The Ultimate Guide To Practicing Gratitude When You Have Depression

Danny Baker

24 min read

Hi there, my friend!

My name's Danny Baker - I'm the co-founder of The Depression Project - and in case you don't know, from 2008-2012 I struggled with life-threatening bouts of depression that led to alcoholism, drug abuse, medicine-induced psychosis, multiple hospitalisations, and I was suicidal on more days than I'll ever remember.

However, for the last 10 years I've been happy, healthy and loving my life 🙂

And, one of the things that played a big, big role in helping me conquer my depression was gratitude.

Why?

Because gratitude gave me the positive attitude I needed to be able to navigate my way through the darkness, and find the light at the end of the tunnel.

Or, put another way, having gratitude really helped me to “look on the bright side”, and therefore overcome so many negative thoughts and experiences that could’ve otherwise kept me perpetually trapped in depression.

It did this not by invalidating, dismissing or ignoring my pain, but by helping me find the “positive” or the “silver lining” amongst it.

In this way, for instance:

  • It helped me turn the negative perspective “I’m so unlucky – my doctor gave me terrible advice which made my depression so much worse” into: “I’m really lucky to have found my new doctor who’s really been helping me”.

  • Another example: it helped me turn the negative perspective “it’s so unfair how _______ really hurt and betrayed me – I feel so miserable” into: “I’m really fortunate that _______ is now out of my life; that my awful experience with them has taught me a LOT about relationships; and that moving forwards, I’ll be able to use this newfound wisdom and experience to have much healthier, happier relationships in the future”.

  • A third example: it helped me turn the negative perspective “I have so many problems – my life is so bad” into: “if I can just overcome my problems, then my life will be really good”.

And, not only did gratitude help me conquer my depression, but in the ten-years-and-counting that I’ve been 100% depression-free, it’s helped prevent me from relapsing back into depression as well!

This is because gratitude not only continued to help me overcome negative perspectives, but also because anytime something painful happened that may’ve otherwise plunged me back into depression – like my ex-girlfriend calling to say we didn’t have any “spark or chemistry” and ending our relationship a few days after saying she wanted to marry me – I was once again able to stay positive; look on the bright side; and therefore learn from the situation, heal from it, and move on (the following year, I met a wonderful woman who I’m now privileged to be married to!).

And, not only did having gratitude help prevent me from relapsing back into depression over the last ten-plus years, but throughout that time, it’s also been one of the biggest reasons why I’ve been more happy than I ever thought I could be!

This is because gratitude leads to:

  • Feelings of pleasure, joy and contentment – since your mind is focusing on everything you have in your life, as opposed to focusing on the things you don’t have (the latter of which leads to feelings of jealousy, dissatisfaction and misery).

  • Gratitude leads to improved marriages, friendships and every other kind of relationship as well – since it fosters appreciation for others, and as a result, it prevents you from taking people for granted.

  • Gratitude builds empathy and promotes generosity – since when you truly appreciate how fortunate you are and don’t take it for granted, you’re much more likely to try and use your blessings to help other people. This flow-on effect of gratitude has made me a much better person, and been my motivation for co-founding The Depression Project with my brother Mathew.

  • Like I’ve said, gratitude cultivates positive thinking and increases feelings of optimism – which makes it easier for you to navigate your way through difficult and challenging situations (including depression).

  • For all of the above reasons, gratitude leads to a reduction in stress and frustration, and often results in improved sleep as well as higher energy levels.

I hope that by now, my friend, you are sold on the benefits of gratitude, and that you can see how it can play an important role in helping you overcome depression and build a life that’s filled with joy, positivity and happiness.

And, with that goal in mind, I've put together this Ultimate Guide To Practicing Gratitude When You Have Depression - to share with you how I was able to cultivate so much gratitude, and teach you some ways that you can do the same!

As you can probably tell by now, this is a topic that I'm super passionate about - so I really can't wait to jump into everything with you!

The Ultimate Guide To Practicing Gratitude When You Have Depression

Part 1: Why I Always Felt Full Of Gratitude (Even When I Had Depression)

Here's the thing, my friend: there are a lot of different exercises you can do to feel more grateful - and in this guide, I'm going to share many of these exercises with you.

However, after thinking about it, I realised that even before doing lots of exercises to enhance how grateful I feel, the reason why I’ve always been so full of gratitude is because I’ve never felt as if the world OWES me anything.

