Gratitude is one of the best daily practices you can foster. If you are on Facebook, you have likely seen posts about the gratitude challenge, asking people to post, for seven days, three things they are grateful for. Having a daily practice of this for a little bit longer than seven days would further increase the likelihood of this becoming a habit, building new neuropathways that would make it an almost automatic thought each day.
Why is this such a helpful and beneficial thing to do? One primary truth makes it worth the effort in spades: true gratitude and depression cannot exist in the same heart at the same time. The more you have in your heart, the less room their is for sorrow. Gratitude builds joy. It is a natural anti-depressant. What can you find to be grateful for? Dwell on it. Think about it consciously. Meditate on that thought as much as you can.
In graduate school, one of the most remarkable research articles I read, (and there were many!), was an article about Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The researchers set about to find the best intervention for women who had recently been sexually assaulted, and were suffering from trauma. They tested several different interventions, and as they were doing so, they stumbled upon a result that they were not expecting. The best thing they found to reduce the effects of PTSD was, you guessed it, gratitude. Being grateful for their survival, for the support they had, for anything at all they could find to be grateful for, was the best intervention of all. Remarkable.
In a world of consumerism and constant advertising of the next new thing, it is so easy to focus on what we don’t have. We wish we had more money to go on vacations, buy stuff for ourselves, and feel safe. We wish we had more friends but struggle to be a good friend to others. We wish we had a job we loved but lack the drive to chase the dream of it relentlessly. We lament what we perceive we lack instead of focusing on all the wonderful blessings we have and hunting joy down like a lion hunting it’s prey, never settling for less. It reminds me of a line from Shakespeare’s 30th Sonnet: “I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, and with old woes new wail my dear times waste.”
I am grateful for everything. Even things that cause pain, because it gives me the opportunity to learn something new. For today in particular, I am grateful that I passed my Indiana state licensure exam! That’s a good one, huh? I’m excited! Think of anything and everything you can find to have gratitude for…you will find that it changes your mood for the better, day by day!
Healing Hearts provides counseling services to the surrounding communities of Indianapolis, Fishers, Carmel, Zionsville, Westfield, Noblesville, and Geist. Call or text today to set up your appointment. 317-218-3038
© 2014 Nancy Eisenman, MSW, LSW