It happens to all of us.
Life hands us not only lemons, but also some grapefruit, sour apples and throws in a little salt to top it off. It's easy to get stuck feeling overwhelmed and bitter.
But research has shown that there are simple yet powerful ways to help decrease feelings of depression and anxiety that you can tap into everyday, and the nice thing is they are closer than you think.
Believe it or not, Anne of Green Gables was onto something when she said, "I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." Gratitude is a powerful tool for decreasing your stress and negative thoughts. Taking a moment to identify one positive event each day is not simply the advice of a well-meaning adolescent. Research has proven that simply slowing down long enough to savor an enjoyable moment reminds us that our situation is not all gloomy. Noticing the seemingly small joys that you inevitably encounter each day will improve your satisfaction in life.
If you are feeling really stuck, take a more purposeful and strategic route by starting a gratitude journal. This physical record can be used whenever you are feeling particularly down. You can look back and remind yourself of the positive things you have in your life: a favorite bookstore, a lovely road that you drive down each day, a reliable car or a kind friend.
Are the small joys eluding you? Don't worry. My favorite thing about gratitude is our own ability to create it for other people. The idea of paying it forward is such a powerful one. When you notice that things in your own life seem to be too much for you to handle, consider doing something nice for someone else. These acts also help you to slow down and refocus your thoughts to something positive and emotionally fulfilling. The positive effects not only give the recipient of your kindness something to be grateful for, but the act also benefits you by interrupting your negative thoughts.
So, do yourself (and someone else) a favor by noticing the small, sweet details of your life today. And then take a moment to do the same tomorrow. With practice, this powerful practice will improve your life.
Lisa Williams, LCSW is a social worker at Magnolia Wellness in St. Francisville, Louisiana who loves helping folks finding ways to increase joy in their lives.