Practicing gratitude when it’s hard to be grateful

Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness for someone or something in your life. However, what if you just don’t feel grateful? When you’re wrestling with mental health challenges, relationship problems, or other stressors, it can be difficult to find something for which to be thankful. It’s in difficult times like these, though, that cultivating gratitude is more important than ever.

Gratitude doesn’t always start with a feeling. It’s also not even a thought, at least not initially. Gratitude is a neutral observation that comes with a sense of openness to possibilities. Begin to notice things about yourself and your world in new ways. When your mind gravitates to the negative, gently shift it to more positive thoughts.  By simply noticing the good, the practice of gratitude is begun.  
Gratitude is empowering because it’s a choice. Shifting your focus is a choice you make, and in practicing this, you’re honing a skill. Gratitude is the ability to purposefully shift your attention to the positive. 

Clear mental and physical clutter to improve mental health

Clearing clutter in your mind as well as in your environment helps you feel and function better. Cleaning up inside and out will reduce the chaos in your head, energize you, relax you, and reduce anxiety and stress. Those living with these mental disorders can also benefit from decluttering and organising.

​Try these approaches to make it easier:

  • Start small, working in one room or one part of the room.
  • Plan what you want and the steps you need to take.
  • Use color-coded totes to group similar items.
  • Play music for enjoyment.
  • Take breaks. Set a reminder timer if needed.
  • Ask for help or companionship.
  • Reward yourself when you complete a task.

Decluttering your environment declutters your mind and positively impacts how you think, feel, and live. It can be a satisfying way to improve your mental health.

Life story

At the beginning of the year some of us reflect on the meaning of our lives. Developing a meaning for our lives contributes to fulfilment. In attempt to help you do this write a story about your life. In the past section of your life story, write about the challenges you have overcome and the personal strengths that allowed you to do so. For the present part of your life story, describe your life and who you are now. How do you differ from your past self? What are your strengths now? What challenges are you facing in the present? And finally in the future section of your life story, write about your ideal future, how you will be different. 

Do Online Mental Health Tests Actually Work?

Facing mental health challenges is confusing. Many websites offer tests to help you sort out your mental health symptoms. They’re often free, confidential, and come with the promise of answers. But do online mental health tests work?

Consider these guidelines:

  • Use a credible source.
  • Analyze your results. Don’t rely on what the test tells you. Instead, write down your symptoms and how they are interfering in your life. Match your list to your test results and see if they line up.
  • Take more than one and compare results for consistency.
  • Limit your test taking. Don’t spend lots of time taking many different tests. Take a few, gather your information, and use it to go forward.

One of the most important things to remember about online mental health tests is that no online test is designed to diagnose. Online tests can help you organize your symptoms and act as a tool for talking to loved ones, doctors, therapists, and more. When used properly, online mental health tests can provide valuable insight that can lead to healing.

The mental health benefits of exercise

Research has shown a close link between exercise and mental health. It has been shown that exercise can help treat and prevent depression, anxiety, substance abuse and so forth. Have an exercise plan that develops from easy to more difficult exercise as you progress. It has been shown that both anaerobic (muscle developing) and aerobic (cardio) exercises are effective in improving mental health. Try to be as active as possible and aim for 30 minutes of exercise three times a week as a minimum and starting point. 

Time management tips

Basic life skills such as time management are often over looked. In certain cases, these skills make a big difference. Poor time management can damage relationships, careers and/or cause unnecessary stress.
Below is a list of tips to help you manage you time more effectively

  • Use a to-do list or an appointment book
  • Prioritize your tasks
  • Break large tasks into smaller pieces
  • Limit distractions
  • Give yourself time between tasks
  • Let yourself be less than perfect. 

Positive Affirmations

As we go through life, we tend to develop unhelpful thinking habits, and think negatively about ourselves and situations. Using positive statements can help develop a new attitude to ourselves and our situations.

Choose a statement from those below, or make one that means more to you, and repeat, repeat, repeat throughout the day, every day, of every week, of every month. You might want to make or print out a card with your affirmation, and carry it with you. For the positive affirmations to work, you must use it whenever you notice you have that negative thought – immediately turn it around by using your affirmation.  Use a statement that starts with “I” and use the present tense. See some of the examples  below

I am strong

I have strength

I am determined and successful

I am a good and worthwhile person

I am a unique and special person

I have inner strength and resources

I am confident and competent 

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

During winter many people are start to become concerned about how they’ll get through the winter months and stay mentally healthy. Do you wonder about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), or seasonal depression, perhaps the points will help you.

Winter gets so long and, well, depressing. Some wonder if they have SAD. It’s common  for people usual in the northern hemisphere to become tired, lethargic, and irritable as winter trudges on. This is what I known as the winter blues which is not the same ‘ as SAD.

The winter pattern of SAD is diagnosed after two consecutive winters of depression symptoms that lessen in the spring, including:

low mood most of the day almost every day

feelings of hopelessness

sleep problems

thoughts of death or suicide

Gratitude journal

Gratitude journals are a popular and effective positive psychology intervention. The goal of a gratitude journal is to increase the focus on positive experiences, which improves well-being.
Keeping a journal of the things you are grateful for, has been shown to have a powerful effect on mental well being. Journaling also helps reduce stress, increase happiness and improve self-esteem.  In order to keep a gratitude journal two times a week write a detailed entry about one thing you are grateful for. Take your time and don’t rush through the process. Remember you can write an entry more than twice a week.