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Forums / Staying well / Does feeling grateful help at all?

Topic: Does feeling grateful help at all?

20 posts, 0 answered
  1. white knight
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    white knight avatar
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    25 March 2015

    I have known Alf for 12 years. We shared a hobby together. He had been single till 53yo then married an much older lady. My wife and I were outside a cafe enjoying a coffee with our pup at our heels when I saw him and asked him to join us.

    Alf looked no different to the 100's of times I'd seen him, with his jovial smile and persona. A few minutes into our conversations I asked "and how is ..(his wife) going" He burst into tears so quick. "she died 8 months ago". You know what its like when you try to comfort someone that you know anything you do cant make any effect. Grief is a tough act to recover from.

    So after a long chat and then changing the subject we left Alf to go about his business  I held my wife's hand tighter than usual as we walked along the shops. Thought to myself...gee I'm lucky. Sure I have these up and down mental struggles but I have so much to be grateful for. I also have a backbone of positivity that props me up life a lifebuoy that will never sink regardless of the low lows I have. As Churchill said "we will never surrender" and I wont.

    And I recall following my first marriage breakup, the pain of moving to part time dad from full time...saying to myself daily "well I know some dads never see their kids at all" so be grateful. Be happy with what you have Tony, not miserable for what you dont have or what you dream for.

    What of others? I watched a TV show last Monday night of a Cattleman. He'd experienced a helicopter crash that broke his neck. Now a quadriplegic he still was a cattleman albeit a modified one. He carried on his life. Can you imagine his gratitude of still being able to breath, experience his love of his work and be an inspiration?

    Unfortunately for people with mental illness  a lot of our problems are caused by chemical imbalance, hereditary disorders, accidents or environment effects, some of which is not controlled no matter how positive you are or grateful you be. But I'd argue that any minute change in thinking to be more positive, any spark of gratitude for your life's circumstances would be of some benefit, perhaps not evident, perhaps not straight away but like a rolling stone carries no moss an active positive mind carries less negative thoughts.

    Being grateful is one of many positive abilities we can keep exercising in our mind.....to help our recovery.

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  2. geoff
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    26 March 2015 in reply to white knight

    dear Tony, the circumstances for Alf would be devastating and unfortunately he will be carrying this grief for a very long time, if not for ever, although as time progress's on it could fade away, but not completely.

    There are many times I wish that I was still married to my ex, because we both get on well together and still talk as if we were married but in a jovial way, but this could never happen, so the one thing that does stir my emotion is that she is living with another older chap who has all the characteristics that she disliked in me.

    I'm told to move on by other people which I have done, but there is still a soft spot sitting there which I will always hold onto.

    So is this 'grief' or is it 'grieving', possibly the latter as we have been divorced for over 10 years, but the I like living by myself, I have become so used to it now. Geoff.

  3. white knight
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    26 March 2015 in reply to geoff

    Hi Geoff,

    An odd comparison to follow.  I had a vintage car once. It came out in 7 colours. Mine was mustard. The rarest was turquoise and my favourite was cream with maroon top.

    Every time the club had a gathering I looked at these cars and wanted everyone of them. I dreamed of winning lotto and buying them. Then I realised one day, had I had that ability....I could only drive one at a time. If an admirer came by and spoke to me...I'd want to show him the other cars of different colours.

    Which leads me to you post Geoff. Happier living alone but grieving still for a woman you loved ...still love. Isnt that the story of the human life? That we go through our lives regretting, grieving what could have been?

    Of course we do this also with employment. Careers are chosen in error, jobs we resign from then wished we hadn't, etc. I had a 7 year relationship with an older woman when I was young. We split and 12 months later, missing her terribly, I confided in a female friend. My friend suggested I meet with my ex GF and I'd realise that the decision to split was a correct one. I met my ex Gf at some local shops by chance and we spoke for about 30 minutes. I indeed went away realising the reasons we split we valid and it would only be a matter of time before we'd split again if we reunited.

    Remaining single or apart from an ex has one clear advantage among all the unclear ones. That is......absolute knowledge that the possibility of fierce arguments, incompatibility, detesting some characteristics of your partner does not exist because you are not with a partner. Is that enough to be grateful for?

