As Thanksgiving approaches, we are often encouraged to reflect on our lives and what we are thankful for. This is a great practice for many reasons–including the benefits it bestows on our mental, physical, and spiritual health. Gratitude reorients our perspective from one of lack to one of abundance.
Practicing gratitude is especially helpful if you find yourself in a season of anxiety and/or depression. As the days get colder and darker, many women may find their mental health suffering. Maybe you are in a particularly challenging season of life, such as being a stay at home mom to little ones or in a stressful job. No matter what is causing your mental health struggles, cultivating gratitude is a great way to combat them.
So, what are some ways we can wield gratitude as our weapon against anxiety and depression?
Practice a Morning Quiet Time
Beginning your day in quiet reflection and prayer before doing anything else is a great way to shift your mindset into one of thankfulness and contentment throughout the rest of the day. Instead of rushing right into the day thinking about everything you have to do and all the worries you are facing, take just five to ten minutes to sit with a warm mug of coffee or tea and let everything go for just a bit, focusing only on God and what you are thankful for.
You may need to consciously release your fears and worries before you are able to do this, and that is okay. When your mind wanders with anxious thoughts, gently guide it back.
You can meditate on a Bible verse that reminds you of what you are thankful for, or simply dwell on all that is good in your life. However you choose to use that quiet time, the goal is to go into your day afterwards in a more peaceful and grateful state of mind. If you do this every morning, it will come more and more naturally over time.
Keep A Gratitude Journal
Another way to keep a grateful perspective is by keeping a gratitude journal. Throughout your day, write down everything you are thankful for. Then whenever you are feeling anxious or depressed, you can pull out your journal (or phone, or tablet, or whatever works for you) and remember all you have to be thankful for in your life.
When our minds feel dark and stormy it can be hard to see and remember what is good, so having it written down can help us remember and break through that darkness.
Anxiety is a preoccupation with worries about the future, whereas depression typically focuses us on our failures or past events that have occurred. That’s why being present in the moment can help us shift our focus from the past or the future and help us to notice what is good right now.
Being present doesn’t necessarily itself lead to gratitude, but it allows us to see things as they are without being tainted by the past or worries about the future. Once we can slow down and truly notice what is going on around us, it is easier to see what we have to be grateful for, whereas when we are preoccupied by the past or the future it is nearly impossible to be grateful.
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to be more present to your life, as well as prayer. Turn off distractions like social media, entertainment, and news. Just allow yourself to be in the moment you are in, and notice what is going on around you. Go outside and soak up the sunshine, or call a good friend and laugh together. Do whatever makes you feel more alive and awake to reality. You will begin to notice your mood lifting and grateful thoughts becoming more prominent.
Focus on What You Enjoy
It’s hard not to feel grateful when you’re doing what you love, right? Often we can get stuck in anxiety or depression when we are burnt out and not making enough time to do the things we enjoy.
Start taking a little time each day, even if it’s only ten or twenty minutes, to do something you love doing–whether it’s painting, yoga, or reading a good book. As you spend more time doing those things that refresh and energize you, gratitude will naturally flow out of you.
Notice the Small Things
When we are in an anxious or depressed state, often the negative overshadows the positive. There may be much good in our lives, but we are unable to see it because we are viewing everything through a cloudy lens. That’s when it becomes critical to notice and be grateful for the small things.
Take note of everything that brings you joy or comfort in the day, even if it is just that first cup of coffee in the morning or the way your child laughs when you tickle him. Similar to keeping a gratitude journal, as you notice and are grateful for those little things throughout your day, it will become easier and easier to see all that you have to be grateful for.
A Changed Outlook
As you cultivate these practices in your life, you will notice you not only have more grateful thoughts, but you become a naturally more grateful person. You will be able to more quickly recognize and be thankful for the good things in your life, rather than dwelling on the bad and spiraling into anxiety or depression. You will be able to appreciate your life more fully and therefore live in a deeper state of contentment.
Gratitude is a wonderful tool to use to help your mental health, but if you are stuck in anxiety or depression, it is also important to reach out for help from a trained therapist. We are equipped at Florecer Family Counseling to help you work through your struggles and develop more gratitude in your life. Reach out to us anytime!