This mindset, core belief or whatever else you want to call it is in my opinion the most important ingredient to living a life that’s rich with gratitude – because when you don’t believe the world owes you anything, you naturally view everything you have as a gift, and as a result, you truly appreciate-, value- and cherish everything you have.

On the other hand, when you feel as if you’re owed or entitled to things – such as a job, money, relationships, a house, food, a comfortable lifestyle, happiness or anything else – then one of two things happens:

  1. If you have whatever you feel you are owed or entitled to, then you’re unlikely to appreciate it.

  2. If you don’t have something you feel you are owed or entitled to, then you’re likely to feel upset about not having it, as well as jealous and resentful of the people who do.

To see how these differing belief structures strongly influence how much gratitude you have – and therefore your life satisfaction, your relationships and your mental health – let’s consider the example of food, water, shelter and safety.

Now, because I’ve always felt that the world doesn’t owe me anything, I’ve always viewed food, water, shelter and safety as a privilege that I’m very fortunate to have. For this reason, I’ve always been highly appreciative of each of these things, and never, ever taken them for granted.

And, as a result of this gratitude, it has meant that:

Firstly, while I was struggling with depression, then even though I had a lot of problems and I felt really miserable, I never, ever considered myself unlucky – because I knew that in spite of my depression and my problems, I’d still been blessed with so many things that a lot of other people in the world don’t have.

Consequently, I was able to remain much more positive than I otherwise would’ve been – and like I've been saying, this positivity played a big role in helping me overcome my depression.

Secondly, even now that I’ve recovered from depression, having gratitude for the fact that I have food, water, shelter and safety has a very positive impact on my life.

This is because, for example, every time I’m about to eat something, I take a moment to be thankful for my meal, and to acknowledge how fortunate I am to be able to eat it – which makes me feel positive emotions like uplifted, lucky and blessed.

Similarly, before I go to sleep, I take a moment to acknowledge how fortunate I am to be able to do so in a warm, comfortable bed – which once again, makes me feel uplifted, lucky and blessed.

Additionally, I also feel the same way when I’m walking safely down the street to go to the grocery store, for instance.

And, being continuously flooded with positive emotions like so significantly contributes to me feeling very happy and healthy on a day-to-day basis 🙂

On the other hand, my friend, everything would be very, very different if rather than having the core belief that the world doesn’t owe me anything, I instead had the core belief that the world does owe me food, water, shelter and safety, and that rather than being a privilege, these things are something that I’m entitled to.

In this case, I would have much less – if any – appreciation and gratitude for them, and as a result:

Firstly, while I was struggling with depression, I would’ve been much more likely to feel sorry for myself, and pay homage to negative thoughts like “I’m so unlucky”, “everything is so unfair” and “my life is so bad”.

As a result, I would’ve felt bitter, angry, hopeless, and even more miserable than I already did, which would’ve made it infinitely harder – and perhaps impossible – to ever beat my depression.

Secondly, even if I had still managed to beat my depression, I wouldn’t be continuously flooded with all of the positive, uplifting emotions I’m flooded with now as a direct result of being grateful for having access to food, water, shelter and safety.

And, as a result, I believe I would be considerably less happy.

Reinforcing This “The World Doesn't Owe Me Anything" Perspective

Like I’ve been emphasising, my friend, this perspective is the foundation upon which my gratitude is based, and if you too want to live a life full of gratitude and reap all of the rewards that come from doing so, then I believe that you also need to give up any feelings of entitlement you have, and adopt the core belief that the world doesn’t owe you anything either.

I hope this is something that I’ve convinced you of, and if you’d like further convincing, then I encourage you to undertake some volunteer- or non-profit work, since, for example:

  • When you’re helping to feed people who don’t have anything to eat, it really emphasises just how fortunate you are to have food, and helps you to cultivate gratitude for your food.

  • Another example: when you’re volunteering in a homeless refuge, it really highlights just how privileged you are to have shelter and a warm bed to sleep in – which makes you feel much more appreciative and grateful for these things as a result.

Doing volunteer- and non-profit work like so really does help to eliminate feelings of entitlement, and instead cultivate a “the world doesn’t owe me anything” perspective.

And, once this “foundation of gratitude” has been laid, you can then continue building upon it by practicing “gratitude exercises” – a wide variety of which I’m now about to show you!

