Creating a Gratitude Practice

Reading time | 3 mins

What are you grateful for?

For many years, I wrote in a journal and took photographs every day. These activities helped me to regularly reflect and be thankful.

My gratitude journal became an integral part of my toolkit. It helped me to notice that I need to work to counteract negative rumination due to depression and anxiety. Pausing to feel grateful helps pull me out of the negative loops where I sometimes get stuck.

A gratitude practice isn’t a cure. It isn’t always easy. It’s just another tool to manage symptoms of depression with the help of mental health professionals.

I know others have found a gratitude practice helpful. That’s why I reached out to ask The One Project community about what gratitude means to them and how they integrate it in their lives. Here are their stories:

My photography lights up my dark days

“Photos are my expression of gratitude, even though I sometimes don’t realize it. When I look at my photos, I sense warmth and reality. They represent my life, my experiences, and a deep love and inner peace in myself.

The photographs I take nearly every day remind me of the good side of life, especially when depression hits unexpectedly. I light up my dark days with pictures of the bright days. They show that there’s always something to look forward to.

You don't need to aim for a great and enviable life. Small things, like a sunset or a ladybug or a flower, can soothe your mind and soul. Be aware of it. Capture it.”

— Kali Mahavidya

Being grateful does not mean everything’s OK

“I’ve been through a lot. Living with a mental illness can be exhausting. I thought that being grateful was the same as saying things were OK when they were far from it.

I’ve learned that gratitude does not mean everything is OK. It allows me for a very brief moment to step away from my life.

At first it was hard for me to find things to be grateful for. The more I practiced, the more I found. I now practice a gratitude reflection throughout my day.

I sometimes think about the small things, like my morning cup of tea, the sun’s warmth on my face, or dew drops on a spider’s web. Sometimes I think about the bigger things, like my family and friends.

Being in the moment is like a brain break or a micro-vacation. It allows me to step out of my head during difficult times to see a view of the world that I hadn’t noticed before. For a few seconds, my brain and body are able to relax and just be.

Gratitude will not cure my illness. It does allow me to refuel by showing me that there is good in this world. That is something I am grateful for.”

— Suzanne Venuta

I try to find beauty in the small things

“Gratitude seems like it should be easy. It never feels like it is. So many things might not be going the way you want. That clouds your ability to genuinely express gratitude. It is often far easier to appreciate an experience or a person in retrospect than it is in the moment.

Perhaps the underrated key to gratitude is finding beauty in chaos. Don’t wait for a picture-perfect moment. Squint your eyes and look patiently. Glimpses of humanity are more complex and riveting due to their flaws.

If we must count our blessings on a difficult day, we can remind ourselves that we’re breathing. We’ve experienced the warmth of the sun on a cold day. We’ve laughed at animals being unknowingly silly. And we’ve been loved.”

— Mariana Montes de Oca

Give yourself credit for being grateful

I’ve been grateful in the past without recognizing it. It’s important to give myself credit. A gratitude practice is much more powerful when I do it with intention and consistency.

No matter how challenging my situation is right now, I have many reasons to be grateful.

Take a photo. Grab a journal. Pause and take a few breaths to experience gratitude. Get a good sleep and repeat.

For more information on how to manage depression, reach out to your doctor or healthcare team. 

NPS-US-NP-00460 AUGUST 2019