It’s my birthday tomorrow and I’ll be 29 years old. I have a lot of mixed feelings about my birthday but every year, I try to do some sort of birthday-ish post to mark the occasion. It’s usually something like, “what I’ve learned this last year” or a bucket list for the coming year but this year, the most relevant thing I could think to write about was gratitude.
Gratitude is an almighty powerful thing to have in your toolbox. It can help lift your spirits, get you out of a funk and even make those days where you feel dragged down by depression that little bit lighter.
I’m not saying it’s some sort of miracle cure, like if you start practicing gratitude then your depression will be cured forever – yay. But from my own experience, it’s a wonderful thing to practice, build on and implement into your days. And yes, it does make things seem that little brighter.
Over the last 18 months in particular, gratitude is a practice I’ve been leaning on heavily. Which I think is probably the case for a lot of people. And on the approach to my birthday this year, I felt like I needed to lean in a little more to that practice than usual.
Birthdays are weird. I don’t particularly like them and the fact that I’m 29 tomorrow is making me feel increasingly uncomfortable. So what else is there to do than try and take my mind off it and pretend it isn’t happening, right?
Related read: How I’d Celebrate My Birthday If Money Was No Object
Before I talk about some of the things I’ve been particularly grateful for recently, here are some fun and easy ways that YOU can introduce a gratitude practice into your every day!
Identify them when you’re going about your day
To express gratitude, you don’t even have to DO anything if you don’t want to. That’s the beauty of it – it’s the easiest practice in the world. Taking time to practice being present and mindful in your every day life will open up your mind to noticing those small things you’re grateful for, whilst in the midst of them.
Say them out loud in the morning or evening
Another super duper simple thing to do is just say them out loud. If you have a God or a spiritual practice, then you might want to say them directly to your higher power. Or say them to yourself in the mirror. Or say them to your boyfriend. Just shout them out into the world!
Write down 3 things you’re grateful for every night
If shouting them out isn’t your thing, that’s fine too. Simply writing them down is just as effective. I try and stick to writing 3 things down every evening – but if you have more, then go for more. There’s no limit on how much you can be grateful for each day.
Create a gratitude jar
This is a fun idea if you want to get a little more creative with expressing gratitude. You can get mega creative in designing your jar and even the paper that you write on. Write down a couple of gratitudes every day and pop them in your jar, then at the end of the week, month or year, you can look back on them all!
Or this is also a great idea for when you feel down or low. Having that gratitude jar handy can allow you to just pluck one out when you need a little reminder of all the good and magical things in your life.
Incorporate them into your daily rituals
Whether you prefer to say them or write them, incorporating them into your daily routines and rituals is a great way to ensure you do the practice every day and keep it up, in order to get the benefits from it. Perhaps add it into your morning or evening routine. Or if you have a special spiritual practice, make some time within that.
Meditate on them
This is a really powerful way to express gratitude and I love doing this once a week, usually during my Sunday night routine. If you’re doing a quiet meditation (to no sound or relaxing music), spend a few minutes at the start going over what you’re grateful for in your head and really tuning in to the feelings of them.
Now because it’s my birthday tomorrow, I wanted to share some things that I’m particularly grateful for at the moment. I feel like birthdays are a great time to reflect on things like this and not only that, it might make my birthday induced depression a little better.
The Walking Dead
Arguably a bit of a weird one to start with but I’m really into TV series and a good show can really help my mental health by allowing me to get lost in another world for a while. I’m currently watching The Walking Dead and that’s definitely doing it for me at the moment. I have watched it before but only got to season 4, so no spoilers please!
I mean, anyone with a dog will understand this one. My dog makes me feel better every single day. When I’m sad, giving him a little stroke and a pet can lift my spirits. He makes me laugh on days where I want to do anything but laugh and he’s just the best. I love him so much and I’m so grateful he’s been in my life for 11 years.
The NHS & Being Vaccinated
I’m super grateful for being vaccinated (well, right now I’m only half vaccinated but I’ll be fully vaccinated by next week – yay!) and for the NHS. I’ve had to have some repeat cervical screenings over the last few years for HPV and I’m grateful for the amazing free service they provide us to help save our lives. As well as all the work they’ve done over the course of the pandemic. I don’t know how we can thank them enough.
I started journaling again this year in around April when I was going through a particularly dark bout of depression and it really helped me get my thoughts and feelings in order. I’ve been keeping it up since and journaling as and when I need to and it’s become a wonderful coping mechanism for me when I need it.
Family (even those not related by blood)
I’ve come to learn the importance of family even more over the last year and I’m grateful for the people in my life that I can call family, even my boyfriend’s family who have welcomed me in with open arms. Spending quality time with family is going to be a huge thing for me going forward.