The Ultimate Guide To Practicing Gratitude When You Have Depression, Part 2: How To Practice Gratitude When You're In The "Storm Zone"

In case you don't know, my friend, you can be said to be in the "Storm Zone" of The Depression Project's Storm To Sun Framework when your depression is at its worst – i.e. when it feels like there’s a storm raging in your mind. When you’re in this Zone:

  • Your negative thoughts are at their most catastrophic, at their most constant, and you’re at your most attached to them (i.e. you believe them to be true more so than at any other time).

  • The painful emotions that are associated with depression like misery, overwhelm, worthlessness, hopelessness, etcetera, are at their strongest.

  • Simple tasks like getting out of bed or having a shower may feel like climbing a mountain.

  • Faking a smile and pretending to be “OK” may be impossible.

  • Fulfilling your day-to-day responsibilities such as going to work can feel unmanageable (and often are).

  • In the Storm Zone, because your depression is at its most severe and your ability to function is at its lowest, the gratitude exercises that you’ll find to be the most effective at this point in time will be the simplest ones that require the least mental capacity.

Now, sceptics of practicing gratitude would argue that you can’t do so when you’re currently feeling this depressed - because your symptoms are too intense for you to feel grateful, and because if your ability to function is so compromised that it’s a struggle to get out of bed for instance, then you can’t possibly have the emotional capacity to do a gratitude exercise.

I respectfully yet strongly disagree – however:

  1. I do believe that certain gratitude exercises which require less emotional capacity are more appropriate for the Storm Zone than other ones which require a higher mental capacity.

  2. I also believe that even these “easier” gratitude exercises should be done in a way that takes into account the intense severity of your present symptoms.

And, with that in mind, my friend, let me now share with you some simple yet powerful gratitude exercises that I believe you’ll find really, really helpful when you’re in the Storm Zone!

Storm Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #1: Write A List Of All The Things You're Grateful For (Storm Zone Edition)

The notion of making a list of all the things you’re grateful for is one of the most well-known gratitude practices there is – however, it can be difficult to connect to a lot of the things you would otherwise be grateful for when you’re in the Storm Zone and feeling at your most depressed.

For this reason, my friend, when you are in the Storm Zone, it’s my belief that you’ll find this exercise most helpful if you focus your list of “things to feel grateful for” on what you can best connect to at that moment in time.

For example:

  • The couch you’re lying on – which is a comfortable place for you to curl up when your depression’s really intense and you just want somewhere to rest.

  • Netflix on your laptop – which you can switch on any time you want to distract yourself from your depression.

  • The creamy mug of hot chocolate you’re going to drink while you watch your favourite show.

  • Food delivery services – which mean that instead of having to cook when you’re feeling really depressed, you can have a delicious meal delivered straight to your door.

  • Your partner – who’s always so sweet, loving and caring towards you.

  • Your best friend – who you know will always be there for you as well.

  • Self-help books – which are teaching you the strategies you need to know in order to overcome depression, so that you won’t have to live like this forever.

Of course, not all of these examples may apply to you, but next time you’re in the Storm Zone, if you’re able to come up with your own list of things to feel grateful for in that moment, then it will almost certainly give you a lift.

Storm Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #2: Keep A Gratitude Journal

The idea behind this is pretty simple: every night before you go to sleep, write down three things that you’re grateful for that day. An example of what this might look like when you’re in the Storm Zone could be:

  • I’m grateful for my dog – who loyally lay down beside me next to my bed until I could gather the strength to pull myself out of it.

  • I’m grateful for my brother – who called me to see how I’m feeling, and spent half an hour reassuring and encouraging me.

  • I’m grateful for ice-cream – because the two scoops I had after dinner made me feel a little bit better.

Keeping a gratitude journal like so is a great exercise for the Storm Zone, because it’s relatively easy to do and can really help you find light in your darkest days when you need it most.

Storm Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #3: Keep A "Gratitude Jar"

A “gratitude jar” is a fun kind of spin on a gratitude journal, and is another simple yet effective exercise you can try to cultivate gratitude and give yourself a much-needed boost when you’re in the Storm Zone.

All you need to do is this: place a jar (or a box, or a bowl, etcetera) somewhere that’s easily accessible, and any time you feel grateful for something (such as your dog loyally sleeping beside you, your brother calling to check on you, etcetera), write that something down on a little piece of paper, and then pop it into your gratitude jar. 

