For a long time when I was battling against my depression and losing most of the time, I really struggled to believe that there was anything to feel grateful for. Everything seemed so difficult and I felt so weighed down by life that it was hard to be grateful. People would try to remind me of all I had to feel thankful for and I would end up feeling guilty that I was such a dreadful person because I struggled to feel anything at all.
There are so many articles online about the importance of gratitude. So many books have been written about the benefits that come from feeling grateful- but when you are struggling with depression it is often impossible to feel any feeling at all. In fact, depression is characterised by numbness, lethargy and the inability to feel so I didn’t see how feeling grateful could be possible or even helpful.
What changed my perspective and helped me to see how powerful gratitude could be was when in the midst of my gloominess I stopped trying to feel grateful and instead started to think about gratitude.
I thought about how difficult it would be if I didn’t have a car and how my ancestors would have had to expend so much energy to get from one place to another. I thought about how different the start of the day would be without hot running water at my fingertips and how all basic household tasks would be so much more difficult without electricity.
Thinking about the practical things that make my life so much easier eventually led to my feeling grateful for those things and gradually I started to be able to feel grateful without having to rationally think things through.
Moving ahead a few years, I now keep a journal and write in it most days. I write my goals for the future, my hopes and dreams and reflect on how I am feeling. I also include lots of gratitude lists. If I am not feeling great, it is my go to reflection exercise. Instead of approaching the task through my emotions, I approach it through rational thinking.
I am grateful for the chair I am sitting on because it supports my back
I am grateful for my pyjamas because otherwise I would be cold
I am grateful for electricity to light the room so I can see even though it is dark outside.
Sometimes I start to feel better straight away, sometimes I don’t, but that’s okay. What I think is important is that no guilt is attached to feeling grateful. You can’t force it. Just keep thinking.
My advice to anyone else who is struggling with depression and finding it hard to feel would be to take it slowly. Every day think about 3 things that make your life easier than it would have been 100 years ago. Maybe write them down in a list somewhere. The more you practice, the easier it will get, I promise.