Mental Illness and Gratitude

Major Depressive Disorder is a B*tch sometimes.  It obscures your mind and your thoughts.  It wrings your ideas and twists your views.  One of the things that it did to me, and that it does to many others with the illness, is to twist my views to the point of absolute hopelessness and bleakness.  This is when the suicidal thoughts tend to come.  But I am not going to talk about suicide today.  I will talk about that some other day.  I am going to talk about gratitude.  And how “an attitude of gratitude” has helped me with my depression.

I am not going to pretend that it has been an easy road to get to that point of being grateful again.  Or that it is easy to just one day wake up and decide to be grateful.  It has taken me 8 years to get to a point in which gratitude is a part of my life.
But it all starts with the small things that we CAN do, even in the darkest moments.  It is hard, but we can all take a moment to appreciate one thing that we appreciate, or used to appreciate, at least.  And we can do this every day.  Or at least every time we remember to do it.
It is much easier to talk about it in retrospective, like right now.  I have connected with my spiritual side, and I believe this makes it easier, but you don’t have to believe in a higher power or a God to be grateful for, say, a friend who called you, even if you didn’t take the call.  Or a smile from a stranger, even if you grumped away.
You can start really small, with a small notebook you keep by your bedside, and start writing on it, whenever you remember.  Then, when you are feeling better, you can start creating more structure around it, and make it a daily or nightly thing.  It won’t always be easy to come up with things to be grateful for, but making the honest effort daily is what counts.
If you need a reminder, you can set a reminder in your calendar on your smartphone.  Or you can get an app, such as Thanks Diary or Azasu.  Just search the Google Play Store or the iTunes app store for a gratitude journal, and you should be able to come up with apps that help.
I recommend you do this on a day that you are feeling better, so that you are familiar with the app on days you’re not doing so great, so you can continue the habit-forming practice.
I personally started with the paper notebook, and eventually moved to Thanks Diary on my Android phone.
Why gratitude?  Because it helps you focus on the positive, and to stay away from the bleak.