Updated: Nov 7, 2021
My turning point came in 2018 when I was prescribed medication for what my doctor termed “chronic depression”.
Around six months earlier I had left an abusive relationship. I had never dealt with anything of that magnitude before, and I was struggling.
The diagnosis itself was not surprising, but at that point it became a tangible obstacle. I was determined to overcome it.
The practice of gratitude was a recurring theme in almost every self-help book I read, backed by mountains of scientific research. I decided to attempt gratitude journaling. Each morning, I committed to visualising and writing down three blessings in my life.
As time passed, my outlook on life – and my life – slowly began to transform. This is what I discovered.
1. I learned my personal values…again
The loss of my identity was one of the deepest after-effects of the turbulent situation I had been in. I felt like I no longer knew who I was or what I valued.
As I listed my blessings each day, I started to notice recurring themes. I was thankful for my family, for sunsets, for coffee, for my job. Over time, the things I had always loved and valued in my life began to reveal themselves.
My self-belief began to grow. I realised, once again, that I was an individual with value and purpose.
2. I learned how to be present
Post-trauma anxiety left me feeling like I was constantly in ‘fight’ mode; always anticipating something bad happening.
Journaling taught me how to focus, even for just five minutes a day.
Eventually, I noticed that during stressful situations, I was able to regulate my emotions more effectively by bringing my attention to the present moment.
Psychotherapy researchers Y. Joel Wong et al observed that, “when you write about how grateful you are to others and how much other people have blessed your life, it might become considerably harder for you to ruminate on your negative experiences.” Consciously recognising the blessings in my life helped me to appreciate the magnitude of the present moment.
3. I became a better person for others
I discovered that when I journaled, I felt overwhelmed with abundance.
I needed to pass this on to others! I started saying thank you, at any opportunity. I complimented strangers. I called my mum more often. I volunteered.
I became less inwardly focused and more focused on who I was outwardly in the world. When I started counting my blessings, I wanted to give back to the universe.
Healing of any kind is really like a puzzle. While it looks like one big mess to begin with, every piece has a role to play in the final design. I truly believe that if you start with the piece that is gratitude, everything else will fall into place.
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