Gratitude thoughts

I’ve started something new in my journal. Instead of prayers or thoughts that are complaints, I’m ending those entries with thankfulness. And the more complaining in my writing, the more gratitude thoughts I need to record!

Some recent entries:

I’m thankful for my husband. He is an amazing man, and incredibly helpful and encouraging to me, no matter whether I’m hiking out of a waterfall valley or crawling across the floor with back pain. I adore and admire him, way more than 31 years ago when we first fell in love.

There’s a beautiful goldfinch who lands in the tree outside our living room window every morning. He is bright yellow, and sings a cheerful tune as he calls to his mate and then flies away. Gold finches are one of my favorite songbirds, especially for their haphazard flight path, chirping all the while. I didn’t have them nearby in FL, so it’s a delight to hear and see them again.

I love ice packs. And carbon-activated heat pads. And ibuprofen.

My cat Annabelle brings wonderful companionship, especially when she curls up at my feet for her morning nap.

I’m thankful for technology – for Instagram and Facebook and texting and FaceTime and cell phones.

And for family and friends around the world who use such technology to keep our relationships strong.

I’m glad for slow-paced mornings. I love my two cups of coffee, and my quiet time with Jesus. I like the devotionals on my Kindle and in my phone, and the prayer app that helps me stay focused.

I’m grateful that God is omnipresent, which means He’s with my kids even though I’m not. He comforts me when I’m missing them, and reminds me that He loves them even more than I do.

Practicing gratitude – a very good discipline, and a great way to combat negative thinking.

How am I doing with what I’m supposed to be doing? part two

As I mentioned before, there are things that I can do, even with depression, to help ease its symptoms. If I’m in remission, those tasks are much easier to carry out. Here are some more thoughts on the steps, and how I do (or don’t do) them with depression in remission versus when it’s full-blown.

  1. It’s important not to isolate myself – to keep up social interaction and positive supportive relationships. This is near to impossible when I’m in the middle of a depressive episode, since all I want to do is be alone, preferably in the dark with the covers pulled over my head. I’ve learned to lean on the folks who know about my struggles, and admit to these friends that I’m having a tough time. They know what to say and when, and how to gently push me to reach out or when to leave me alone.
  2. If I’ve learned anything in my years in and out of depression, I’ve learned the importance of making space in my day, and not pushing myself too hard. It’s critical that I reduce my stress, make my to-do list shorter, and pace myself. I am already my harshest critic (that comes naturally to me, and is amplified with depression) and it’s easy to beat myself up about the things I should do that I don’t get done. But I’m learning to cut myself some slack, practice some relaxation techniques, and even nap if I need to.
  3. A piece that is very important to fighting depression is adopting an “attitude of gratitude.” It’s been proven in studies that folks who practice daily gratitude, perhaps writing things to be thankful for in a journal, have reduced depression and anxiety. It’s impossible to thank God for blessings and be anxious at the same time! Gratefulness also combats negative thinking, which is a huge issue for me when I’m depressed. I ruminate, mull, dwell and judge myself very harshly, and the negative thinking spirals quickly downward. But if I can stop myself, take the negative thoughts captive to Christ (from 2 Corinthians 10:5), and focus on His blessings right now, living in the moment with gratitude, I can slow the negative thinking and self-condemning thoughts before they get too far gone.
  4. I’m told repeatedly by my therapists and doctors to do the things that I used to enjoy, even though depression means that I don’t want to do anything. This is actually a diagnosing symptom of depression – not wanting to do things that used to be enjoyable. Other ways to combat this inertia are to reach out to others – recognize someone else’s need and offer help, maybe even volunteer in a serving capacity. I’ve found it true – thinking about someone else takes my mind off myself, and I can be distracted from depressive thoughts as I try to meet someone else’s needs.
  5. Maintaining an active faith life is critical in my fight against depression. I have to regularly remind myself that Jesus knows and understands how I feel, and He loves me completely, unconditionally, anyway. I’m not always able to concentrate well enough to read my Bible, so I have several other tools that help. I have a couple of books that are simply Bible verses to read “when you feel … (sad, anxious, depressed, lonely, etc.).” I listen to a lot of praise and worship music, and even have made some playlists appropriate for my moods. Lastly, the Holy Spirit will bring Bible verses to mind that I have read or memorized over the years. I may not be able to find and read them from the Bible, though, so this is a reminder to me to hide God’s Word in my heart (Psalm 119:11) – I never know when I might need it!
  6. It’s important to continue to take my medications as prescribed, and to avoid alcohol (a depressant). There’s really only been one time when I really wanted to quit taking my medicine – I think I felt like it was all useless (that’s the depression talking). It’s important, too, to follow my treatment plan and meet with my doctor and therapist – they will encourage me to keep taking these steps. It’s important to have their help to stay on track.
  7. Finally, I need to really listen to myself, and have those closest to me help me identify if I need immediate help. If I feel like hurting myself, if my mood worsens quickly, if I descend and can’t get back up, I need to get professional help. My therapist has been great to be available when I need help quickly – I am grateful for her!

So, that’s a lot to do to keep healthy – a total of 10 steps to take when including the top three from my earlier post (sleep, healthy diet, exercise). And it’s a lot to be intentional about, so it is helpful to form these habits when I’m in good mental health, so they aren’t completely impossible when I’m fighting a depressive episode.

What are some steps that you take to fight depression? What advice do you have to others who struggle?

 

 

 

Day after Thanksgiving Gratitude

Thanksgiving Day 2015 was the first major holiday in 23+ years where the celebration was just me and my hubby. And it was a wonderful day.

Of course, I missed my kids and my extended family. And I am grateful beyond words for safe travels for my children as they drove to spend the day with a wonderful friend – she just took them in and added them to her holiday chaos and family and fun.  It was good to Facetime with the kiddos, but it will be better to see them in person in just a few weeks!

Yesterday morning I woke to the kitten’s antics – as always. Even when she has food, she seems to think that I only need 7 hours of sleep, so she starts our morning warm-up with nuzzles and purring and climbing on me and kneading her little claws into the back of my leg. I want to let my husband sleep in, so ok, I’m up!

I spent some quiet time with God, read through emails and blog posts and Facebook, had coffee, journaled a little. Our morning was pretty lazy – I read, blogged, knitted. We went to the pool and hung out for a bit. After having the pool area closed all summer, it’s so nice to have it open again, and to be able to relax in this place. I can’t believe this is in my neighborhood and not at some secluded spa!

lap and spa pool
lap and spa pools

I don’t write this to brag – it’s just that I love living in Florida – the warm weather and sunny skies bring me such pleasure! I get in the pool, the sun warming me, and lay back and look at fluffy clouds and palm trees in my periphery. Ahh! I feel so peaceful and content.

When we got hungry, we came back home and made a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal. Surf and Turf with Key Lime Pie for dessert – couldn’t get less typical for us.

Surf and Turf Thanksgiving 2015

    Surf and Turf Thanksgiving 2015

We’ll save the ham and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole and pumpkin and apple pies for Christmas – it will be good to share family tradition with the kids again.  Maybe they’ll let us add the key lime pie to our holiday dinner routine!

We enjoyed the rest of the day outside on the lanai (back screened patio) and watched a TV series until bedtime. Overall, a very nice day.

I thank God for family. For my husband. For my children. For friends far (most of them) and near (a few new ones). For good food. For sunny and warm skies. For my physical and mental health. For mental health help – my therapists, my psychiatrists. For writing and blogging and for blogging friends. For freedom to worship God without fear of persecution. For devotionals and journals and nice pens. For my computer. For my kitten. For beach towels and pool noodles. For my home. For life.