Gratitude-the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
Gratitude is a powerful transformational tool. It can bring someone from a place of turmoil and hopelessness to a place of acceptance and peace, and it’s hard to believe that something so seemingly simple can be so incredibly life changing. In fact, if it weren’t part of my story, I too would disregard the notion as nonsensical.
Since my early 20’s I have suffered with cyclical bouts of depression. From time to time I find myself in a state where I am completely overwhelmed, and unable to cope with stress. Depression can overtake me like a tsunami overtakes the shoreline. When it overtakes me I find myself without hope, without joy, and spiraling down a tunnel of negativity. I uncontrollably cry buckets of tears, and can barely figure out how to make it from one day to another. The feeling of barely hanging on, and having no direction can last for months at a time, although I’ve mastered the art of disguise quite well.
Fortunately for me, over the years I’ve learned to recognize it for what it is and seek help when appropriate. Historically this help has been through medication. Low doses of antidepressants. Antidepressants work wonderfully to put distance between you and your problems. You don’t dwell, you don’t feel the spiraling out of control, you don’t feel the hopelessness which is great. Problem is for me, overtime, it also put an incredible amount of distance between me and my loved ones. I’d go through the motions of the day without feeling anything except for annoyed. Robotic almost. Fortunately, when you are married and raising a family, you can’t be robotic for long without people starting to notice, and new bigger problems arising on the horizon.
A while back, through some personal coaching of my own, I tried to force myself to assess my feelings. I knew I wasn’t happy. I knew I was stuck, unfulfilled and going through the motions. But I didn’t really know why. On my own accord, I hypothesized that it was time to pull the plug on my antidepressants to see what my emotions were really like. I was on the cusp of making some seriously life altering decisions, and I wanted to know how I truly felt, and honestly on the meds I just couldn’t tell. So I very slowly phased them out.
I knew if I was going to go off the meds and figure out some answers, which I was so desperate for, I would need to come up with some coping skills for when the beast would rear its head again. Coping skills weren’t something I was taught as a kid, so I knew I had to be very intentional with developing them if I was going to succeed at this (Do other people get taught coping skills? Still wondering that. You bet my kids will!)
At the suggestion of my coach, one of the first things I set out to put into practice was taking more time gratitude. She saw a pattern not only in me, but in my kids as well. We were all a little too hung up on what wasn’t going right. Can you say joy stealer?
Logistically I know I have so much to be grateful for, but when depression creeps in logic is often out. I clearly saw her point and I knew to create lasting change I would have to create ritual so I could retrain my brain if possible.
I took a different approach to gratitude journaling than some would, knowing that writing everyday was not a reality for me, and created a reminder list of all the things I had to be grateful for in my phone. I started each day meditating over my list. At first my list was about other things and people in my life, but ultimately, I’ve recognized that taking time to be grateful for who I am and how the Divine made me is the real work and retraining that needs to happen.
Now I no longer just start my days with gratitude, but I complete my days in prayer with a focus on gratitude. These rituals, coupled with some holistic remedies for depression have kept me happy, healthy, centered, and connected with my loved ones. The connection isn’t always easy. It’s not always pretty, but I’m present, and that feels so much better.
In short, spending time in gratitude, with or without medication, can transform a hardened or numbed heart, it can help you to live a little lighter and with a little more joy, and it has the power to transform an overwhelming situation into an opportunity for growth. It truly is trans-formative.
Take some time and reflect on the role gratitude plays in your everyday. If you are struggling in one way or another, be intentional and see if creating a gratitude ritual here and there in your day gives you the shift you need to feel a little freer from your struggles.
If you already have a gratitude practice I’d love to hear what your ritual looks like, and how it has served you. Please leave a comment in the section below and share your inspirational story or idea with us!
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