Can a daily practice of gratitude grow "good" feelings in ourselves and in others? Gratitude is an old practice that nurtures and deepens relationships with others and within ourselves.
There was a time in my earlier life, (20's), when this topic would have repulsed me. I was depressed and severely anxious. During this time I became suicidal and was put on medication. That is when my journey toward happiness began. It was not an easy one. During that time, I could provide lists and verification on why this gratitude practice would not have worked for me.
One may ask why. To start, I was stuck in my trauma brain, stubborn, and very self-righteous. I am older and wiser now, and I am happy. My anxiety is manageable. I have a plethora of successful relationships. I love what I do. I could just keep listing all the things I am grateful for.
I am giving you a glimpse of the inner me, for you to know that I do not come from a place of gratitude easily. It has taken lots of work for me to embrace hope, love, vulnerability, gratitude, and emotional safety.
I had to climb out of my own emotional hole to embrace the life-giving techniques that I discuss in my blogs. Only someone who suffers from an emotional problem too big to overcome can understand how overwhelming these symptoms are. They impact us internally and transcend into our daily actions, but we can change our daily actions first, then our symptoms will follow. Gratitude is a daily action we can practice.
Gratitude can have a profound effect on mental health. I know many of you may be thinking that this sounds too easy, but when your brain is weighed by all the things you did not do... all of your inadequacies, all of your cant's and should's, it can be cumbersome. Noticing your gratitude creates a positive inner snowball that we can share with others.
I know that what I am about to ask you to do sounds so cliche… listing what you are grateful for... but it is truly amazing how this action changes your focus. The monotony of life, tragedy on the news, conflict with family, or your own anxiety/depression can easily overwhelm your mind. Noticing our gratitude provides inner strength, meaning, and purpose in difficult times.
Notice your gratitude daily.
Make an actual gratitude list on old school paper… lol… or on your phone. Yes, jot those things down.
Write letters to people who you are grateful for. Others do not always know the profound effect that they have had on you.
Make phone calls to share your gratitude or post it on social media.
A Daily Practice
This can help to shift our focus from half empty to half full. With mental issues, it really is what you focus on that grows. Let's start growing some gratitude.
Gratitude for Yourself
Part of gratitude is being grateful for yourself. Ba humbug…grateful for myself. I know what some of you guys are thinking… this Pollyanna positivism has got to go. I used to think the same way. My friends who were unrealistically positive would always come to mind. I am not saying that this is your way, but being willing to be more positive or point out the facts can have an amazing affect on our mental health.
Start small and think of one thing you are grateful for, then see how many you can add to your list.
Tag Someone on Social Media and Describe Your Gratitude
Healthy relationships provide meaning, purpose, feeling loved, feeling important, feeling included, and mattering. I could just keep adding to this list. These are important experiences for all humans. Our brains need these experiences of attachment to calm our nervous system, to nourish our bodies, minds, and our souls.
Sometimes we can take these relationships for granted or hyper focus on what is not. Just for today let's focus on who feeds your soul.
If you cannot practice this, don't beat yourself up. It may be an indicator that you are blocked with Trauma Brain, (trauma history changes the brain and leads to bothersome symptoms). Seeing a therapist can help move you through this trauma block.