Just like when it came to keeping a gratitude journal, I encourage you to aim to drop in three little pieces of paper a day. If you can do this, then your gratitude jar will gradually fill up, and then any time you need a pick-me-up, you can take out your little notes and read them over to give yourself a lift.

Storm Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #4: Gratefully Recall Pleasant Memories

When you’re in the Storm Zone, then of course, it’s really difficult to find joy, pleasure or beauty in the present moment.

So, when this is the case, one strategy that can really lift your mood is to do a mindfulness exercise that’s focused on gratefully recalling joyful, pleasurable or beautiful moments from the past.

Give this a try: Sit or lie somewhere comfortable, and take long, slow, soothing breaths. Then, when your breathing has found a comfortable rhythm and you feel yourself relaxing a little bit, recall a time when you felt happy.

This could be for any reason, my friend – for example:

  • At the sight of the sun setting by the beach on a weekend trip away;

  • A memory of spending time with someone you love;

  • A major life event like your wedding ceremony or the day your child was born.

No matter how big or small the moment was, focus on that memory. Try to recall it as vividly as possible, conjuring up all of the warm, positive, beautiful emotions you felt at the time. Then, while you bask in the pleasure of that moment, calmly declare to yourself:

“I’m grateful I got to experience that in my life.”

Repeat this to yourself as you continue to relive the happiness you enjoyed in that instance. Then, when you feel ready to, release this memory from your focus, and choose another happy memory from your life to look back on.

Repeat the same process for that memory as well, and continue doing so for as many memories as you’d like.

Storm Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #5: Make A Gratitude Collage

This is a creative way of cultivating gratitude, and is great for when you’re in the Storm Zone since it’s relatively simple once again, and also, because doing something creative can be a welcome distraction from your severe depressive symptoms!

For this exercise, find some pictures of the things you’re grateful for, and then – as the name suggests – make a collage out of them. Some pictures you might like to include in your collage may be, for example:

  • Pictures of your family;

  • Pictures from previous vacations you’ve taken;

  • Pictures of your favourite food;

  • Pictures from momentous days in your life;

  • Pictures of different things you enjoy.

I think this gratitude exercise is a super cool one, so I really encourage you to give it a try!

The Ultimate Guide To Practicing Gratitude When You Have Depression, Part 3: How To Practice Gratitude When You're In The "Rain Zone"

Next, we're going to look at some of the most effective ways you can practice gratitude when you're in the "Rain Zone" - i.e. when your depressive symptoms are only moderately intense.

In particular, when you're in this Zone:

  • While you’ll still struggle with negative thoughts and the painful emotions that are associated with depression, their intensity will be significantly less than was the case when you were in the Storm Zone.

  • Because your symptoms are only moderately severe, you can likely still uphold your responsibilities and carry on with life – however, you’ll probably get tired much quicker than you otherwise would if you weren’t struggling with any symptoms of depression at all.

  • Feeling “burned out” is common, and you’re prone to snapping easily.

  • When you’re in the Rain Zone, because your depression is moderately severe and you consequently have a moderate ability to function, then in addition to the gratitude exercises that you were able to implement in the Storm Zone, you’ll also be able to do some additional gratitude exercises that require a higher mental capacity. For this reason, you’ll be able to cultivate significantly more gratitude when you’re in this Zone.

And now, my friend, let me show you some of the gratitude exercises that can be particularly helpful when you're in the Rain Zone!

Rain Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #1: Cognitive Reframing To Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Thoughts

An extremely powerful way to build gratitude is to try to reframe negative thoughts which fuel depression into positive thoughts which uplift you.

In order to do this, a helpful starting point is to ask yourself:

Is there a more positive, grateful way that I could be viewing the situation or circumstance that I’m in?

This was a strategy that my psychologist taught me while I was struggling with depression, and it really helped me to look on the bright side, and therefore turn negative thoughts that could’ve kept me trapped in depression into positive thoughts that contributed to me overcoming depression.

For example, let's take the negative thought: “It’s so unfair how _______ really hurt and betrayed me – I feel so miserable”.

However, a more positive, grateful situation I cognitively reframed this perspective into was:

“I’m really fortunate that _______ is now out of my life; that my awful experience with them has taught me a LOT about relationships; and that moving forwards, I’ll be able to use this newfound wisdom and experience to have much healthier, happier relationships in the future”.

