“I never thought I’d need to see someone like YOU,” is something I hear from time to time. They don’t expect to ever talk to a “shrink” and they swear they’re not “crazy” but alas, they have a hard time reconciling how they ended up on my couch.
People often seem perplexed and disappointed that, by their description, they’ve arrived at such a point of desperation that they need to consult with a professional. They were confident they could “handle it” on their own and couldn’t understand what went wrong. Yet only here, in our self-proclaimed progressive society, do we see the reliance on others as a shameful act. So for those who don’t necessarily believe in the power of counseling, it has taken a lot for them to pull together their courage and strip away their pride to see me.
Yet, as I’ve come to learn, listening is an art and gift that has healed over the ages and across many cultures. From etchings of hieroglyphics and those who interpreted them, to pastors’ laying of hands, curanderos’ use of herbs and natural elements, and the sweating out of emotional toxins in temazcals, there has always been some form of storytelling and intentional listening.
The art of listening is not an unusual or foreign practice, and in fact, the beauty of finding healing through someone’s readiness to carefully hold each of our wounds and tend to them, is in our very nature.
Thanksgiving, in all its irony, is the one day of the year we dedicate to being thankful. Imagine how profoundly the world might change if we lived out every day as though it were Thanksgiving. It would counter our insecurities, our focus on what we don’t have or who we want to be. Imagine that.
One of the fundamental problems with depression is that it causes a person to see the negative aspect of a situation rather than recognizing the positive, which is why gratefulness is a powerful weapon. The key however, requires being very intentional in finding the goodness of life because, as most of us can agree, things can get really rough sometimes.
There are multiple benefits to having a perspective of gratitude, both emotional and physical. According to Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis, gratitude blocks us from experiencing toxic emotions because it is very difficult to feel gratefulness and let’s say, anger or envy, at the same time. Gratitude also decreases cortisol in the body, which is a hormone produced during times of stress.
We can all use help in feeling more grateful at times, and one method is writing down one thing you’re grateful for each day. And of course you can list more than one thing, because after all, there is a lot to be grateful for. Depression isn’t always straightforward and it may take more than a thankful outlook to alleviate symptoms. Seek counseling and psychiatry services if you think your depressive symptoms are getting worse. Ultimately though, gratefulness surely doesn’t hurt.
Go to UC Davis for more information on the benefits of gratefulness and tips on maintaining a grateful perspective.