    I find this interesting because I'm puzzled as to how our minds yearn for things we dont have yet if we had them, or had them back, we might not want them?

    Tony WK

  4. JessF
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    26 March 2015 in reply to white knight

    Hello both, this is an interesting one.

    I don't know if you have seen the film Midnight In Paris, it's about a writer in the modern day who discovers that every night a taxi comes past his hotel that can take him back to the glamorous 1920s.

    The effect only lasts until daybreak, but each night he returns to this fantasy world, falling further in love with this great era that he feels passed him by, until he meets and falls for a woman who harbours equally strong fantasies about the 1890s.  After hopping into a hansom cab with her at midnight, they slip backwards in time again, and encounter more great artists who wish they’d been born during the Renaissance.

    The hero realises that he’s fallen victim to the 'golden age fallacy', the delusional belief that things used to be so much better in an earlier time.  One of the characters even says that those who fall prey to the golden age fallacy are paralysed with dissatisfaction in the present, and can’t see a way of making a better life for themselves – so they create the delusion that there was a better time in the past where everything would be perfect, a place that is impossible to reach. This belief also stops them from doing anything to change their lives for the better in the present.

    Sound familiar at all?

    As we slide further into depression, and get to the end of our rope, the present becomes unbearable and the thought of a future becomes impossible.  The past holds the key to fixing everything – wrong decisions we believe we took, opportunities lost.  And we can’t get there. Of course, once we accept – as the man does in the film – that while our fantasies about the past may be beautiful, they are illusory, and the only way to move forward is to take what we have, including our fantasies, and build on them to shape and create the days ahead. 

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  5. GretelMW
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    26 March 2015 in reply to white knight

    Lovely post White Knight.

    I find true appreciation of what I have is crucial for supporting a positive mindset. It is not always easy to see when the energy I am in is dark. But as you say baby steps and consistent effort helps.

    True acceptance of where I am at is also vital. Accepting the good stuff, the bad stuff and everything in between. This allows me to feel solid where I am at and then move forward and grow as new experiences and learnings unfold.

    Thank you, Gretel

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  6. white knight
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    26 March 2015 in reply to GretelMW

    You're welcome Gretel,

    No JessF, I haven't seen that movie. Very interesting indeed. Yes we cant get to the past, no hope of that, so do we choose to remember only some of it?

    I woke with a slitting headache this morning, unusual for me. This thread of, essentially, gratitude pushed me to walk my mini foxy around this tiny town. There is a river walk about 2 kms long so off I went.

    My dog and I saw- Cockatoos, finches, ducks, and something just under the water level likely a platypus. And just entering our property a koala was in one of our trees munching happily. My headache was still there but the gratitude for this activity this morning made me feel good. I'm sure it helped, how much is unknown but it must build on what positivity I have.

    Back to the past. I wonder, if our sub concious plays tricks on us? I'm wondering if it is selective eg recalling mainly loving feelings or events of our past with love ones. The lady I went out with for 7 years...well, I dont have bad memories with but my ex wife of 11 years, the mother of my children is nothing but bad memories. Not one day in 11 years of a happy moment.

    Tony WK

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  7. geoff
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    27 March 2015 in reply to white knight
    dear Tony, some great replies, and how many times does this actually happen 'our minds yearn for things we don't have yet if we had them, or had them back, we might not want them', and it would happen with me if my ex and I reunited, although what we achieved over our time being married was quite extensive, but there are so many other factors that come into the equation and cause disharmony. Geoff.
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  8. JessF
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    27 March 2015 in reply to white knight

    Definitely, I think our memories of the past are coloured, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. For example, it seems logical that in 11 years there would have been moments with your ex wife that were happy, but they were so outweighed by the effect emotionally of the horrible moments that they have been 'cancelled out' in your memory.

