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Practicing Gratitude For Mental Health

Let me start off by saying that I know practicing gratitude is nothing new, and perhaps for many of you it's something you already do, have been doing for a long time and have seen and reaped the benefits. This post is to share my experience of the practice, in the hope that it may help others who may have been going through a similar thing.

As a back story, towards the end of last year it became increasingly obvious to myself and those close to me that I needed help with my mental health. I had been dipping in an out of depression with bouts of anxiety for a while and when I say in and out, when I was in I was just crying but for what felt like no reason at all. I was struggling to find joy in my life even though I knew I had so much to be thankful for. Nothing particularly bad had happened to me, although I guess covid kicked most of our butts in more ways than one, and the constant pressure to try and keep things going maybe got to me more than I realised. When I was out I just felt numb but functioning. Needless to say I did go to the doctor and I did get the help I needed, and for me it was certainly the right thing to do.

I decided things needed to change and I desperately wanted to flip my outlook to be more positive and grateful and to really feel it, not just think it. Let's face it, I am super privileged to have everything I have and there is no reason for me not to live a joyful life. That doesn't mean we're not allowed to feel shit from time to time, it's all relevant, but just knowing and thinking I was grateful was not enough. I had heard of gratitude journalling and I thought I would give it a go.

Just before New Years day I took the plunge and ordered The Five Minute Journal. I say 'took the plunge' because they're not cheap really and yes, I could have bought a standard note book to journal in, but for me I wanted this practice to feel special, to become a ritual and to find meaning in it, and therefore the consumer in me felt it was worth investing in a beautiful journal that would help guide me through this new practice. It also has beautiful inspirational quotes on each page with a weekly challenge which seemed like extra motivation.

And so I began, I kept the journal on my bedside table and first thing when I woke up I would write down 3 things I was grateful for, 3 things that would make the day ahead great, and an affirmation for that day. It starts off quite easily and hopefully many of us have many things to be grateful for. I'm not going to list them here because I'm aware that some people may not have the things that I am grateful for and also have easily taken for granted in the past.

But what happens after the first week or so, is that you realise you already wrote down all of the obvious things you are grateful for (the ones you think about but don't feel) and you need to start to dig a little bit deeper, and when you dig a little bit deeper (and sometimes I really struggled and still do!) you start to realise that there is always something to be grateful for and it starts to bring your awareness to the small details. The things we miss, and trust me, that is where the magic is. We are often so distracted by everything going on in our daily lives that we forget to realise how magical we are, how magical the world is. And when we practice gratitude for the small details, we begin to realise we already have a lot of what we need to find true joy in our lives. Yes there will be days when something big happens, something you've been dreaming about and you write that down and celebrate it, but mostly it's the small things.

At the end of the day before bed, you write down 3 highlights of your day and 1 thing you learned that day. This is a chance to make a record of those little things that made us smile but that we can forget about easily. Whenever I am feeling low all I need to do is look back at these entries, and not only do they serve as reminders, but also that tomorrow is another day and another chance to think of something I'm grateful for, something that makes me feel good, and to cherish every moment that I'm alive on this planet.

I have been writing in my gratitude journal every morning and evening now since the beginning of the year, and I am honestly surprised that I've managed to take it this far, as I'm into my 5th month now. I really do think it is something I will continue to do as it has made such a huge difference to my daily outlook, and all it takes is 5 minutes out of your day.

I would love to know if any of you have a daily gratitude practice and what your experience was. Also if you tried it and it made no difference whatsoever! Please do share in the comments below.

I would also like to say that if you really are struggling mentally, sometimes these practices just aren't enough and it can really help to go and see a doctor to start talking things through.

Sending love and gratitude to everyone who has come here to read this! xxx

PS. If you haven't tried gratitude journaling give it a try and come back to let me know how you get on!!

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