Expressing gratitude : A self- help technique for depression
I started writing something today. Made me feel like I achieved something. Proud of myself and kudos to yet another accomplishment for the day
~ Gratitude entry for 29th Jan 2023
Being thankful, showing appreciation, and acknowledging the goodness of someone and ourselves have the power to create feel-good thoughts and emotions. Showing gratitude is more than just saying thank you for the blessings, or actively looking for the good things that happened rather than focusing on the negative.
It is about finding ways to appreciate the self and celebrate the strengths and resilience in ourselves. Trying to show ourselves that negative experiences and dull mood is inserted in a day with experiences that have the potential to make one feel hopeful. Gratitude helps us look at the moments where there was no discomfort as something that was free of the negative experience.
Our brain is wired to look for the bad as it assumes feeling good is normal. So all our peak experiences hide behind the fog of our negative experiences. The “negativity bias” is a cognitive bias, which states that negative experiences constantly affect our functioning rather than neutral or more positive things.
Thus extra effort is required to seek and experience positive emotions. This effort can be directed towards looking for anything which makes us feel hopeful or something that makes us feel good about ourselves and our ordinary day.
So, what is depression?
Depression is the persistent feeling of sadness , low - mood, questioning self-worth, being irritated and withdrawn, disturbances in sleep and appetite, hopelessness, and loneliness which affects our day-to-day functioning. Each of us may experience depression in our own way, but the underlying feeling of being in a low mood is constant and long-lasting.
Iodice et al. (2021) conducted a meta-analysis of the various studies conducted to explore the association between depression and gratitude. They found high levels of gratitude to be associated with lower levels of depression. Gratitude helps in lowering mild to moderate levels of depression when practiced with other techniques. Seeking professional help is recommended along with engaging in self-help activities.
There are many things one can do at a self-help level when feeling low or depressed
The focus of this blog is how gratitude can be one of those self-help techniques that one can try at a personal level. One can practice gratitude in many ways. Some of the ways are mentioned below.
P.S. The list is not exhaustive and practicing gratitude in a way that is most comfortable to yourself can be the first step to starting this gracious routine.
A journal where you note down things about your day. But more specifically the things you are grateful for about the day, concerning yourself or others or anything else. Remember that all things, people, and ourselves have the potential to make our day.
Practicing unconditional positive self-regard through self-love
Freeing oneself of the preconceived conditions that make us, can help us be more accepting of ourselves. Each day celebrate the qualities that make you. Even the things we find unpleasant about ourselves, have helped us cope in the past in some way. For example, what we may term as selfishness and find unappealing may have helped us be more assertive and care for ourselves.
Ways to appreciate
Find ways to appreciate yourself and find ways to show yourself gratitude for being someone who is getting through each day.
Celebrate your accomplishment
Show gratitude towards your past accomplishments and everyday victories, which you might deem small. Celebrate them and just walk down memory lane of those beautiful voyages.
Mental health days
Schedule days or skip any day when you find yourself overwhelmed or gloomy from the day-to-day activities which you dedicate to your mental health. Use those days for relaxing, away from the daily stressors , or engaging in feel-good activities as a reward for going through your life. Discover the pause button for a day to recover, explore and celebrate your strengths, feats, and inner qualities.
Engaging in hobbies and finding new artistic ways to express oneself.
Search for time to engage in activities other than work. Learning new things can also help. Fancourt et al. (2020) found that engaging in hobbies help with mild to moderate depression by cognitively stimulating the individual, increasing a sense of belongingness, and providing a distraction from the stressors.
The feeling of gratitude towards yourself can even start with a small step of self-gratitude for reading an article such as this, which adds to your adaptive coping strategies. The insight that one is not well and the willingness to try and seek help can be your very first gratitude towards yourself.
- Psychologists, psychiatrists, and therapists. A number of professionals from the mental health sector have created an online presence and easy accessibility. Finding help is just a click away. These services are available online as well as offline, usually with a sliding scale.
- 24 hrs helplines are also available for suicidal ideations, abuse, and neglect for all populations. For example, iCall - 91529 87821, Mpower helpline - 1800 120 820 050
Image credits: Freepik