How gratitude helped me overcome depression and burnout and how it could be a positive tool for your well-being too…
It’s World Gratitude Day in a few weeks (September 21), so now feels like a good time to share with you how gratitude became a game-changer for me.
I was burnt out and depressed. I had a negative thinking pattern and my critical inner monologue was on repeat. If you’ve ever experienced something like this you’ll know, the whole world can feel against you and it’s hard to see anything positive.
Then I started doing a gratitude practice in the morning.
Wow. What a game-changer.
What is a gratitude practice?
A gratitude practice is about taking time to write down things that you’re grateful for. And they don’t have to be big, mine are super simple
For example, a lot of the time it’s around sleep, which is such a big part of our well-being, and my wife also features a lot in the list. Other times I’m writing about friends I’ve seen, conversations I’ve had, that I have paid work to do, etc.
Some recent things I’ve been grateful for are:
- I’ve been my own best friend
- We have a gorgeous little dog
- My morning stretch has helped me feel so much better
- The sun’s out and we’ve had a beautiful sunrise
- Today is a new start and I’ve got a clean slate
- I’ve been able to invest in training for myself
- I’ve got doors I can lock, I’m safe and secure
It might feel hard or strange at first, but the more you do it, the list will expand and when that happens, it feels fantastic.
What really works for me is building a routine around my gratitude practice.
Every day at the same time I sit in the same chair, make my espresso on the stove (incorporating mindfulness into making that coffee), do some stretches and write down in the same book three things that I’m grateful for.
It’s just a wonderful part of my day where I feel grateful and happy for the things that I have. It’s a joyful moment and sets me up well with a positive outlook for the day to come.
Gratitude can rewire your brain
Of course, there are difficult days but the more your practice the easier it will be to find at least a couple of things to be grateful for and that will help you to move through those harder times.
Gratitude focuses your mind on the good, rather than the bad, and helps you to stay in the present moment, so you can pause and reflect on how you feel right now.
This can give you a clear picture and more balance, which helps to move through difficult emotions. It’s a little baby step, but it certainly helped me and I know that it’s helped others too.
And this isn’t just fluffy stuff. There’s science behind it.
Our brains are flexible. We have neuroplasticity which means we can change our thought processes and structures, and therefore how we interact with the world. A gratitude practice can help to do that.
Dr Michael Mosley has talked about the impact of gratitude on physical and mental health in this short podcast.
A night-time gratitude practice
I’ve been practising gratitude for a while now, and know firsthand how it’s helped me. And an even bigger game changer for me was doing a gratitude practice at night as well as in the morning.
Because a lot can happen in the day. Things go wrong, we get stressed or frustrated. But by taking time at the end of the day to think about those brighter moments and be grateful for them means the day finishes on a positive note.
It also helps with sleep, which has a huge impact on our overall mental and physical well-being.
Three tips to start a gratitude practice
I really can’t recommend a gratitude practice enough to people.
Why not start tonight, before you go to bed? Find three things to be grateful for. Do it every day for a week and see how it affects your mood.
- Keep it simple
- Create a routine around it
- Write them down
I’m grateful that you stopped by and read this blog.
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