Self-Care Sunday: Gratitude
Here’s the first in a little series on self-care. Whether you have PTSD or not, self-care is important.
Let’s start by thinking about the flight attendant’s safety message that we hear just before each flight takes off. While we don’t always listen closely, they tell you something critically important: they tell you to secure your own mask before helping others. Well, the same idea applies to taking care of yourself on a regular basis. It’s impossible for your best self to show up in any aspect of your life if you don’t take care of yourself first.
It can be difficult, however, to make the time for self-care. Our days and weeks get filled with so many “things” that even taking a few moments just for yourself seems impossible and even self-indulgent. So you feel depleted, spent, and end up running on fumes.
To help keep self-care topmost in your mind, I will cover different aspects of this topic each Sunday. Each post will be research-based and designed to have a positive effect on your mental health. Together, we can take better care of ourselves and incorporate little things to improve our wellbeing.
We will kick off this series by talking about gratitude. Gratitude has more benefits that I could ever list in one place. It has been researched and shown to be helpful in every aspect of our lives, at home, at work, with our physical health, and in our relationships. If you’re dealing with PTSD and/or depression, your brain is going to be even more prone than usual to focus on the negative. And let’s be honest: that sucks.
Here’s my challenge for you! Get a notebook and keep it by your bed. Don’t have a notebook? Start a list in your phone. Whatever works! I call this a “gratitude journal,” but if that sounds too foo-foo, call it whatever you’d like! I worked with an ex-marine who thought “gratitude journal” was too lame so he called it: “Shit I’m Thankful For,” which is perfect! Whatever you call it- this will be a central location to start jotting down things you are grateful for.
Each morning or each night, spend some time writing down at least three things that you’re thankful for. These can be big or little things, and can be in the form of writing a paragraph or writing a list. Oh yeah, since winning the lottery doesn’t happen that often, try to find gratitude in little things. Try your best to come up with different things each day. Some days this will be easier than others, but don’t skip the difficult days. Those are the days it’ll take a little more brain power to start writing, but those are also the days that this exercise will benefit you the most. You’ll be giving your brain a workout and you’ll be creating new connections in your brain to help you see positive aspects in your life more clearly! (Yes, really!) I compare this to physical exercise in that the more you practice a certain exercise, like push-ups, the easier that it gets over time. Same with practicing gratitude.
Gratitude is a game changer. This little practice alone is shown to improve mood, decrease (and protect against) depression, and have lasting positive effects. See what effects this has on your life after just a week, two weeks, a month, and so on. I can’t wait to hear what happens for you!
The cool thing about keeping all of this is one place? If you have an extra bad day, you can look through your past entries and reflect on all you have to be thankful for over time. Let me know below what you are thankful for today, and how you practice gratitude in your life! Oh yeah, and let me know what you title your notebook ;).
Today I’m thankful for: the smell of summertime, my favorite season; my youngest, who may drive me nuts, but is the cutest thing; finding (and eating) the last Hershey chocolate bar. Oh yeah, and Tom Petty playing on Pandora right now.