Rain Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #2: Make A "Different Kind Of Comparison" To Avoid Negatively Comparing Yourself To Other People

A contributing factor to a lot of people’s depression is feeling miserable, unfulfilled or jealous as a result of constantly thinking about what they don’t have, instead of feeling grateful for what they do have.

Often, this problem is then further exacerbated by social media, which leads many people to negatively compare their life with others’, and become dissatisfied when they feel as if their own doesn’t measure up.

So, in order to overcome this problem, rather than negatively comparing your life to someone else’s and/or focusing on what that person has that you don’t (which is looking at the “half-empty” part of the glass), I encourage you to make a different kind of comparison – where you instead think about the things you do have in your life, and imagine what it would be like to not have those things (which is looking at the “half-full” part of the glass).

For instance:

  • To continue with our social media example, if you’re on social media, then you presumably have either a smartphone, a laptop, and/or a tablet. Now, ask yourself: what would life be like if I wasn’t lucky enough to have these things? How would it make me feel to not have access to a smartphone, a laptop or a tablet – in the same way that so many other people in the world don’t?

  • You probably have plentiful access to food and water, as well as a comfortable place to sleep at night. Now, ask yourself: what would life be like if I wasn’t lucky enough to have these things? How would it make me feel?

  • Now think about someone you love – like your mum, your partner, or your children for example – and ask yourself: what would my life be like if I wasn’t lucky enough to have them in it?

I really encourage you to ask yourself this question for everything in your life that you value, my friend – both the “big” things (such as your family, the roof over your head, and your job, for example), and also the “small” things (such as your favourite television series, your favourite sports team, and your favourite food).

I’m guessing that if you really think about what your life would be like without any of these things you value, that you’ll find yourself feeling much more uplifted, positive, and fortunate for the fact that you do have them – as opposed to feeling dissatisfied, jealous and unfortunate when you focus on what you don’t have and negatively compare your life with somebody else’s.

Rain Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #3: Recall The Recent Times When You've Been Gifted An Act Of Kindness

For example:

  • When your partner cooked you your favourite meal to try to give you a boost;

  • When your sibling texted you an inspiring, uplifting quote to try and give you some encouragement;

  • When your friend let you vent to them about how difficult things have been lately;

  • When your co-worker bought you a coffee on the way to the office;

  • When your mum came over to babysit the kids so that you could have a much-needed rest after work.

Being mindful of all the acts of kindness you’ve been gifted is really good for your relationships, and – just like with all gratitude exercises – it’s also good for your mood as well.

Rain Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #4: Cultivate Gratitude For Your Surroundings

When it comes to this particular exercise, you can do it at any time, but it’s particularly effective when you’re out and about in nature, or when you’re witnessing something beautiful like a sunset, the splendour of a rainbow, or the golden leaves of a tree during autumn.

After all, moments like these don’t come around every minute, so to appreciate them in all their beauty and give your spirits a lift, I encourage you to try the following mindfulness exercise!

Either sitting down somewhere comfortable or walking at a slow, leisurely pace, take a few deep, soothing breaths, and then gradually look for sights that appeal to your eyes. If you’re at the beach for example, one might be the gentle breaking of waves on the shore. If you’re in a park, it might be the golden, gorgeous autumn leaves that I mentioned before.

Then, when you’ve found something beautiful to focus your sight on, bring awareness to your other senses as well.

For example:

  • What do you smell? Saltwater? Freshly-cut grass? Flowers?

  • What do you hear? Seagulls chirping? The sound of fallen leaves crunching beneath your shoes?

Anytime you catch your mind wandering off, just bring it back to the lovely scenery around you, and notice how pleasant it is for your senses. Then, simply bask in this beauty for as long as you’d like to.

Rain Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #5: Cultivating Gratitude For The "Good" In The World

This exercise is helpful if you feel misery, anger, frustration and/or hopelessness for example about the state of the world, or about some of the upsetting or devastating things that are taking place within it.

When situations such as these are triggering your depression, I encourage you to also try to cultivate some gratitude for the world as well, by:

  1. Trying to bring awareness to all of the positive change that has taken place over time – for example, compared to even the relatively recent past, there is much less war, there have been enormous medical advancements, extreme poverty is falling, life expectancy is increasing, child labour is on the decline, the supply of nuclear weapons is decreasing, literacy rates are rising, and more people live in a democracy than ever before. It’s important to remember this progress, because even though the world is far from perfect and there are still a lot of areas in which we need to improve, having gratitude for the progress that we’ve made can help you to feel hopeful and optimistic that we can keep on improving, and gradually make the world a better and better place to live.

