During difficult times it can be hard to find reasons to be grateful. Bryce Evans says finding a gratitude practice can be especially helpful for battling depression.
During difficult times it's important to ask yourself: what are you grateful for?
I wrote in a journal and took photographs every day for many years. These activities helped me to regularly reflect and be thankful.
My gratitude journal became an integral part of my toolkit. It helped me notice that I need to counteract negative rumination due to depression and anxiety.
Pausing to feel grateful helps pull me out of the negative loops where I sometimes get stuck.
A gratitude practice isn't a cure. It isn't always easy. It's just another tool to manage symptoms of depression with the help of mental health professionals.
I know others have found a gratitude practice helpful. That's why I reached out to ask The One Project community about what gratitude means to them and how they integrate it into their lives. Here are their stories:
"Photos are my expression of gratitude, even though I sometimes don't realize it. When I look at my photos, I sense warmth and reality. They represent my life, my experiences, and a deep love and inner peace in myself.
"The photographs I take nearly every day remind me of the good side of life, especially when depression hits unexpectedly. I light up my dark days with pictures of the bright days. They show that there's always something to look forward to.
"You don't need to aim for a great and desirable life. Like a sunset or a ladybug or a flower, small things can soothe your mind and soul. Be aware of it. Capture it."
— Kali Mahavidya
"I've been through a lot. Living with a mental illness can be exhausting. I thought that being grateful was the same as saying things were OK when they were far from it.
“I've learned that gratitude does not mean everything is OK. It allows me to step away from my life for a very brief moment.
“At first, it was hard for me to find things to be grateful for. The more I practiced, the more I found. I now practice a gratitude reflection throughout my day.
“I sometimes think about the small things, like my morning cup of tea, the sun's warmth on my face, or dewdrops on a spider's web. Sometimes I think about the bigger things, like my family and friends.
“Being in the moment is like a brain break or a micro-vacation. It allows me to step out of my head during difficult times to see a view of the world that I hadn't noticed before. My brain and body can relax and just be for a few seconds.
“Gratitude will not cure my illness. It does allow me to refuel by showing me there's some good in this world. That is something I am grateful for."
— Suzanne Venuta
"Gratitude seems like it should be easy. It never feels like it is. So many things might not be going the way you want. That clouds your ability to genuinely express gratitude. It is often far easier to appreciate an experience or a person in retrospect than it is in the moment.
Perhaps the underrated key to gratitude is finding beauty in chaos. Don't wait for a picture-perfect moment. Squint your eyes and look patiently. Glimpses of humanity are more complex and riveting due to their flaws.
If we count our blessings on a difficult day, we can remind ourselves that we're breathing. We've seen the sun on a cold day. We've laughed at animals being unknowingly silly. And we've been loved."
— Mariana Montes de Oca
Give yourself credit for being grateful
I've been grateful in the past without recognizing it. It's important to give myself credit. A gratitude practice is more powerful when I do it with intention and consistency.
No matter how challenging my situation is right now, I have many reasons to be grateful.
Take a photo. Grab a journal. Pause and take a few breaths to experience gratitude. Get a good sleep and repeat.
For more information on managing depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team.
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