminded of is someone snidely telling you to be grateful. It’s hard to balance an attitude of gratitude when you’re going through certain trials or a particularly tough period. Sometimes, it’s okay to just admit that for the moment, things suck – and understand that one day, they won’t.
Gratitude is a daily journey.
It’s easy to get frustrated with the gratitude because of how often we think we miss chances to express gratitude or thankfulness in a specific moment. And while that may be true, we also should remember that there are new opportunities for gratitude every day. Gratitude shouldn’t be a peak to reach, but a part of the up and down journey that our lives are. Hopefully, this can help us create a healthier relationship with gratitude in the long term – and maybe help us find more gratitude along the way.
I have thought this so often. When I am looking for helpful ways to deal with my depression people often talk about Gratitude and learning to be grateful. Am I grateful, certainly; but do I need to reflect on it every moment of every day. NO! The energy it takes is more than I have to muster. Not that my other options are better. I try to reason myself out of my depression- that has never worked BTW. I try to sleep through it; it helps but not enough. Medication helps only slightly. But being grateful or feeling like I SHOULD be grateful, it actually makes me angry. What I really need, is to find a way to accept myself exactly like I am and the strength to know that if I have to do this life alone that I will always be there for myself. I need to be more grateful to myself for being my own champion and for taking on this fight every single day and surviving to battle the next.
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The energy it takes can be so high – thank you for saying that! I am glad that you are finding your way in managing your depression. It took me years to find the methods and techniques that were best for me, but the process of elimination way (naming what doesn’t work or help me manage my depression) has been helpful. You have plenty to be proud of, and even though it’s not always easy to acknowledge, that doesn’t make it any less true. Thank you for sharing your experience!