Count Your Blessings to Avoid Depression

Depression is one of the most insidious and common mental disorders in America today. It can be just a passing phase that we go through, or sometimes it can linger for years and years.

Depression robs us, not only of the daily joys of living but also of the past joys that we hold in our memories. If you feel that depression is ruining your life, or feel like there’s no hope for a brighter future, you should immediately seek professional help. If you’re not at that point but would like to feel happier on a daily basis, there are simple steps you can take right away. That old adage to count your blessings can get you on the right track.

Depression can Hide Positive Events

A study conducted by Ohio State University researchers and published in the March issues of The Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry showed that people with depression have difficulty recalling positive experiences and tend to focus on negative events. While that sounds like plain old common sense and perhaps even the very definition of depression, let’s take a deeper look.

This outlook where a person recalls only negative things happening every given day would certainly act as a reinforcement to existing depression. One might feel as though nothing good is happening to them, every day is as bad as the one before with no end in sight.

Is Perception Reality?

The problem, though, lies in the perception of daily events and not in the events themselves. Certainly, bad things happen to everybody from time to time, and everyone can have a bad day. Good things happen to everyone as well. There are rarely days when there isn’t a list of positive occurrences in which the average person can find joy. What we need to do then, is find time to reinforce those positive events in our minds rather than always focusing on negative thoughts.

Joy is Habit Forming

Because of the way our brains are constantly rewiring themselves in response to our actions, learnings, and emotions, our feelings can be habit-forming. In other words, the more we think about events that depress us, the easier it becomes to fall into a depressed mood, and the harder it becomes to escape that cycle. We need to force ourselves to build positive mental pathways. Finding joy in our daily lives is also habit-forming.

Count Your Blessings

A simple exercise can begin to get us on track. Often, the thoughts that run through our minds just before we fall asleep at night can stay with us in our dreams or set the tone for our moods when we wake up in the morning. Try this little experiment: Each night, for 30 days, as you lie down to go to sleep, make a list of all the positive things that happened during the day. They can be as simple or as momentous as you like. This pillow is really soft and comfortable.

The sunset was beautiful this evening, I can’t wait to see the next one. My morning coffee was just the right temperature. My children gave me a big hug before going off to school this morning. My wife is beautiful when she smiles. It’s one day closer to spring and spring flowers. And so on. Just mentally count your blessings, and think about the particular joy that each item in your list brings.

Count Your Blessings all Day Long

The next day, make mental notes as you go through the day, actively looking for things to add to your list that night. The sky is a beautiful blue today, I can count that among today’s blessings. Literally, take a moment to stop and smell the roses or find other little moments of joy throughout your day. Make an effort to be in the moment and experience each bit of happiness that comes your way each day. Make feeling joy every single day into a habit.

This isn’t a magical cure for clinical depression, for that you really need to seek out professional help, but it can change your outlook on life. Instead of being chained and held back by the negative things that happen in everyone’s life every day, you may find yourself racing past the bad things in anticipation of finding that next item to add to your nightly list.

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