The first time I was told to find things I was grateful for I was totally pissed off! Why? Because being grateful felt impossible!
Oh but look at your lovely home!
You have a beautiful child!
People love you!
How can you not be grateful? You have more to be grateful for than some people do.
Look at so & so they have far less than you and they are happy!
You have your health
You have a job waiting for you
You are blessed
You have this and that and bla bla ba bla
Telling someone, who is clinically depressed or suffering with chronic anxiety, that they should feel better is like using a chocolate teapot........it's not gonna work and will probably get messy!
Depression and anxiety feed off negative input and so this kind of talk just opens the door to guilt and shame.
Thoughts like....I should be happy, I should be grateful, I have nothing to be unhappy about can run riot through the sufferers mind backing them into a corner and leave them feeling hopeless.
So how did I get from that place to a state of gratitude??
Using a gratitude diary had come up many time before but I struggled with the word gratitude. Gratitude felt like it had too many 'shoulds' in it but what felt doable was asking what had made me smile today? This was too long a name for a diary and so my 'Joy Diary' was born.
Being very fond of pretty stationery this meant buying a pretty week to view diary, for others it could be a smart efficient looking diary and for some it's appearance won't matter but the idea is that it is a book you want to keep around you.
I wrote in my Joy Diary every night before bed. I would list 3 things that made me smile or at least contemplate smiling. After a few weeks I was up to over 6 things a day. Every morning I would read what I had written the night before to put me in the right frame of mind for the day.
Since I started this practice over 5 years ago I now have no trouble filling in each daily section. If I have been struggling with a situation or person I add a column for that too and look for what is good around that difficulty.
This may sound wishy washy but it was the beginning of re programming my brain to find the good in things.
When we think a thought, a lot, we create a well trodden pathway within the brain. Following this pathway can be done on a subconscious level with very little effort and so becomes habitual. Dr Joe Luciani writes about Anxiety and Depression as a habit. His books are listed in my Resources blog.
So to date,I still have times when I feel pissed off, frustrated and generally low about life but they are just that.....times, moments. Since flexing my gratitude muscles I am able to spot the good things on a bad day. Sometimes they are prompts that my self-care has slipped and my body is asking for rest. Other times it reminds me to stop being judgemental or unkind to myself as well as others.
An attitude of grattitude(joy/happy) really does help to keep the wolf from the door especially if you experience low mood or anxiety and self-care like any healthy routine needs attention and as much effort as you are prepared to give.
Please check out my Resources Blog for books you may find helpful.
Let me know what you think and get in touch.