As someone who has struggled with feelings of depression when I was younger, I know firsthand how difficult it can be to find joy and appreciation in life when you're feeling that way. It can be so overwhelming. But because of this, I also know firsthand that practicing gratitude can be an incredibly powerful tool for helping to combat the feeling of depression. Not only can it help with the feeling of depression, but it can greatly improve mental health overall!
HOW GRATITUDE CAN HELP WITH DEPRESSION
Gratitude can help shift our focus from negative thoughts and emotions to more positive ones. When we're feeling depressed, it's easy to get stuck in a cycle of negative thinking like focusing on our problems and shortcomings and dwelling on the things that are going wrong in our lives. However, when we practice gratitude, we're instead intentionally focusing on the things that are going well which can help break this cycle of negative thinking and give us a much-needed boost of joy or positivity.
One helpful practice is to start a gratitude journal where you write down things you're thankful for each day in the morning or evening. These could be big things, like your health or your family, or small things, like a delicious meal you ate or a beautiful sunset you got to experience. All that matters is that you really focus on the why and are specific as possible! By taking a few minutes each day to reflect on the good things in your life, you can start to build a more positive mindset and see the world in a different, more positive light.
INCREASED SENSE OF JOY AND CONTENTMENT
Not only can gratitude help us to focus on the positive, but gratitude can also improve our overall well-being. Research has shown that people who practice gratitude are more likely to experience positive emotions like happiness, contentment, and joy. These positive emotions can be especially helpful when we're feeling depressed, as they can provide a much-needed mood boost and help us to feel more optimistic about the future.
Another powerful thing to try is expressing gratitude towards others by thanking them for their kindness, support, or really anything you appreciate about them. Whether it's a simple "thank you" or a heartfelt note of appreciation, expressing gratitude towards others can help to strengthen our relationships and improve our overall sense of well-being.
Another way that gratitude can help with depression is by increasing our sense of social connection. When we're feeling depressed, it's easy to withdraw from social activities and relationships. But expressing gratitude towards others can help us to feel more connected and supported, which can be an important source of comfort and support when we're struggling.
You can reach out to a friend or family member and thank them for their support and friendship. You could also try volunteering or doing acts of kindness for others, because these activities can help to foster a sense of connection and purpose.
MORE POSITIVE OUTLOOK ON LIFE
Finally, gratitude can help us to develop a more positive outlook on life. When we're feeling depressed, it's easy to see the negative aspects of our lives and to believe that things will never get better and get lost in a sense of hopelessness. But practicing gratitude can help us to see the good in our lives and feel more hopeful about the future.
A different lens of a gratitude practice could be to write down three things you're looking forward to each day and things that excite you. These could be big things, like a vacation or a career goal, or small things, like a movie night or a coffee date with a friend. By focusing on the positive things that are coming up, you can start to develop a more positive outlook on life and feel more motivated and capable of facing the challenges that come your way.
Since we are talking about some actionable tips, I want to give you a list of 10 ways that gratitude can be used to help with depression. These are all things you can actually practice and take action on. Number 6 is my personal favorite...
10 WAYS TO USE GRATITUDE TO HELP WITH DEPRESSION
Keep a gratitude journal: Write down three things you're thankful for each day. These can be big things, like your health or your loved ones, or small things, like a beautiful sunset or a delicious meal. This can help to shift your focus from negative thoughts and emotions to positive ones.
Express gratitude towards others: Thank someone for their kindness, support, or simply for being there for you. This can help to strengthen your relationship with them and improve your overall sense of well-being.
Practice mindfulness: Pay attention to the present moment and focus on the things you're grateful for in your life. This can help you to appreciate the good things that are happening right now, rather than dwelling on negative thoughts and emotions.
Perform a random act of kindness for someone: Helping others can make you feel more connected and purposeful, which can be an important source of support when you're feeling down.
Reflect on the things you're looking forward to: Write down three things you're looking forward to each day. This can help you to develop a more positive outlook on life and feel more motivated and capable of facing challenges.
Practice self-compassion and give yourself grace: Be kind and understanding towards yourself, especially when you're feeling down. Remind yourself that it's okay to feel negative emotions and that you are worthy of love and care.
Seek support from others: Talk to a trusted friend or family member about your feelings, or consider seeking help from a mental health professional.
Take care of yourself: Make time for self-care activities like exercise, getting enough sleep, and eating well. These can help to improve your physical and emotional well-being.
Find meaning and purpose: Consider what gives your life meaning and purpose, and try to focus on these things when you're feeling down. This could be a hobby, a cause you believe in, or a sense of accomplishment at work or in your personal life.
Seek out positive experiences: Seek out activities and experiences that bring you joy and make you feel good about yourself. This could be spending time with loved ones, taking up a new hobby, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature.
Gratitude can be such a powerful tool for helping with depression. By shifting our focus from negative thoughts and emotions to positive ones, improving our overall well-being, increasing our sense of social connection, and developing a more positive outlook on life, gratitude can help us to feel more hopeful and resilient in the face of challenges.
If you're struggling with depression, consider incorporating gratitude into your daily routine. Whether it's through journaling, expressing appreciation towards others, or focusing on the things you're looking forward to, practicing gratitude can help to lift your mood and improve your overall well-being. Remember, it may not be a quick or easy fix, but it's a powerful tool that can make a real difference in your life.
Also, if you or someone you know is struggling with depression, you are not alone and help is available. The Suicide and Crisis Hotline can be reached at 988.