How to Practice Gratitude When Depressed

black heart depressed gratitude

Experiencing depression sucks, it truly does. As someone who has experienced countless episodes of depression over my life, this recent bout really hit me hard. As I posted in ‘When You’re Drowning In Painful Depression’ it drove me to consider not being part of this world anymore, but what about gratitude? Can we find a way to practise gratitude or appreciation during a depressive period?

This week, as I sat on my sofa getting caught in another spider’s web ‘thought’, dragging me into the sticky negative thought, I almost dropped into a drowning place again until I started to consider gratitude.

I hated the idea of gratitude lists because I did many gratitude lists in the past. In fact I wrote a whole book of gratitude during my crazy obsession with the law of attraction many moons ago and most of it felt like a very intellectual process. So many teachers saying, ‘Write a list, make sure you do it daily, for 21 days to build up a habit’. I did it for much longer than that; it didn’t build a habit for me; it just built a habit of faking a feeling I was not feeling.

But surely we need to find the light side to come out of the darkness of depression?

Finding A Middle Ground

In an article on depression I read here, the writer also explored gratitude lists. He found that they made him feel worse and so stopped one day when his therapist told him, ‘Basically your life sucks.’ and he should start writing ingratitude lists. I love this idea, but also this too didn’t feel the full picture. I don’t feel we can go from one extreme to the other; we need to find a middle ground.

It was then I realised, that for depression, we need a two-point process. Yes, write an ingratitude list, write down everything in your life that sucks big time, from every betrayal or life trauma, to every failure, to everything your mind perceives to be happening in your world, but don’t stay there.

Once we mindfully accept ‘what is’, we face up to the fact that maybe our goals and dreams for life have not panned out, perhaps something we had our heart set on didn’t happen or the love of our life left us or we experienced financial loss, any of these, to just accept fully, ‘This is what is happening, this is how I feel about what is happening and it’s okay’.

Once we fully embrace our journey then we can open to the beauty and to what we can appreciate in our life. But what can we appreciate when the mind has us focused on the completely negative? When the mind is convincing us that nothing matters, when the mind is letting us know that we lack everything we want.

Start Small – Don’t Expect Big Change Immediately

gratitude thank you bottle

We start with the small and simple and we don’t make it an intellectual process, we make it a simple acknowledging process.

For example:

Drinking a glass of water, fully feel that water touching your mouth, going down your throat into your stomach, acknowledge, today you have water.

You find yourself going into a downward spiral thought for example:

Damn my internet is not working, and you feel anger or frustration. Stop and consider ‘but I do have access to the internet normally, I actually normally have the internet’

In the video below, I go into this in a little more detail on one of my Facebook lives, but one thing that struck me was that when in the shower I dropped a razor and cussed and may have got mad further, a thought popped into my mind, ‘But I have a razor to drop wow!’

Somebody on my Facebook page gave some insightful wisdom. They said instead of looking at people who have more or who have what we want, look at people who have less. And I think this is worthwhile too, but not to the point where we use it to feel guilty for feeling better off.

We need to strike a balance, what works for me may not work for you.

I started praying daily, asking for my thoughts to be moved away from self-pity and now I also ask please show me what blessings are in my life.

It’s Easy To Get Lost In The ‘Have-Nots’

So, while I may not have a lot, I am alive, I have my mind, I have my body, I can breathe, I have ‘stuff’ and I know lovely people, even if my social life is pretty quiet.

It’s very easy to drown in the ‘have-nots’, which is the depth of most depressions, yet once we acknowledge that ‘life sucks’ without judging it as wrong, but just a moment in time, we can then start to look at things in a new way, but always start small and look at the simple.

If you are arguing with a loved one or a business partner or a friend, perhaps see that you have someone you can argue with, someone who cares enough to voice a perspective other than your own to you.

It’s an odd way of thinking about gratitude, but sometimes we need to look at the challenging predicaments and see that those predicaments can be a blessing too.

Got an awful landlord? You have a home to have an awful landlord with.

Got terrible skin issues? you have skin and a body to have skin issues with.

Fall down and hit the kerb with your face? You have a body and a kerb to experience this.

It’s oddly liberating to turn the despair around in this way.

What are your thoughts? How do you experience appreciation when depressed?

My recent Facebook Live on this topic

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Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin is the author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ , a passionate writer and blogger questioning life’s illusions. After what seemed like a decade of intense anxiety, feelings of failure and grief from the loss of her father she chose to take a mindfulness path and has not looked back since. Kelly encourages people to find the treasures that lie within the pain and suffering and to learn to see themselves as ‘enough’ exactly as they are, right now through her writing and You Tube channel .

Find me on: Twitter | Facebook

1 Comment

  1. Laura
    May 27, 2018 / 4:22 pm

    On the bad skin, I say I’m thankful for makeup to cover it on the worst days. Haha. And, yes, comparisons to those that have much less helps me too. It’s amazing how much happier they are than we that live in this country with so much. So I try to simplify and just focus on the top priorities. Something that helps me a lot is having access to look up so much we used to not be able to find, something on every single topic. That is comforting to me. That’s how I found your site. Thank you for your thoughts, I appreciate your writing and sharing.

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