Countless studies have shown how practicing gratitude can lead to a better life. Gratitude improves mood, fosters optimism, strengthens social bonds and leads to physical health. Oprah Winfrey has been quoted saying, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have you will never have enough.” Gratitude can be accessed at any moment of your life and can be a useful skill for reaching the present moment. As humans, we all desire happiness, and a grateful heart is vital to achieving it. Happiness doesn’t lead to gratefulness, but gratitude leads to happiness. Zig Zigler calls gratitude “the healthiest of all human emotion.”
Living with a mental health challenge can make it tricky to express gratitude; however, gratitude is a key component in coping with this challenge and recovery. In my journey with schizoaffective disorder, I often felt that having this diagnosis and symptoms was some kind of curse. About three years ago, I was admitted to a hospital for yet another battle with psychosis. For about a month or so, I lay in the hospital bed in a deep depression and wondered if I would ever get back to being myself — one who saw the light at the end of the tunnel.
Then one day it struck me: Instead of being buried in my worries and feeling sad and alone, I could examine what I had that was positive in my life. I challenged myself to write a hundred things I was grateful for. I started going around to the hospital staff,”asking them for their names and informing each person to put them on my gratitude list. I started doing this 100item list every day, and suddenly my crippling depression started going away. Hope started rising. Then one magical day,” I felt the doom and gloom disappear, and I was locked into the present moment. I felt my brain open up, and for about three weeks, I went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.”Gratitude put me on the right track. And although I still struggle with symptoms,gratitude has grounded me and given me a continual appreciation for my life, despite the struggle with my organic brain disorder.
Now I continue to practice gratitude every day. Although I don’t have a hundred things to be grateful for each day, I search my mind for thirty things I’m grateful for before I go to sleep each night. Gratitude helps me recognize that even if I had a very trying day, I can take solace knowing I’m alive, safe, have a wonderful family and friends, and there still were some highlights of the day. I now hand write notes of appreciation to my family and friends, which gives them — and me — a very warm feeling and sense of connection.
Looking back at my 20-plus years battling with schizoaffective disorder, I can think of tons of people to be grateful for. Let’s face it; no one goes into the psychology field for financial rewards. I thank all the counselors who taught me great coping skills and the hospital workers who provided a clean, safe and positive atmosphere for growth. People in the field often get overlooked, but their jobs save lives and nurture people living with issues. The words “thank you” are embedded in my brain, and I use them generously every day.
THANK YOU GRATITUDE
Gratitude, I gratefully grab your hand; you helped me see the lay of the land.
Gratitude, you put my life into perspective, allowing me to be overly objective.
Thank you for my experiences that I label good or bad; I remember you even when I’m sad.
I’m thankful for every breath I take; I’m thankful for the day when I awake.
I love you with all my heart; no matter where I am you give me a fresh start.
I wish I could pass you to everyone who does not see what you mean to me.
If ever should I lose you, bite my tongue and take me back to where I began.
Gratitude, I humbly hear your call. I may stumble, but with you I shall not fall.
Douglas Meron is a 45 year old man who lives with a mental health challenge, a poet, and a survivor. He is currently doing volunteer work for the Brooks Theater in Oceanside, CA and is a monthly writer for the Crestwood Crossroads. He lives in gratitude and teaches a class on gratitude.