The Importance of Thankfulness


I’ve talked before about Three Things. This was an idea I first heard about from Lauren at My Postpartum Voice when she was helping me through a very bad patch at the beginning of my PND journey back in 2013 (thank you, Lauren!). Since then it’s become a staple tool in managing my anxiety, depression and, frankly, life in general.

Here’s the drill. Each morning you write down three things you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant. When you’re in a particularly bad way it’s a struggle to find anything. But please persevere if you can, it helps. When I felt particularly low I took it down to the bare bones – “I am grateful for my physical health.” “I am grateful to have a roof over my head.” “I am grateful for clean drinking water.” You get the idea, very basic but important things because your anxious mind won’t let you find anything else to be thankful for.

Similarly, each evening before bed you write down three good things that happened that day. Again they can be very small if they need to be. Even on my worst days I managed to find something. Even if I had to fake it.

As I got stronger, the things I wrote down became less about basic needs and more about moments I actually enjoyed. Importantly, they became about my son – when he smiled at me, when he laughed at Baby Massage, when he ate a carrot for the first time. This was a real turning point for me as when I was in the grip of PND nothing my poor baby did could really lift me, and, sadly, mostly just fuelled my irrational terror.

The American holiday of Thanksgiving is just around the corner. I’m not American so the real meaning of the day is not particularly relevant to me, however I adore the idea of thankfulness and having an entire day dedicated to that very thing. It’s so hard to be thankful when you are depressed. I spent so long in a pit of self pity and negativity. Why has this happened to me? Why can’t I be a normal mother? I was bitter and guilty and angry and I’d be lying if I pretended I didn’t still feel those things sometimes, but after a long time I’ve realised that none of those emotions are helpful, none of them can change the facts and, more importantly, dwelling on those emotions never makes me feel any better.

Being grateful and thankful can be much more challenging paths to take, especially for a lifelong pessimist like me, but ultimately enveloping yourself in those more positive emotions simply improves your mood – short term and long term. At first, it feels like you’re faking it. You’re telling yourself you’ll be better but your much louder, negative voice is just laughing at you. But if you repeat something over and over, if you immerse yourself in hope, eventually it starts to win.

There is so much debate about what causes depression and anxiety. I’m not going to pretend for one moment that anyone can talk their way out of those conditions simply with positive thinking alone – medication, therapy and lifestyle changes go a long, long way – but I do believe that being actively negative does impact recovery. Choosing to be more positive, although so bloody difficult, can go a long way to getting and staying well in my personal experience.

This Thanksgiving I am thankful for so much. Way too much to bore you with here but I have a long list at home and my son, husband and family are right at the top. Blogging is really high up there too truth be told!

I still write down my daily Three Things when I remember (and when I’m not passed out on the couch from the exhaustion of spending the day with a two-year-old!). It helps to reinforce the newer, positive emotions that aren’t part of my old default setting. I think it’s a great tool for anyone, depression or not.

What are you thankful for? And what awesome/pleasant/comforting things have happened today? I’d love you to share in the comments.

To my lovely American friends, and to everyone else, Happy Thanksgiving.

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35 comments on “The Importance of Thankfulness

  1. I agree with you. I suffer depression, but at the heart of me, the real me, I am a glass half full person. And I try to hold onto that even when things are not too good. I too like writing down things that have made me happy every day. That is the basis of my happy diaries posts and linky.

    1. It is a great tool, isn’t it? I’m naturally quite glass-half-empty but I’ve slowly changed and I take that as one of the great positives of experiencing depression. Thanks for commenting 🙂

  2. That’s some really good advice. I suffered from PND in 2007 and it’s just little things like this that can make a difference and make you realise that you have things to be happy about 🙂 #maternitymondays

  3. This is a lovely idea. I might just take it up…Leave a little book by my bedside…Might have to just do it at night though, because at 5 am a screaming baby doesn’t always make me feel too thankful. Then again – maybe that’s a reason to do it!! x #fartglitter

  4. Such a great idea. When you get stuck on negative thought spirals it can be tough to break. This sounds like a really healthy thought process to get into to combat that. Will give it a whirl- thanks!
    Thanks for linking up to #fartglitter x

  5. What a great idea writing down what you’re grateful for especially when you’re feeling so low, I think it’s a great way to help us remember the positives in our lives too! This is definitely something I would like to do especially on those hard days.xx #KCACOLS

  6. I have done this for a few periods in my life too. It definitely helps with your mindset. I wish I had stuck at it permanently but I just found the drive vanished once life went back to normal. Positivity is not always easy but it can be a massive turning point if you manage to incorporate it into your daily life #magicmoments

    1. Yes, I totally agree. It’s really hard to find the energy to do it when you feel generally happy. I definitely don’t do it every day like I used to but even the occasional time keeps me on track I find. Thanks so much for reading and commenting x

  7. I feel very lucky not to have had depression. I know it’s not something that people choose to have or not but I can see how focussing on positive things can help. Today I’ve had a keeping in touch day at work. I’m grateful to have such lovely work colleagues who made the day away from my kids fun. I’m was also grateful to come home for baby cuddles 🙂 #KCACOLS

  8. What a brilliant post. Everyone should feel thankful especially after the horrible things that happen in the world. I moan far too much and this is a great Reminder that we all have things, no matter how small, that we should be thankful for every day. Thank you so much for linking up #maternitymondays

  9. Some great advice! It’s important to reflect and put everything into perspective each morning through 3 things which you are grateful for. My mummy needs to do more of this! Each night she prays and is thankful then and that helps. It’s hard sometimes to not get consumed in negativity. Chin-up xxx

  10. Lovely post! I definitely agree with you that we need to be more thankful, and I love how you related it to therapy in helping you through PND. A couple of years ago I started a journal which said 365 things we are grateful for, and every day I would write one thing, sometimes stick a receipt and write “reduced food” or “sales” or a love note from someone. I think gratitude makes our hearts open and makes us appreciative of the small things in life, it makes me more content with my life and not always wanting for more!! x #bestandworst

  11. What a wonderful idea! I’ve never suffered from depression (thankfully) but I do like the thought of making a thankful list. So glad you’re now feeling better and able to enjoy your beautiful baby. Thank you so much for linking up to #SundayStars xxx

  12. Oh I love this post! So positive and upbeat and you do have such a good attitude and determination to be happy, despite all the tough times you have been through. I know exactly what you mean; when you feel low the best thing is to be thankful. It can really push your through. Thanks for sharing with #bestandworst and see you soon xx

  13. What a great advice!! I agree with you that thinking positive definitely help you to keep going. We all for some reason tend to get caught in the middle of negative thoughts but just simple things, part of our ordinary live such a have a walk in the fresh air or having a moment with your kids reading a book, etc those little moments can also lift your spirit. Being grateful of the basic things is really important. Thanks for sharing this great post at #KCACOLS. I’m so happy to have you here for the first time. I hope you like the linky and that you have found new blogs and great posts to read! 🙂 xx

  14. My family had a long, cold, stressful winter this year as we tried to work out how to live on one income after baby’s arrival. There were some days I just couldn’t see past my worries but I decided to record the best bits of each day in a bullet point list and it helped a lot, it encouraged me to look for the little highlights. Then things improved and I dropped the habit, but your post is a good reminder to me of how important gratitude is. Time to make a habit of it again, I think 🙂

  15. Lovely post and absolutely love the idea of writing down 3 things to be thankful for each day – we can get so caught up with the negative sometimes that we forget to see the positives. I’m going to start going this from now. Thanks so much for linking up to #coolmumclub lovely xx

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