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Gratitude

A friend of mine takes time at the end of every Sunday to write down three to five things she's grateful for, based on these tips for keeping a gratitude journal. Then she mails them to her friends as part of an ongoing thread. For her, it's part of building a habit of seeing the world through a grateful lens; for me, it's a lovely reminder, every single week. I asked her if she minded if I stole her idea months ago, but I've never quite managed to get it together to do it. I think I'm a bit scared of asking my friends if they want to receive it - but, of course, that shouldn't stop me from writing it.

I used to see phrases like "gratitude practice" and roll my eyes automatically. It somehow seems like the most Californian thing ever: why do you need to practice to be grateful? But after a few really hard years, I see why making gratitude a habit is important - in itself, but also as a good foundation for mental health. I now see my eye rolls as immature reactions in a world where mental healthcare is not as highly valued as it should be.

I don't think I'll continue to post updates in this forum, but since we're here: these are some things I've been grateful for over the last week.

1: Reconnections. I was in New York City last week, and although I never get to see everyone I want to, and I was considerably less organized than I wish I'd been, I got to hang out with a lot of old friends. Most of them reached out to me, because it was a work trip and I didn't quite have it together to reach out to them. All of them are people I wish I could be around all the time, but one symptom of my anxiety is that I worry about imposing my presence on other people. That these people who I care about thought of me, and that I got to spend time with them, made me incredibly happy.

2: Family. My sister is currently disabled and in chronic pain, and needed to leave both her job and her home a while back. My parents are suffering ill health. I feel priviliged to be able to give my sister somewhere to live (and spend most days with her); equally, to be able to drive up and see my parents regularly. I'm also just grateful for who they are: empathetic, compassionate people who care very deeply about fairness and very little about individual gain. If I can be more like them, I'll be a better person.

3: Reading time. The arbitrary goal I set myself to read a book a week this year has been one of the nicest things I've ever done for myself. So far, they've universally been books on paper: time away from the screen,  notifications, and distractions. It feels like meditation, and I've learned so much. I had convinced myself that reading long-form pieces on the internet was a similar experience, but it is not.

4: Working at the office. The experience of actually being in the same room and time zone as people I work with was completely lovely. It's a whole different energy. I've learned over time that being around people energizes me, and these are smart, kind people. I'm grateful to know them.

5: Up and to the right. I've been depressed, in the true sense of that word, and it feels like there's finally light at the end of the tunnel. In particular, I feel like I have a lot more energy: even when I'm tired, it feels like there's a fire inside me that I thought had gone out for good. I still have a lot of work to do to rid myself of the negative self-talk and low self-esteem I've built up over years, but broadly, I feel like a different person. I was living with a layer of despair that informed how I thought about myself, and how I thought about the world. The sediment had built up over years, and I feel like I'm shaking it off. The world feels possibility-driven again.