One of the things I remember very clearly from the worst days of my depression was this very strong sense that I had nothing to be thankful for. Even then, I knew that feeling was not a reflection of the truth. I had lots of things to be thankful for – loving friends, a great husband, a roof over my head and lots more. But I saw things so differently. I couldn't appreciate what I had, even though I had it.
From my perspective, I felt like a person dying of thirst with all the water I could ever want or need spread out before me. Oceans, pools, waterfalls, rivers, faucets, rain. Every form of water imaginable. The only problem was this terrible plate of bullet-proof glass that separated me from it all. I could look and want and fantasize about all the wonderful life-giving fluids there were on the other side of the glass, but I couldn't enjoy it. I couldn't drink from it.
It was a terrible feeling, and it went on for years.
I'm not sure where I heard the concept of gratitude lists first, but I decided to try it after watching an Oprah episode. My list started out pretty feeble after I got the major items down. To prevent being terribly repetitive, my lists sometimes included things like I'm grateful the weather is pleasant today or I'm grateful this coffee is nice and hot. Not very impressive, I know, but it still worked. And, after a little time passed, I noticed that my list started beefing up. I started to see just how much I really had to be thankful for.
Then, one day, the "glass partition" was gone.
Don't underestimate the power of gratitude. You will never get what you really want until you can appreciate what you already have. My guess is, regardless of your circumstances, you have a great deal already.
Try it and see.
Get out that journal you got for yourself. Each morning, write five things that you are grateful for and then repeat the process each evening.
How you word your gratitude is up to you, but it's important that you use full sentences. In other words, don't list the items out of context. Some ways of expressing gratitude might be:
- I thank God for the loving support of my friends and family.
- Thank you for my wonderful spouse.
- I am grateful for last night's beautiful sunset.
- I am thankful I am growing.
- Thank heavens for the letter I received in the mail.
You get the idea. Feel free to come up with your own phrasing. As long as it is a full sentence that expresses gratitude for something relatively specific, it'll work just fine.
Also, if your schedule is such that you cannot do this exercise twice a day, you can combine the two and do them all at once. This doesn't take long, though, and I strongly suggest that you split the ten items up into at least two sets each day if you can. Another good alternative is to spread all ten items through your day. Keep a notebook handy and jot something down as soon as you think of it.
Like the rest of your journal, you can keep this list private or show it to the world. It's up to you. The important thing is that you write these lists each and every day.