Grateful and Thankful

Throughout my mental health journey, I’ve reflected a lot about gratitude and and what it means to be thankful. From reflections on gratitude to what I’ve learned about thankfulness, there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained surrounding these feelings, and it can change all the time. Most of the time, I reflect on the importance of being grateful and of being thankful. There is so much value these things bring to our lives. In the busy day-to-day of things, it’s easy to forget. But this Thanksgiving, I really want to reflect on what I’m grateful for. I want to think about what I’m thankful for, and I want to share that with you all today.

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Five Ways to Improve Your Relationship With Gratitude

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.

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An Attitude of Gratitude

There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that keeping a ‘gratitude journal,’ or writing down what you’re grateful/thankful for on a daily basis, is helpful for your mental health. It makes sense why. When you recount good things in your life, it reminds you of how blessed you are. You feel better because you remember all of the good things in your life, and those good things can push the negative thoughts out of your brain. I’ve tried to keep a gratitude journal before, or at least to write down lists of what I’m thankful for. But it’s never sustainable, and that’s because I think that in the past, I’ve done it for the wrong reasons.

What a gratitude journal is not – a cure.

See for some reason, I thought writing down what I’m grateful would remind me why my life was so good, and that reminder would cure me of feeling the effects of depression. If I know that I have a good life, I can’t possibly continue to feel depressed, right? Wrong.

If you haven’t already heard, life is actually going pretty well for me right now – personally, professionally and mentally. I have tons of new opportunities this year and I’m happy when I think about all the good things that are going to happen in 2019. But…I still have depression. And I still have anxiety. And no matter how good my life is, I don’t forget that I have depression and anxiety. Because it doesn’t go away.

I imagined my lists of gratitude bringing me joy and helping me welcome each new day with a wonderful rise and shine attitude. That was not the case. Instead, those lists would bring me guilt. I have so many things to be grateful for, I’d think. Why am I not happier about all this? Then it hit me…I’d approached this all wrong. This exercise was not supposed to solve all my problems but rather, put those problems in perspective.

What a gratitude journal can be – a tool to improve mental health

I would like to start a gratitude journal again, but use my lists in a different way. What I’m grateful shouldn’t make me feel like I have to be happy all the time, or that my life is easy – rather, it should be a gentle reminder that there are positive aspects of my life (very positive aspects, in my opinion) that help me to combat the negative aspects. My blessings help me fight against my struggles – good battles evil, in a way.

I can’t guarantee that things will go any better this second time around, but I hope by approaching my journaling with a new attitude that I will be to use more tools to fight against my mental illness. You can’t have too many tools in the toolbox, can you?