The power of gratitude

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.

Gratitude beads

My gratitude beads

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?

A Note on Comments: A chrysalis is by nature a fragile and vulnerable place to be, so I am committed to keeping this a safe place for me and for my readers. Comments sharing your own journey, even if your experience is different from mine, are always welcome and encouraged. Expressions of support or encouragement are also welcome. Comments that criticize, disparage, correct, or in any way attempt to undermine the validity of another person’s experience or personal insight are not welcome here and will be deleted.

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14 thoughts on “The power of gratitude

  1. What a great idea – the gratitude beads! I will definitely use that. I keep a gratitude journal that I write in in the morning, but having a “gratitude bracelet” will be something that I can wear and thing of things to be grateful on each bead. Thank you!

  2. Hi KJ,
    I have been working on my gratitude this past two years, and I found that it really made a big difference in my life. By the time I got to a place with my Thankfulness that I was striving for, my attitude was so much better. I had turned into a much more peaceful and positive person. But like lots of people whose meds start really working, I thought I was cured, so I stopped focusing on being thankful every day. I went from recording (on my blog) daily items to making a weekly entry.

    That was 8 months ago, and I have really been feeling the need to go back to acknowledging my gratitude on a daily basis. My attitude is not as bad as when I started, but I can feel myself sinking ever so slowly into negative thinking. I love your idea for gratitude beads! But one of the big reasons that I stopped doing daily thankful entries is that I just couldn’t keep up with it. I am thinking, though that I would love to make myself a bracelet like Lisa suggested.

    Thank you for sharing! I’m so glad that your 101 beads helped you over that really tough time.

    • Your experience sounds so much like mine. (“I thought I was cured, so I stopped focusing on being thankful every day.”) I love Lisa’s idea of the gratitude bracelet too, and I hope that works for you as a good balance between focusing on gratitude and making good use of time. I think I might try it too! Thanks so much for the comment.

      • I’ll let you know how that goes. I am due to write a Thankful update post – I’m really feeling that need to write about it – but I’ve been slow to get myself back in the habit of Practicing Thankful. I’m thinking that this bracelet would be just perfect – a physical reminder of what I want to be doing and how I want to be facing the day. Basically, it’s about how I want to see the world, I think. I’ll definitely link back to your post if I manage to make a bracelet and write about it.

      • Wonderful! I look forward to reading it!

        This whole discussion about gratitude bracelets is kind of ironic. I made a number of stone bead bracelets to sell on Etsy, and I wanted to call them Gratitude Bracelets and market them with this use in mind. Ultimately, I didn’t do that because I didn’t think people would understand it. But now there are two of you who do get it, so I’m wondering whether I need to go back to my original plan. And the really ironic thing? Even after making them with this purpose in mind initially, I never actually made use of one as a gratitude bracelet myself! Now I’m going to have to try it out.

        Lisa, I’m really glad you made the suggestion. And Skippingstones, I’m really glad you shared your interest too. This might just get me to do this myself after all this time. 🙂

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