A week or two ago, a friend of mine shared with me that they stopped taking their antidepressant. They had been experiencing a bunch of weird side effects—many of which I had never heard of before—and it sounded awful. When I was on antidepressants, I also experienced numerous frustrating side effects. (I’m on a different class of meds now, complete with side effects of their own.) So I empathized.
But I also panicked a little bit. Are you taking something else instead? I asked.
What’s your plan for keeping yourself feeling okay?
They pointed to their head. The power of my mind, they said.
Ahhhh, yes. I’ve taken advantage of mind power myself! Mind power is amazing. It lasts like a month or two. And then I CRASH.
Oh, they said.
Um, I said.
Oh well, they said.
Well, okay. Are you changing your behavior patterns in ways that might boost your mood? Psychotherapy? Exercise? Keeping a gratitude journal?
Y’know, they say that keeping a gratitude journal can enhance your mood just as well as taking an antidepressant! I don’t do it myself, haha, but research says it really works. All you have to do is write down three things that you’re grateful for, every day.
That’s a great idea!
I can never motivate myself to keep a journal, though, personally.
I know—I’ll text my three gratitude items to my best friend every day. We text all day long, anyway. I’ll just throw that into the mix!
A Great Idea
Some people love to keep a journal. Journaling helps them immensely, in various ways. But journaling is not for me. I used to keep a diary as a kid, and for me it was a chore, something I was supposed to do, something frustrating in my day to get over and done with. So the idea of keeping a gratitude journal has always been unappealing to me.
But the idea of texting with a friend? That I can get on board with! I absolutely love communication with others. And the combination of texting a friend and expressing gratitude for things in my life? (Both of which, by the way, being practices that research has found to be beneficial to mental health?) Sounds like a winning combo!
Kudos to my friend for so easily coming up with the idea. Or rather, kudos to both of us for having a conversation that resulted in a great idea.
I don’t know whether they implemented the idea or not; I will have to ask them.
But I do know that I implemented the idea. I asked a different friend whether they would like to be my gratitude buddy. They said yes! And it has been one of the most wonderful New Year’s implementations I have ever experienced.
How to Practice Gratitude With a Buddy
- Ask a friend to be your gratitude buddy. (If necessary, keep asking until someone says yes.)
- At the end of every day (ideally just before bed, or whenever is most convenient), text your gratitude buddy a short list of three things you are grateful for in that day. Your buddy will do the same.
- Read your buddy’s gratitude list. There’s no need to respond. (Requiring a response might make the process too cumbersome.) But of course you can respond if you want to. The main thing is that both of you know that your gratitude list is being read and appreciated by the other person.
- If one of you misses a day, or even a few days on occasion, it’s no big deal. Just try to do it every day that you can.
Results of Practicing Gratitude With a Buddy
It’s unbelievable, really. At the end of the day, when it’s time for me to write my gratitude list, I look inside my mind and discover that it’s a long train of negative thoughts. This is the brain’s negativity bias that scientists talk about. The brain tends to remember the negative things and forget the positive things. (This occurs for evolutionary survival reasons.) It feels like a huge effort to bring forth the positives. But even on the crappiest days, there are still positives! And I feel better after articulating them.
My gratitude buddy even reported something further. They have started to catch themselves noticing things they are grateful for in the middle of the day, randomly. That’s amazing. I aspire to get to that level, too. That’s some serious mind power.
In the meantime:
- I am grateful to you for reading this blog post.
- I am grateful that 2021 is here.
- I am grateful for my improving health.
Do you keep a gratitude journal or communicate gratitude with someone? How do you go about it? Does it bring you benefits?