  2. Even when bad things happen, try to bring awareness to any positive consequences that can potentially come out of them. This is by no means designed to diminish the pain or the suffering caused by those bad things in question, or to try to pretend that those bad things aren’t actually bad. Rather, it’s just about trying to find the “silver lining” – which can make you feel more hopeful and positive about the future than you otherwise would. In order to do this, some relevant questions to ask yourself include:

    1. What positive change may come out of this situation?

    2. How may it have altered people’s attitudes in a positive way?

    3. How may this bad situation prevent even worse situations from occurring in the future?

  3. Lastly, try to bring awareness to- and cultivate gratitude for the people and organisations that are bringing about positive change in the world. An effective way of doing this is to make a list of the people and organisations you admire that are bringing about positive change, and to read over this list from time-to-time to remind yourself that there are indeed a lot of good humans out there who are fighting the good fight.

The Ultimate Guide To Practicing Gratitude When You Have Depression, Part 4: How To Practice Gratitude When You're In The "Cloud Zone"

So thus far, my friend, we've talked about some of the most effective ways that you can practice gratitude when you're in the Storm- or the Rain Zone - which means that last but not least, we're going to cover practicing gratitude when you're in the Cloud Zone.

Now, when you have depression, the Cloud Zone is a good place to be, since:

  • The Cloud Zone is where the symptoms of your depression are only mild (as compared to “very severe” in the Storm Zone and “moderately severe” in the Rain Zone).

  • As a result of your depressive symptoms being only mildly severe, you’re able to think at your clearest, and your ability to function is also at its highest – to such an extent that it’s common to feel almost “back to normal” (i.e. the way you felt before you started struggling with depression).

For these reasons, the Cloud Zone is when you can cultivate the deepest, most long-lasting levels of gratitude. This is because:

  1. You can “connect” to more things to feel grateful for in the Cloud Zone than at any other time. Consequently, the gratitude exercises that I recommended you try in the Storm- and Rain Zones are often even more powerful when you try them in the Cloud Zone.

  2. Due to being able to think at your clearest and function at your highest capacity, you’ll be in a position to try the most in-depth – and therefore the most profound and enriching – gratitude exercises (which unfortunately, often tend to be beyond your capacity when you’re in the Storm- and Rain Zones).

I’m really excited to share these Cloud Zone gratitude exercises with you, my friend, because I think you may well find them the most helpful of all!

Cloud Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #1: Writing An "If We'd Never Met" Letter To Your Partner / An "If You'd Never Been In My Life" Letter To The People You Love

In this letter – as the name suggests – you would candidly tell your partner / loved one all of the ways your life would have been different if you hadn’t been lucky enough to have them be a part of it.

In particular, I encourage you to think about and consider including in your letter:

  • How you would feel emotionally if that person had never been in your life;

  • The wonderful memories that you would not have made;

  • The things they taught you that you may not have otherwise learned;

  • The achievements you may not have managed without their assistance;

  • The difficult times you may not have gotten through (or gotten through as well) without their help;

  • All the other positive impacts they’ve had on your life.

After you’ve written this letter, I do encourage you to share it with your partner / loved one – because:

  1. Firstly, it will no doubt make them feel extremely appreciated, cared for and loved;

  2. Secondly, it will make you feel really happy to see them so happy;

  3. Thirdly, it will likely bring you and your loved one even closer together.

However, if for whatever reason you don’t feel comfortable giving your partner / loved one your letter, then I still encourage you to thoughtfully write it – not just because you might change your mind about giving it to them once you’ve finished it, but because just the mere act of writing it is likely to fill you with an immense amount of gratitude for that person.

Cloud Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #2: Cultivating Gratitude For People Who've Helped You Out Along The Way

Some common examples of this include:

  • Your parents – who worked really hard to provide for you during childhood;

  • A really good teacher;

  • A mentor who took you under their wing;

  • A partner who encouraged and motivated you when you needed a cheerleader;

  • A friend who gave you really good advice;

  • A boss who wrote you a great reference that helped you get a job you were after;

  • A counsellor who helped you overcome your fear of public speaking.

