"When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself". -- Tecumseh
Are you depressed? Have you got the blues? Are you feeling down?
If so, then you should be thankful. No, I don’t mean be thankful for your depression. I mean that you need to be thankful to get over your funk.
By having an attitude of gratitude, you can start to break your cycle of conditioned thinking and transform the negative energy dynamic that is keeping you down.
So, begin to lose your blues by starting to be thankful.
What Do You Have to Be Grateful For?
Do you see the picture on the right? That is a slum in India. I took that picture when I was doing some work for an NGO a few years back. Be grateful that you don’t live there. Even for the people that lived in the slum, this was the shitty part of the slum. Literally. That is human feces in the foreground. They didn’t have a toilets.
I am guessing that your situation is not as bad as it was for the people who lived in those shacks. Be grateful for that. About a billion people on the Earth live like this. You don’t. You have an internet connection, right? That is how you are reading this, so obviously you are better off.
Did you have a meal today? You can be grateful for that. Millions of people didn’t. Can you walk? Do you have heat in your home? Do you have a home? Did you see the smile on your daughter’s face? Did you smell the flowers blossoming outside the window?
There are many things to be grateful for. But when we are depressed, all we want to see is how bad things are for us.
(Note: I am not talking about people who are in mourning here. The death of a loved one is a very different situation. Of course, you will feel down. That is part of the grieving process. Here is an excellent resource for dealing with grief).
Everybody gets depressed. Some more than others. It sucks. We feel down, as if someone is crushing us under their giant thumb. We don’t feel like doing anything. We don’t want to go out. We want to hide -- under the covers, or locked in the house, or behind a bottle of booze or a box of cookies.
We feel depressed because we are not connected to our spirit. We feel like we are not on our path. We are covered in a cloud of negative energy and we are disempowered. We fall into a cycle of negative feelings fed by negative thoughts. We start playing “poor me” and beat ourselves up. This feeds the downward cycle.
The blues can be overwhelming. But, as with everything else in life, we have a choice. We can choose to stay depressed, or we can do something about it. What I am showing you here today is one step on the path of change.
Change Your "Stinkin’ Thinkin’"
"Stinkin' Thinkin'" is a phrase used in Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. It is used to describe the thought process that leads the alcoholic back to drinking.
Your thoughts create your reality. Your thoughts are energy. And as I talked about earlier, “your chi flow where the mind goes, “ meaning that your life energy is focused on what you are thinking about.
So, if you are thinking about how crappy your life is, then your life is crappy. If you keep thinking about why your life is so crappy -- it's your parents fault, or societies fault, etc -- then you only reinforce the idea that your life is crappy. It may very well be that it is your parents’ and society’s fault -- but that really doesn’t matter, because you have to deal with your situation as it is now.
The past and the future do not exist. Only now exists. You have to deal with the now. If you don’t, your future will be just like your present.
The way to change your now is to change the way that you think. Your beliefs are strangling you. Let go of them. They put you in this situation.
Our minds are largely controlled by conditioned thinking, just like Pavlov’s Dogs. We think habitually. To change the way that we think, we need to break this conditioning, and we need to do it consciously.
Have an Attitude of Gratitude
Gratitude is a great tool for breaking this cycle.
Being thankful is positive. How do you fill in darkness? With light.
So, every time you are in a brooding, depressed state -- indulging in your negative thinking -- say out loud something that you are thankful for.
“I am thankful for this chair I am sitting in.”
And every time you catch yourself with a negative thought, make another statement of gratitude.
“I am thankful for the sun shining outside.”
It is pretty easy. It is kind of like a mantra.
Two things are happening with these gratitude statements. Firstly, you are consciously working to break your conditioned thinking. Secondly, your are sending out positive vibes, instead of negative ones. This helps change your energy dynamic.
You are trying to overcome your subconscious conditioning with conscious action. Your ego will rebel against this. You have to be strong. Just like quitting anything, the first three days can be very challenging, but then you get over the hump and it gets easier.
You still have to stay on your guard. Your mind always wants to go back to those “comfortable” older ways of thinkings. They are like a well worn pair of jeans -- very easy slide back into.
If you are miserable, you always have a choice not to be miserable. People choose to stay in misery because it is easier for them than to take charge of their own lives and make changes.
A Quick List of Things to Be Grateful For
Here is are few things I am grateful for in my life.
- My amazing wife
- My family and friends
- The lunch I had today
- This computer and my fast internet connection
- My ability to communicate with you
- The heat in this room
- This house I live in, on the hill side with a view of a bamboo forest and the incredible city of Kyoto
- The clothes that I am wearing
- That I can walk without pain (I had knee problems last year)
And on and on. My list quite long. I shortened it so you wouldn’t get bored.
- Write out your own Gratitude List. Keep writing. It is longer than you think it will be.
- Every time you catch yourself thinking about how bad life is, or you start beating yourself up, make a Gratitude Statement out loud -- speak it. Since you’ve already written your Gratitude List, you already know what you are thankful for.
Choose to Change
Look again at the photo of the slum at the top of the page. You know what? All of the people in that slum were not depressed. Most of people I met were cheerful, kind and gracious. There were a lot smiles on people's faces. Happiness does not come from the outside; it comes from within. I know lots of miserable rich people.
See this picture on the left. It was taken in the same slum.
That said, the people in the slums have hard lives. They want all of the same things you do: love, happiness, respect and dignity. They want a good future for themselves and their families, but they have several disadvantages. You have many blessings having been born the way that you were born. Take advantage of those blessings. Don’t waste them.
Everyone has difficult times in their lives. The important thing is how that you respond to the challenges in your life. Do you roll over and die, or do you rise up and become stronger?
It is your choice. You always have a choice. Are you brave enough to choose it?
You Don’t Have to Walk Your Path Alone
Gratitude statements are just one tool for changing your life. There are many others. Of course, one blog post is not going to solve all of your problems. The path of meaningful life change is a series of baby steps. One step at a time. Soon, all of these steps add up.
Or find a person or group to work with near your home. Taking the first step by asking for help can be scary, but not making changes is scarier.
A Comedian's Take on Ingratitude
Before your go, have a look at this video of the American comedian Louis C.K. He is talking about people not being grateful for what they have. He is a bit harsh with the names he calls people, but that is his style of humor. Sorry about the Russian subtitles. This was the best version I could find of this video.