I had read many times about the power of gratitude, but the first time I really discovered its power for myself was when I used it as a practice to help ward off depression. I have a chronic tendency toward depression, and my practice of self-care has been largely crafted over the years to keep me from tumbling into that pit. I have found that eating well, getting enough sleep, protecting my down time, journaling, and being active are all necessary for me to keep that familiar demon at bay.
But those self-care tactics aren’t always enough. I remember a number of years ago when all of the usual self-care techniques just didn’t seem to be working and I was desperately reaching for something to keep me from tumbling into a major depression, I read (yet again) about the power of gratitude and finally decided to give it a try. I made myself a set of “gratitude beads” that I began to use every day. I used this string of 101 beads much like one would use a rosary except that I came up with a unique thing to be grateful for with each bead.
Coming up with 101 unique things every single day taught me to be creative in finding blessings to claim rather quickly! I learned to be very specific in the things I named in order to come up with so many unique things every day. For instance, instead of naming “spring flowers,” I would list as many of them as I could think of: daffodils, tulips, forsythia, hyacinths, crocuses, and so on. Just taking the extra time to think of each one and bring it up in my mind increased my gratitude over the joy of Spring.
It wasn’t always easy to come up with enough things to get through that string of beads each day, but at a time when nothing else was working, this practice helped me turn the corner and prevent the slide into deep depression.
I wish I could say that I never forsook that practice again, but that’s not true. As I began to feel better, I gradually stopped using my gratitude beads because it felt like it took too much time. I have, however, gone back to them now and then when I needed them, and I have tried other gratitude practices as well. I’ve used gratitude journals to list a certain number of things (usually five or ten) that I was grateful for each day. I’ve written about gratitude and things I was grateful for here on the blog and in my journal. I’ve done gratitude meditations and practiced drifting off to sleep each night while counting my blessings. But I have not done well at maintaining any single gratitude practice for good.
Each time I start (or restart) a gratitude practice, I am struck anew at what a difference it makes in the way I view life, how I feel, how I respond to others, and how I experience my days.
As I move into another period of big change in adjusting to a new job and going back to full-time hours and the effect that will have on my other priorities, this seems like a very good time to re-visit the practice of gratitude in my life. This change, like all changes, has its benefits and its drawbacks. I know from past history that it is all too easy for me to pay more attention to the drawbacks than the benefits, so taking the time to consciously notice and name the things that I am grateful for will likely ease the challenges of this change for me.
Since Fridays are a day when so many take a moment to express gratitude anyway (TGIF!), it seems like a good day for me to intentionally focus on gratitude and share the things I’m finding to be grateful for from the prior week. There is always much to be grateful for.
In just the last day, I am grateful for a friend who made the time to spend with me last evening in good conversation, a delicious dinner that I made last night, a good rain yesterday evening and overnight that helped water our parched ground here, a sunny and dry day today for our move to our new offices, a move that went smoothly, and the kindness of many people who helped with the move in various ways.
I think its time to get out my gratitude journal again and get back to making this a daily practice. I’ll share my gratitude highlights of this coming week next Friday.
What are you grateful for today?
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