Cognitive behavioral interventions are some of the most common, and most effective, tools we use to teach clients to manage their depressive symptoms. Addressing mistaken beliefs, meditation and deep breathing exercises, and replacing negative scripts help clients to feel more hopeful, gain perspective and a sense of control and competency. But one of the most powerful practices I’ve ever recommended is also deceptively simple: a gratitude journal.
Counting Your Blessings
My first introduction to the concept of a gratitude list was in Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book, Simple Abundance. She suggests recording three to five events or moments each day to “retrain” ourselves to see the grace and beauty in everyday life. News of tragedies, natural disasters, crimes and catastrophic illness flood our awareness through television, newspapers, social media outlets. We can easily become accustomed to expecting the worst, or even numbing to the pain we see around us. But taking a few moments at the end of each day to record positive moments can help lift the veil of pessimism. I suggest clients notice their “unremarkable” good fortune–finding the closest parking spot during a rainstorm, the gurgling baby ahead in the grocery line, the smell of fresh laundry, the feel of a new pair of socks. By focusing on the spots of sunlight in the everyday, we realize that gratitude is a daily choice, that our blessings surround us in boundless ways. We would all be overjoyed to win the lottery or survive a car accident. But the smallest moments are constant opportunities to notice, to appreciate, to be reminded of just how lucky we really are.