It is no secret that I have been suffering from depression for a few years now… maybe a few decades – it’s never easy to pinpoint just when things had gotten quite so ‘off’.
When I was studying psychology at uni a lecturer once said that with any kind of mental disorder we should phrase it as ‘she has depression’ as opposed to ‘she is depressed’ to distance the individual from the disease. To help the individual to still have an identity outside of the disease or disorder.
For me though… I did not have depression. I was depressed. I had crawled deep down the dark depression hole and made my home there. Even when I was living my best life – I was a dive instructor working on tropical islands with unimaginably clear water and perfect, sunny days nearly year round. My life looked amazing from the outside. But looking out from the inside everything was just grey for me. Just dark and grey and empty.
A few months ago I started actively working on my depression – I’m not one for taking medications all willy-nilly and didn’t think that antidepressants was the way to go for me (more recently I caved and started taking that supposedly ‘magical’ little pill while I keep pursuing the natural solutions that I speak of below. Please don’t take any of this as medical advice – discuss it with your medical or mental health practitioner). So I decided to treat my depression naturally. You know, with meditations and supplements, being present and in the moment… binaural beats… I tried anything and everything. And the combination of the parts seem to work.
But wait, I hear you say… this article is supposed to be about gratitude… Isn’t it? Here is the thing: I have come to realise that when I feel the most depressed and I start to tumble down that dark hole, I feel the tightness in my chest and the anxiety creeping in, if I just pay attention to the moment I can catch it… and stop it. If I am able to be aware and be conscious in the moment and pay attention to my thoughts I notice that more and more negative thoughts start creeping in. If I let it go- just give in to the habit of letting my mind rush off, pulling me along and yanking me off my feet and out of balance – I end up spiraling down into thoughts that get progressively worse. Thoughts that get toxic. Thoughts that come close to being abusive. Man, I am a mean person to myself sometimes!
In the last month I have made a huge effort to be grateful. To express gratitude as often as I can (I even downloaded a gratitude app that reminds me to list a few things I am grateful for each day) – and I have seen the powerful effect it has had on my life, on my relationships and on the joy that I experience in life. I have seen how very, very sweet life can be if you start focusing on the wonderful bits- people who love you, the taste of food, flowers blooming in the early spring, being able to tie my shoes by myself! Let’s be honest, some days it’s a bit of a struggle to find something to be grateful for, so I just go with it and make something up as I go along. You can find some wonderful gratitude journals here.
Some days when I struggle to catch myself from falling off the precipice that separates a joyful (or even just slightly content) me from ‘curled-up-in-a-foetal-position-rocking-back-and-forth- me’ I find that I cannot find anything to write on my gratitude list- I cannot even be grateful that I am able to tie my own shoes! On these days I sit and stare at that pink screen on my phone with its little inspirational quote and I rebel. I think ‘I don’t want to be grateful for anything… this life sucks’. It is an effort just to think of something to be grateful for – even when I have so many blessings in my life- and I am fully aware of them.
In these moments the comfort of my depression is too tempting. It is too familiar and easy. It is years and decades of conditioning. It is centuries of conditioning inherited from ancestors. It is karmic contracts and lessons needing to be learnt… and realising that is something to be grateful for in itself. Perhaps it is the thing to be most grateful for. That we can learn these lessons and end these contracts and clear this age old karma… finally.
I have found that in the moments where I can catch those negative thoughts- when I can find just ONE thing that I am grateful for in those grey moments before the dark sets in- it starts to flow. ‘I am grateful that my eyes are healthy. ‘I am grateful for my dogs’ ‘I am grateful for this amazing new BRA!’. So, some days I need to work a little harder to find the things that I am grateful for. Some days it sounds really lame. But it starts building momentum and once I am out of the pull of the depression and the negative thoughts I get into the flow. And man, when it flows it flooooows!
But the seduction is always there, always beckoning like a chocolate cake when you’re on an auto immune diet. It is so tempting to just be consumed by its deliciousness, to give in to the cravings and savour the sweet comfort of it. But you know that if you do you will just end up feeling like rubbish. It takes an ocean full of self-control to say ‘No thank you, I prefer to feel happy and healthy without you’ ‘I choose not to give in to your little lies and tricks of seduction’ ‘I have been down that road many, many times and that is not where I want to be’. ‘I will struggle to be grateful today, because I know tomorrow will be easier and the next day will flow with even more ease’.
Stay grateful, keep minding those negative thoughts. Keep pulling away from the seduction of the depression. Use the help of that little pill if you need to… and maybe one day you will wake up and struggle to pinpoint just exactly when you became ‘undepressed’.
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How has practicing gratitude affected your life? Tell us in the comments below.
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