I struggle with depression. Most of the time I’m high functioning – I get up, take care of my family, go to work, create, and I do enjoy life. Sometimes though the gray descends and I don’t want to get out of bed. I used to be much worse, I used to feel like life was always gray and nothing would ever change that. Some things would help – people who cared enough to see past my continual down-ness, throwing myself into projects and activities so much I would be able to ignore the clouds right outside. Depression for me is a black hole of nothingness and apathy.
I know I’m not alone and I know that I don’t have it as bad as other people. I’ve never been formally diagnosed, or treated medically for depression. Honestly, I probably would classify my depression as mild, with it getting more medium-to-severe on rare occasions.
And in the past couple years? It hasn’t been much of a problem. Until this year.
There was something specific I implemented in my life three years ago that helped drastically. Betcha can’t guess what it is…
I took the 30-Day Thankfulness Challenge on Facebook during November in 2014 and was surprised at how much of the gray had dissolved by the end of the month. So I decided to be thankful for a whole year. Not on Facebook, just by myself. I bought myself a pack of note cards, a box to keep them in, and every day I wrote down what I was thankful for that day. It was slightly cumbersome. I ran out of note cards and space. But I could tell a difference in my mood and my behavior – I wasn’t nearly as depressed.
In September 2015 I was discouraged, wondering why I was bothering with being thankful. Then we got this book in at the library:
I checked it out and I was fascinated by it. She too had spent a year being grateful, but instead of just writing down what she was thankful for each day she spent time studying the effects of being thankful. She consulted scientists, psychologists, therapists, and other professionals about how being grateful helps us. Here was the backup and encouragement I needed – the reasons why being grateful works and encouragement to not give up. I finished 2015 strong.
I had bought a beautiful journal many years ago with no real idea of what to write in it – I’m not much of a journaler. But finally, I had something beautiful to write in it that would match the beauty of the cover. That journal lasted for all of 2016 and 2017. I was faithful – every night, no matter how tired I was I would write what I was thankful for each day. Sometimes, if my nephew was spending the night at my house, he’d be thankful too 🙂
I even gave a presentation about being thankful to a club I’m a part of and it was very well received – I felt on top of the world.
But this year I stopped being grateful. I had run out of space in my beautiful journal and while my wonderful fiance had bought me a new one and it is very nice, it wasn’t quite the same. For the first time in years I started going to bed without being grateful. I’d try, every once in a while but then I’d get behind again and I’m the sort that has to catch up on something – I’m not going to let there be skipped days in my journal. Eventually I fell so far behind that I pretty much gave up.
I’ve been surprised at how fast the depression has come back. There have been days where if I didn’t have an external reason to drag myself out of bed, I’d just stay there. My interest in projects and activities was next to nil, and it’s contributed to the postponement of my wedding. I didn’t realize how bad it was getting though until my fiance insisted we do devotions together a few evenings ago. He read 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to me: “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In those words I was convicted of how ungrateful I was being and how much I need to be grateful. I’ve been working on it – I have a bit to catch up on – but it’s coming. And I’m starting to feel better.
Do you keep a gratitude journal? How has being grateful helped you? Need encouragement to be grateful? Check out Janice Kaplan’s book The Gratitude Diaries! And please encourage me to keep being grateful – be my accountability partner? Ask me “have you been thankful today?” I’d be happy to do the same for you 🙂
Full disclosure: clicking the picture or links above will take you to the Amazon page for the book where you can read more reviews and purchase the book if you’d like. I receive a percentage of the sale, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to pay more for the book than you normally would. It just helps me out. Thanks!