Thankfulness as an Antidote to Depression and Anxiety

There are always things to be thankful for if you're looking. Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are always things to be thankful for if you’re looking.
Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m reading an incredible book right now.  It’s called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  The book is fairly auto-biographical, but only for a period of the author’s life.  She starts out by explaining how regret, sadness and bitterness pervade her life.  More or less, she’s probably struggling with depression and some anxiety.  She looks back at past events that really hurt her family growing up, and continues to have fears caused by those events.

 

I think if we’re not very conscious to control these types of thoughts, they can affect all of us.  There are always things to look back on that we should have done differently.  I must have thousands of those types of choices.  I’ve spent a good part of the last few days wishing I could redo last Friday, actually.

 

Anyhow, One Thousand Gifts goes on to share how this woman works through her depression and anxious moods.  There are a few lessons to take from her, which I will go over in the next paragraph, but first let me tell you the basis of what she does to move on from her past.  She leans hard into her Christian faith, and recognizes one of the main tenants of Christianity is to be thankful IN all things (not FOR all things).  This means finding something to be grateful for no matter what.  She begins a list of 1000 little joys that surround her.  The list has the smallest things, like how incredible the different colors are in soap bubbles, or how beautiful the sound is when her children play together.  These things are so easy to overlook unless you’re paying attention; she finds she has been overlooking them for years.

 

The lessons from her story are as follows.  First of all, while not all of you reading this are Christian, all of you probably believe in something.  Learn hard into it when you’re suffering.  Your faith is an amazing way to cope with stress, depression and anxiety.  It might not solve it for you, but you also have to work at it.  You can’t just vaguely believe in something, and then never read about it, pray, and give it time.  If you would do all these things, you will start to see immense benefits.

 

The other huge lesson from Voskamp’s story is that thankfulness is really the opposite of depression and anxiety.  Actively looking for the small things in life that are beautiful, enjoyable, funny, loving, etc. leads to less time worrying and regretting.  There simply isn’t room in your mind to do both.  This isn’t to trivialize a legitimate depressive disorder, or anxiety disorder, because often those are much deeper than just your attitude.  However, for a lot of people, simply changing your focus can have a major impact on your moods.

 

Now for a personal note: I don’t struggle much with depressed moods.  I do however struggle with anxiety.  I worry a lot about the future, and it’s a battle to keep these thoughts at bay.  I am finding Voskamp’s techniques to be really helpful in my own life.  I am trying to be more active in my faith, and I am looking for tiny things to enjoy.  So far, it really seems to be working!  My hope is that it will help you and your teens too.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

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