One of the anecdotes for anxiety and depression is gratitude. As humans we have a variety of life experiences; joys and hurts. We chase the dream (illusion) of being happy 100% of the time; especially since we live in a world where marketing experts create the impression that we will obtain happiness in their product. Instead, the reality of many is the experience of anxiety and depression (inherently, in part, a result of those same marketing schemes).
Gratitude does not take away the experience of hardship, however, it allows us to have a more holistic, integrated perspective as opposed to being trapped in a “negative filter” – a world view of only considering what is wrong. When we are consumed by these negative images and thoughts, we suffer.
Don’t get me wrong, being oblivious to a concern that we need to attend to can also cause suffering. For example, consider someone who has the experience of chronic pain. When the body signals pain, the intention is to get our attention. Perhaps we need to slow down, discontinue repetitive movements, or go and see our health care provider to investigate the problem. Completely ignoring the pain signal may result in further injury to our body worsening our situation.
Being overly focused can be damaging in a different way. A hypersensitivity to pain can cause us to immobilize and shut down. The focus becomes what we cannot do; self-worth and confidence can decline due to interpretations: “I am not contributing enough”, “I’m broken”, “I have no value”, “I am a failure”. A solution is to acknowledge the pain, and then shift your focus to capabilities rather than limitations. “Even though I have this pain, I am able to enjoy spending time with my family.”
Rather than remain stuck in whatever your problem area is (chronic pain, money, relationship, work, loss, ________) consider something that provides gratitude. The mental shift that occurs is profound. When you fill the space with gratitude there is less room for sorrow or anxiety. Acknowledge the problem area and then orient to gratitude. “Even though ___________, I am grateful for family, our home, living in Nova Scotia, my ability to make choices, a career I love, caring friends, learning, experiences that allow personal growth.”
Global gratitude is helpful; such as, “I am thankful for my home”. However, contemplating the seemingly smaller things in life provides us the details that matter, because these are the things that really do matter! “I am grateful for my cup of coffee in the morning, the warm embrace of my daughter, the kiss from my husband, watching the eagle fly by, having an engaging conversation with a friend, the look of realization/insight/relief on a client’s face, the warmth of my comforter as I crawl into bed.”
To make room for contentment and peace of mind, I encourage daily practice of gratitude – both routine and random moments of gratitude!