“The root of joy is gratefulness.”
As we navigate through life, we come to places that, frankly, stink. Whether it’s situational or an actual clinic depression, sometimes the darkness can feel like a force of nature that literally pulls us down and incapacitates our ability to “think” our way out.
A very wise friend told me that the measure for a mindful existence isn’t that you are at peace all the time. (Whew!) A mindful existence means that you are experiencing all kinds of emotions and consciously choosing to come back again and again to the place of faith, trust and truth through gratitude.
That’s why it’s called a practice. We practice the art of experiencing our sadness, our fears, our worries and then building the muscles of faith, trust and truth that can be leaned into to help alleviate our suffering.
But how do we do it? When depression strikes it often feels impossible to move forward, or to “just be grateful.” Those ideas can seem like a slap in the face. And then, you can be thrown into a cycle of shame. Not only am I sad, but I should get over it, so I feel bad for feeling bad, and around we go.
Curiosity is the key. Being curious requires very little energy. It just asks that we be open and think a little bit. The following list of questions is a place to start. You don’t have to be strong or brave to access gratitude – which will help shift your sadness. All you have to be is curious. So ask yourself:
-What about my surroundings am I grateful for?
(engage your senses here to get out of your head – smells, sights, sounds, tastes, touch)
-What have I learned from past challenges?
(what was it that got your through something similar in the past? and be reassured – you have lived through this before)
-What insights have I gained that I am grateful for?
(what wisdom is already in my tool box about myself or others? sometimes just remembering a truth can shift emotions)
-What is my greatest strength?
(what is it about yourself that you love and admire? this cannot be taken from you and exists despite outside circumstances)
-Who do I appreciate?
(who has been there for you or who makes you laugh so hard your stomach hurts? who do you look up to? who do you cherish? who inspires you?)
-What relationships am I thankful for?
(a relationship between two people has a life and a feeling all it’s own. which ones are meaningful to you? which ones can you lean into just the idea of – like an old friend who knows you so well that you always just pick up where you left off kind of relationship? Breathe into the wonder of that.)
-How can I say thank you more?
(offering up our own gratitude can shift energy as well – say thank you to anyone for any reason you see fit! a man at the grocery store said, “thank you for your smile!” to me the other day and it made both our days!)
-Where can I help people more?
(if you are up to it, do one kind thing to help someone out today; hold the door, pick up something that was dropped, pay for someone’s coffee in line behind you. you will be amazed by what kind of shift this can bring)
Working with your own gratitude on a regular basis can help you run the marathon of emotions that we call life. Like a marathon, we train before we run. We condition ourselves (through daily practice) to turn to gratitude, to build up our gratitude muscle so that those kinds of thoughts are at our fingertips when the darkness comes a calling.
Overcoming depression, fear and worry is hard. Be patient with yourself and know that this too shall pass.
May the longtime sun shine upon you. All love surround you.
And the pure light within you, shine your way home.
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