Being Grateful (When you really don’t want to be)

It’s November, which means that we’re due for a blog post about being thankful.

I know, groan. How typical. A blog post about gratitude during Thanksgiving? How predictable.

But there simply are too many health benefits – both physically and mentally – of gratitude to ignore during the perfect timing that Thanksgiving offers us.

But, I also get it. I’ve been there, in those deep holes of depression. I’ve been to that place where you hate literally everything about who you are and where you are. I know what it’s like to scoff at the idea of thankfulness, because what on Earth do I really have to be thankful for? I’ve been to that place where it feels like you’re suffocating from the inside out, like there is something squeezing down on your ribs, and your throat, and your heart, and your head. And for me personally, I was angry about it. My depression not only made me hate everything, but I aggressively hated everything, and I wanted to lash out and burn down everything around me, not be thankful for it.

So where am I going with this, exactly?

I suppose, in this blog post, I’m going to try to give you some tips to reap the benefits of thankfulness and gratitude even when everything in your being does not want to be thankful. And that’s tough to do. It’s tough to write about but even tougher to put into practice.

So let’s give this a shot, shall we?

Stop looking at Thankfulness as the enemy. Depression and I were kind of like best buds, to be honest. While I hated myself, I hated my life, I hated the people around me, and while I desperately wanted to be happy, I was also sort of afraid to let go of my depression. I had been living with this weight for so long that I didn’t know what was going to happen if I let it go. Who would I be without this extension of me? During the holidays, I focused intently on the things that were wrong to keep my depression around.

If you’re relating to this feeling, let me begin by saying that thankfulness is not the enemy. Truth be told, being thankful is probably not going to cure your depression. What it’s going to do is take some time away from your depression to appreciate the things you do have – and no matter what your depression tells you, I promise that you have something to be thankful for.

Here are some things you may be thankful for right now:

  1. You have an internet connection.
  2. You have the ability to read (and thus get lost in books, blogs, and other worlds)
  3. You have heat in your home, even if your parents/guardians keep the thermostat annoyingly low during the winter to save money.
  4. You have a sense of humor (or you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog)
  5. You have some sort of device that can connect to the internet.
  6. You are a complex human being that is capable of emotions far more advanced than any other animal on the planet. Even negative feelings are bizarre and amazing in themselves.
  7. You have pets that provide comfort, companionship, and entertainment.
  8. You have that really cool top or that really nice pair of jeans that make you look hella fine.
  9. You have a bed that is comfy and always there for you when you have a rough day and need to collapse or cry (and it doesn’t judge you!)
  10. Every new day is a new day to move forward, make progress, and (sometimes very slowly) walk towards the person you want to become.

Keep a gratitude journal. Okay, I know this sounds kind of lame right off the bat, but hear me out. There’s a good chance that you, the depressed or the anxious individual, already keep a journal. I certainly did. And if you’re not keeping a journal I highly suggest you do. Keeping a journal is usually quite hard to start since writing is a chore and we naturally resist writing about negative emotions, but the benefits of journaling have been documented in many places. [1][2][3][4]

Pro Tip: If you hate writing, try video-blogging!

A gratitude journal is an easy tool to use to boost thankfulness. At the end of the day, simply write down one thing that you experienced that day that you are thankful for. Did you have a good chat with a friend, find a $20 bill on the ground, get out of school/work early? Are you thankful for the chance to listen to your favorite band on the bus? Just write one thing a day. As you become more conscious of things to be thankful for throughout the day, start increasing your number. Can you find three things you are thankful for? Five? Ten?

Pro Tip #2: Make it a game, a goal to accomplish. If I can list ten items that I’m grateful for, I’ll buy myself a pint of icecream. Aw yeah, then I’ll be thankful for the icecream!

Vent the stuff you’re not grateful for. So this sounds kind of anti-thanksgiving, and in a way it is. But sometimes the crap going on in our lives is simply too overwhelming to try and glaze over with holiday cheer. I get that.

Living in a technology-led world is both a blessing and a curse. If used correctly, technology can bring us closer as a global society than ever before. But used incorrectly and technology can facilitate hate, bullying, and intolerance of anyone or anything outside of our worldview.

So let’s use technology correctly. There are a lot of individuals out there who are in the same boat as you, feeling excessively non-grateful for the storm that’s surrounding them or inside of them. Reach out to these individuals (I’m thinking online support groups, blogs, mental health communities, etc.), vent to them, and then be thankful that there are other people in the world who understand! See what I did there? Gratefulness. Bam.

Here’s a few online forums and communities that you can vent to: [1][2][3][4]

Try imagining the worst possible scenario for your life. So another weird suggestion, and to be honest I’m not entirely sure why this works for some people. For myself personally, especially when I’m feeling anxious, I tend to imagine the worst possible situation that could happen. Once I identify what the worst thing in the world is, I realize that hey, if that thing happens, I’ll still survive. And now the thing doesn’t seem so bad anymore. Does that make sense? *NOTE: This tactic does not always work and should be used with caution, especially if you are prone to anxiety or panic attacks.

So try thinking about all of the things that could go wrong. What is the worst possible place you could be? Is your life at that place right now? No? Awesome! You have something to be thankful for.

Use Visuals. One of the biggest obstacles to being grateful is forgetting to be grateful. Sometimes our days are just too busy and too fast to stop and appreciate the things around us. This is why I am very pro-photos and pro-selfies. I have photographs of people I love literally everywhere – hundreds of photos on my phone, my facebook, on a photo keychain with the rest of my keys, my desktop background, in my work cubicle, pinned to the ceiling of my car – continuously reminding me of the people in my life that I love, that love me back, and that I appreciate and am grateful for. If you’re staring at a thing that you’re thankful for, it’s hard to forget to be thankful.

 

At the end of the day, thankfulness and gratitude are seriously powerful tools to combat mental health issues. In fact, it is impossible to feel despair and gratitude at the same time. You may be despairing one moment, then grateful the next, and then despairing again the next moment – but they cannot co-exist at the same time. The more you focus on the things that make you thankful and grateful the happier you are going to be.

Depression runs on thoughts of negativity and things going wrong. Anxiety feeds off of the fears of what could go wrong. But when you’re focused on the things that are right, it suffocates the negativity and Depression and Anxiety have no room to grow.

For more tips on how to practice gratefulness during this Thanksgiving, visit these amazing links.

10 Ways to Become More Grateful

How to be Thankful

How Gratitude can Change Your Life

 

And, as always, thank you for your continued support of Please Live!

With love,

Alexa Moody
President & Founder