Now, I am NOT saying that all or even some depressed people are not grateful people. I have struggled with depression since the age of ten, so I know that sometimes it is impossible to even begin to have a positive mindset without help from an outside source, and having an attitude of gratitude for anyone, even if you don’t suffer from depression, takes time. That being said, what helped alleviate some of my depression personally is to think of things that I am thankful for and not dwelling so much on things that are not going great for me. Each day when I am at work, I write down at least three things from that day (or the previous one) which I am thankful. Some days, I struggle to name even three, and some days I could name almost an infinite list! Here is how gratitude can help alleviate depression for many people.
- Having an attitude of thankfulness helps keep our focus on the good that you do have rather than what you don’t have.—Merriam-Webster.com defines jealousy as, “hostile toward a rival or one believed to enjoy an advantage.” (source: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jealous). Having an attitude of gratitude eliminates this because when you are so thankful for all that you have, you don’t even care about what others have or don’t have anymore, in terms of competition or advantages. Being thankful means that you know that everything you have is a gift from God and not anything you are entitled to or deserve. When you appreciate someone or something that you believe is intrinsically good, you can enjoy time with that person or thing much more than if you view them as something that you are “owed.”
- Having an attitude of gratitude helps alleviate the anxiety that can be present with depression.—Having a thankful heart also helps alleviate anxious thoughts because this attitude basically says to oneself that no matter what, I will have at least one thing for which I can be thankful. For instance, if one previously has had financial worries and wonders if he or she will have to forsake their needed medication or food in order to function properly, if that person developed a thankful heart, this attitude would help alleviate their worries because they would only focus on the fact that they had enough for today and be joyful in that. One way gratitude has alleviated my depression is by changing my mindset when I am worried. For instance, if I am worried that I may lose a friendship over something that I have no control over or something that I cannot change at the moment, instead of focusing and ruminating on what I may have done to offend that person , I focus on the people that have stuck by me through thick and thin. I either talk about my worries with another trusted friend (without an attitude of gossip, of course) or pour my energy into spending time with family and friends with whom I have no problems.
- Having an attitude of gratitude enables one to see the hope that is even in the bleakest of circumstances.—Having a thankful heart helps us to be able to hope even in the worst of circumstances. I believe that some of the people who were sent to concentration camps by the Nazi regime were able to survive abusive and horrendous conditions because they were able to still have hope. We can apply the same principles to our lives. For instance, we can rejoice that even when one of our loved ones has died or is sick, bad as that is, we can still hope and be thankful because we (ourselves) can see another day to make a positive difference in others’ lives. If we are suffering with others, we can be grateful that we don’t have to suffer alone. If we have a difficult situation at work, we can be angry and stressed about it all the time, or we can look at it as an opportunity to grow and learn from others and maybe even our own mistakes. (Yes, our feelings are valid, and it is not wrong to be initially angry at things going on in our lives, but don’t get stuck there!)
These are the ways that gratitude has personally helped me through my depression. It is not always easy to have a grateful heart, but with practice and time, it can be cultivated. I am still struggling through this, but when we learn to have an attitude of gratitude, we can live fuller, happier and healthier lives.