It's the time of year when this word carries both expectation and pressure: gratefulness.
Have you ever been in a season where you're not necessarily ungrateful but you don't spend a whole lot of your day paying attention to things you are grateful for?
This is where I find myself a lot, and especially as Thanksgiving is tomorrow, it forces my view onto choosing things to be grateful for while I'm sitting with family and friends.
Recently however, my eyes have been opened to the power that gratefulness has against the fight with anxiety and even depression. I've struggled with my own mental health (one of the reasons I became a counselor to begin with) since I was about 10 years old and have heard the age old saying "focus on what you're grateful for" so many times.
And honestly, I got bitter towards the thought of gratitude. It just felt empty to me. So many things were draining my mental capacity and people wanted me to be grateful? It felt like a hollow attempt at happiness.
Then I had a baby and started practicing enjoying all the little moments with her and gratitude started being part of that grounding in the moment. This is what changed my perspective on gratitude: it's not that the difficulties stop being difficult, but they finally had something to balance them out.
I was finding that it grew more and more difficult to feel overwhelmed by anxiety when I was genuinely so grateful that my daughter smiled for the first time. I found that I couldn't keep the future hopeless when I started thinking about her first gymnastics meet because she brilliantly decided it was time to roll over.
This was a little bit of a happy accident in my life that I now bring to my clients.
Does it fix everything? Not in the slightest. But does it make things a little less heavy? Yes. Does it give me a different perspective than anxiety, worry and panic? Absolutely.
Sometimes with anxiety, it's what we choose to focus on. It doesn't mean difficulty goes away but being grateful for the way the sun hits the wall, the way your pet cuddles next to you, the way the sales line up perfectly with your shopping list, these are all little ways to challenge the thought that anxiety brings of constant "what ifs".
Happy Thanksgiving to you all!
Please Note: If you or a loved one is experiencing a mental health emergency, call 911 or go to your nearest hospital for emergency services or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.