Gratitude is one of the new big buzz words, it helps you sleep, makes you more appreciative of what you have etc. It can improve mood and help reduce anxiety. But how does it work and is it always good?
Now I promise this isn’t bashing gratitude as an idea, or denying the benefits, this is more about pointing out the difference between gratitude and toxic positivity. Gratitude works, gratitude done wrong is toxic, and I could give you many examples of both. First off, let’s discuss gratitude, as it should be done, a bit more closely.
What is gratitude? Well, overall acknowledging what your grateful for is a good way to encourage a more positive mental attitude, we’ve all had those moments where it feels like the whole world is against us. When you’re struggling with your mental health a negative attitude can make it so much harder to recover, yet it is so very hard to feel or be positive when you’re depressed. It feels like everything is going wrong, it feels like no one wants to be around you or you can’t do anything right. A rough morning? The whole day is ruined (its not, it just feels like it), dropped your lunch, shit day etc. Gratitude can slowly turn the tide on those thoughts, thoughts which contribute to the world feeling like a cruel and overwhelming place. A reminder that not everything is crap, after all, and the more you practice it, the more aware of the good things in your life you can become. Below are some posts I found just googling gratitude, and in my eyes, they’re pretty good.
Actually I lied, I can’t find any that I really like, I have lots of positive plaques in my home but most of them are pretty close to toxic and aren’t currently up.
Positive gratitude, that kind of gratitude that actually helps, doesn’t have to be much, name two things from today that you are grateful for. I’m grateful to my husband for bringing me tea in bed, even if he did dribble it on the hallway floor. I’m grateful for my sofa that is full of cushions because my back hurts like hell and I’m able to adjust them to support me. I’m grateful for my mum who text last night, just to ask if I was okay – I didn’t go to the gym with dad because of my back, my parents care and I’m grateful for that. But I’m not going to compare myself at any point to anyone else, because that kind of gratitude isn’t good.
So how does gratitude and toxic positivity come together? Well I was able to find plenty of examples of that, the most common being the comparison to others, “I’m grateful for my home because others have less”, “I’m grateful for my health, others aren’t as lucky etc.” And it reeks of guilt tripping, not gratitude, ” you shouldn’t have mental health problems because you’re better off than some others”. It’s an unhealthy way to look at the world, even generally speaking, comparing ourselves to others has never been a good idea. When you’re trying to get healthy, compare yourself to where you’ve come from, not the person next to you. When you’re expressing gratitude, be grateful for the things you have, no matter how small, be grateful for that cup of tea first thing before everyone else woke up. But, remember there is a difference between learning to be grateful for what we have, and being made to feel that all you have means you shouldn’t be depressed or anxious, that’s not how gratitude is meant to work. Don’t focus on comparison, because you can compare yourself to the person who has less, but you’ll end up comparing yourself to the person who has more too and that will undo your hard work.
Start small, I mean really small. Be grateful for one thing from today, express gratitude for that one thing before you head to bed.