Experiencing anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues can make it easy to only be aware of “negative” things happening in your life. Living with mental illness also means experiencing cognitive distortions, which can cause all-or-nothing thinking such as only pointing out what is wrong and never being satisfied.
Practicing gratitude for what you do appreciate in your life, no matter how small, can help you find presence, peace, and feelings of joy.
Holding Space for Both
Gratitude is not simply positive thinking, as positive thinking without acknowledging difficulty can be detrimental to overall emotional wellness. The intention of gratitude is not to only see what is “good” in life, but to hold space for both what you are grateful for and for the struggles and pain you are navigating.
Gratitude Doesn’t Have to Look a Certain Way
There is no right or wrong thing to be grateful for and no right or wrong way to practice gratitude. Gratitude could be as simple as appreciating someone’s kindness toward you when you have had a challenging day, the fact your pet loves you unconditionally, or the meals you had today that nourished you and give you energy.
Gratitude could also look like writing down what you are grateful for in a journal, speaking it out loud before you go to bed, or simply acknowledging your gratitude for something in the moment through reflection. There is not a magical number of things to be grateful for—it is important to meet yourself where you are when starting a practice of being grateful, especially when you are struggling.
“I Am Grateful Because”
It is one thing to acknowledge what you are grateful for, and quite another more powerful thing to reflect on the reason behind it. This may sound like, “I am grateful for a bed to sleep on at night because it allows me to be supported and holds me as I rest.” Mulling over your “because” can allow you to experience gratitude beyond just naming what you are grateful for.
Although it can be difficult to identify what you are grateful for in moments of struggling, it is an important practice to cultivate as you unlearn cognitive distortions that can lead to increased levels of anxiety and depression. By holding space for both pain and pleasure, bringing awareness to what you appreciate about life no matter how small, and examining why you are grateful for something, you can experience greater feelings of presence and joy even through the struggle.
Gratitude is a practice that can help decrease anxiety and depression. When you experience mental illness, it can be easy to only see the negatives in life. Gratitude allows you to identify what you do appreciate in your life without minimizing your struggles. At Avalon Malibu, we are here to support you in finding inner peace, and practicing gratitude can be beneficial in this. We can help you shift the mental and behavioral patterns that are holding you back. Call Avalon Malibu at (844) 857-5992.