Already, it’s that time of year where the rapidly approaching holiday season nurtures hearts with the warmth of togetherness, endearment, and gratitude for all of the wonderful things that make life worth celebrating. Gratitude, itself, is often a perplexing thing to consider, especially when it comes to the general “self-comparison” process that we tend to do when evaluating what we wish we had more, or less, of in mirroring the likes of others and their lifestyles. While it’s not a healthy mindset to entertain, fleeting thoughts related to wanting what others have, or what we, ourselves, may lack in, is completely normal and, therefore, nothing worth beating oneself up over. When battling the ugly flares that are brought on by mental health, however, achieving the desired state of contentment and gratification can be an impossible feat. Depression and anxiety are known to cloud the light and optimism in a sufferer’s senses and experiences which is far beyond that person’s control. To expect that one would be overflowing with gratitude when continually troubled with these conditions is a bit far-fetched. As opposed to feigning complete, or even partial, satisfaction with aspects of living that we aren’t comfortable in, gratitude can be applied in alternative manners that are similar, yet honest to the reality of our current circumstances.
1.) Create a list of the things you are not grateful for: One of the best ways to approach anything is to do so as genuinely and true-to-heart as possible. For that specific reason does this method prove helpful. In the same way that unexpressed ailments are capable of inhibiting betterment, the presence of unacknowledged obstacles keep us from recognizing the good in our surroundings. The sun never stops shining, though the clouds in a storm hinder the rays of sunshine from flooding through. In noting the things that we truly aren’t happy about, we are able to more effortlessly identify the specks of “sunshine” in our present that aren’t contributing to the darkness of the storm we’re passing through (RTOR, 2019).
2.) Acknowledge tangible subjects of your gratitude – the things that are right in front of you: Memories that we have of experiences with kindness are ones that we hold near and dear. Still, it’s tough to rely on “things to be thankful for” from a moment that is long gone. In addition to reflecting upon memories like that, it may be effectual to pay mind to the beneficial elements of the instant in which we reside. With mental health disorders and illnesses of any variety, aches and pains are plentiful. In practicing gratitude, we can simply attend to our relief that the other parts of our body aren’t feeling the same pains as those hurting. This is, by no means, meant to be a cure for any of the afflictions and pains, but more so a tiny interval for a reminder that there is at least a hint of good in any amount of bad. If you’re hurting badly, does the comfort of the blanket you’re wrapped in ease it any? Does the fragrance of nearby flowers, or a delicious meal you’ve just ordered for yourself provide even the slightest bit of appreciation for your present moment? How about the cozy embrace of your puppy snuggled up next to you, reminding you that you are, indeed, loved? While aches and hardships can become unbearable, it’s the little things that keep us going another day; the seemingly minimal influences to our being that allow us to push on (Martin, 2015).
3.) Interact with others: From time to time, the average individual has an epiphany about how much of an impact someone has on their life. Despite the automatic recognition that their presence has a positive impact on you, the extent of the gratitude that is felt toward that person isn’t always given as much thought. Often times, struggling to cope with a depressive episode can entail the loss of motivation to do anything you would, under ordinary circumstances, find enjoyment in. We distance ourselves from those in our circle when overwhelmed with the weight of conditions, as such. More often than not, though, we find that when we finally do communicate with others, whether it is as a result of the inability to avoid contact in that instant, or through a sudden flying leap of faith, it turns out to be just the thing needed for a pick-me-up. In pain, it’s not rare that we tend to avoid embracing the good factors in our lives because much of it seems too overbearing to handle in that depleted condition. Regardless of the fact that rest is more of a necessity during that period rather than forcing ourselves to keep up with those activities that we would ordinarily partake in, there are times when we may find that reintroducing those activities, or even a bit of contact with loved ones, are exactly what we might have needed that day (Martin, 2015).
Amid pain, illness and troubles, gratitude ranks among the bottom of the emotions that we feel toward what we endure, and quite frankly, there is nothing wrong with this. In order to heal, it’s important that we take the time to evaluate the reality of what we are truly feeling. Instead of outwardly attempting to mask pain by forcing statements of thankfulness, practicing gratitude whilst experiencing our hurt in the most real ways can look like any of the measures listed above. Perhaps one of the most authentic forms of gratitude is voluntarily, yet silently, utilizing the fragments of the good in every breath to build a foundation of hope and ensure the chance at a better tomorrow.
Written by Kristen Racktoo, Content Contributor
Martin, S. L. (2015, November 20). 7 Ways to Practice Gratitude When You’re Feeling
Depressed. Psych Central. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from
RTOR. (2019, March 22). How to Practice Gratitude When You’re Depressed. Resources To
Recover. Retrieved November 1, 2021, from https://www.rtor.org/2019/03/26/gratitude-when-youre-depressed/