Of course, not all of these examples may apply to you, but in the same way as above, I encourage you to think about everything you’ve achieved, and then make a list of the people who helped you achieve those things.

And, to get the most out of this exercise, I also encourage you to take it a step further, and actually journal how each of these people helped you accomplish what you did, as well as how much more difficult that accomplishment would have been without their help.

Cloud Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #3: Cultivating Gratitude For A Previous Bad Experience

Doing this can help you to view such an experience in a much more positive way: i.e. rather than something that’s “really bad” or a “disaster”, something that instead is – in many cases – actually a blessing in disguise (or at least something in which a lot of good can / will come out of it).

Now, when it comes to how to actually cultivate gratitude for painful experiences, there are three important questions that I really encourage you to thoughtfully ask yourself.

  1. What have you learned / could you learn from this experience that could benefit you moving forwards?

  2. Did this painful event prevent something potentially even worse from happening in the future?

  3. What new opportunities have come about as a result of this experience?

Cloud Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #4: Cultivating Gratitude For Your "Narrow Misses"

If you look back at your life, my friend, then I’m guessing that you can probably recall some occasions when you thought: “wow! That was REALLY lucky!”

And, if you can, then a powerful way to cultivate gratitude for your life is to recall all of these near misses, reflect on them, and remind yourself of just how incredibly, amazingly lucky you were to avoid the worst-case scenario. After all, if the worst-case scenario had in fact occurred, then you almost certainly wouldn’t have the life you have today – am I right?

Cloud Zone Depression Gratitude Exercise #5: Cultivating Gratitude For Your Stage Of Life

Yet another way of cultivating gratitude for the life you have is to try to appreciate the stage of it that you’re currently in, and to embrace it for all of its (often unique) opportunities.

For example:

  • Being 25 has many advantages over being 65 (for example, being in the physical prime of your life). However, being 65 also has lots of advantages over being 25 (for example, having more wisdom, being less prone to making reckless mistakes, usually being more financially secure, perhaps having the relaxation of retirement, etcetera).

  • Being in a relationship has lots of advantages over being single (such as the benefits of companionship, having someone who (hopefully) understands you really well, having someone who’s there to support you, etcetera). However, being single also has lots of advantages over being in a relationship (for example, having more freedom / time to explore your interests, to pursue new hobbies, to travel, to meet new people, etcetera).

So, to cultivate gratitude for the stage of life that you’re in – whatever it may be – I encourage you to really consider where you’re at in terms of your age, marital status, job status, where you live, etcetera, and rather than focus on where you aren’t in your life, to instead take some time to think about- and appreciate the benefits of where you are.

After all, this may be the only time in your life when you’re in this particular position, which means that in the future, some of the advantages you have from being where you’re at now will be gone. So, please try your best to be grateful for those opportunities and to make the most of them!

That's it for this Ultimate Guide To Practicing Gratitude When You Have Depression!

So, we are finally at the end of this Ultimate Guide To Practicing Gratitude When You Have Depression!

From the bottom of my heart, I really, truly hope that you've found it helpful; that moving forwards, you try to add more gratitude into your life; and that doing so can have as profound an effect on you as it's had on me.

Sending you lots and lots of love and strength,

Danny Baker,

Ex-depression sufferer, and Co-founder of The Depression Project.

P.S. Want More Help To Cultivate Gratitude & Overcome Depression?

If you haven't done so already, then I encourage you to join The Depression Project's Depression School - which is full of online courses, books and other resources that have been created by therapists to help you get better!

In particular, to help you cultivate gratitude, you'll likely find my book How Gratitude Saved My Life really useful!

And, to help you with other aspects of depression, you'll likely also benefit from our other books and courses as well - such as, for example:

  • Making Sense Of Your Depression

  • This Is How You Overcome Depression

  • Self-Care 101: A Blueprint For Looking After Your Mental Health

  • How To Overcome Your Negative Thoughts

  • How To Get A Good Night's Sleep When You Have Depression

  • How To Break Out Of Self-Sabotaging Habits When You're In A Depressive Episode

  • How To Overcome "Depression Shame"

  • How To Practice Self-Compassion When You Feel Depressed

  • How To Stop People Pleasing

  • How To Cope With "Depression Loneliness"

  • How To Stop Social Media From Triggering Your Depression

  • How To Restore Your Self-Worth After Mental Abuse

  • And much, much more!

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