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.