    I read a book on this, can't remember who wrote it, but it was by a neuroscientist. We have two selves, the experiencing self and the remembering self. To illustrate the difference between the two, it gives the example of choosing a location for a holiday. For the experiencing self, going to a tropical island to lie on a beach for a few weeks would be a nice choice, because its relaxing and because of the immedate gratification (a bit like your feelings on the river walk). For the remembering self, going to Rome and looking around old ruins and museums might be better, because of the richness and memories that will be enjoyed primarily by being able to look back on the holiday. It's harder to look back on a physical experience than a mental one, if that makes sense? For example, if you hadn't written down your experience about the river walk this morning, it's unlikely you'd be remembering it as a great day a week from now let alone a year.

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  9. BKYTH
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    29 March 2015 in reply to white knight
    It is not mental illness alone that creates "problems" but rather the fact that we are alive. The Buddha said that "Life is suffering" which is not to be understood as an assertion that there is nothing but suffering as it often is.......Clearly that is not the case and that is not what he was saying........Living is both the most wonderful of things as well as the most difficult.                         I remember a cartoon I saw in a newspaper of a man sitting in bed and who had just switched on the news. The words of the news presenter typed under the cartoon said "Good morning. While you were sleeping the world as you knew it ceased to exist".                  Mildly amusing I guess but it stayed in my mind because those words contain a inherent fact about the nature of our lives, about life itself. The earlier posts I read contained so much wisdom that I hope this thread continues as I really have,nt got around to saying what I initally intended too but am rather tired. Philip.
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  10. JessF
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    31 March 2015 in reply to BKYTH

    "While you were sleeping the world as you knew it ceased to exist"

    It's true, the world keeps turning, change is constant. This can be a source of despair and inspiration. Despair because we can feel left out, that our presence doesn't matter, but also inspiring in the sense that any losses, disasters, setbacks we suffer will also pass as the world (and hopefully we) move on.

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  11. BKYTH
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    1 April 2015 in reply to GretelMW
    A Zen master once posed the question "What 'now ' is missing?" What in this present moment is missing - I think if I were to start a list I would spend the rest of my days adding to it which doesn't seem to be the best thing to do.                              The easy answer given by the student of the masters question is "Nothing" That the moment is perfect in itself and lacks nothing, and as an answer it is, as it should be - But knowing the answer and living it are very different things.                            If we carry the past with us we will always be in a state of regret and suffering while if we, with conviction and courage, learn to leave behind that which we cannot change we can be truly be in this moment with all its wonder and possabilities. Philip.
  12. BeeGee
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    3 April 2015

    Honestly?  No.  I have to be brutally honest and say that feeling grateful, while important, does not help me at all in the sense of lessening my depressive symptoms.  I wish it did.  I agree that recognising all that is good in our lives and being thankful for it is decent, centring, and good - but I don't feel any better for it.  What does that mean?  Stuffed if I know.  I've chased my tail on that one and got nowhere.

    Jess, I loved your post about "Midnight in Paris" - this scenario resonated for me, although for me it's quite the opposite.  Rather than seeking to live in the glory days of the past, I'm beset by automatic remembrances of failure, guilt, bad decisions, etc.  I don't want them, I don't choose to go there, but I don't seem to be able to discard this baggage.  So far I'm not finding my CBT strategies helpful... they seem too fake, too much like Pollyanna-ism.

    Anyway... sorry to be a wet blanket.  I just don't find gratefulness to be (or form part of) an antidote to what ails me, but I persevere with it anyway to try to avoid being too self-pitying or self-obsessed.  It seems right to be thankful for those things in and of itself regardless of whether that contributes to any kind of self help for me.

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  13. white knight
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    3 April 2015 in reply to BeeGee

    Hi BeeGee, hello again

    Just the thing I wanted. Another assessment of whether feeling grateful helped. For some time I've tried stretching my gratefulness to se if it would have a positive effect and to be honest if we could measure such effect it would show up much.

    Thanks again.  Tony WK

  14. JessF
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    9 April 2015 in reply to BeeGee

    Hello Bee Gee,

    You know I do understand what you mean, because I'm going through something similar at the moment. Old feelings and failures (perceived or otherwise) from my past have been stirred up by something new that I'm involved with and I am ruminating a lot on it. I wouldn't want for one second to go back to the past, but I feel as if that past is being dragged back into my present. 

    I am doing my best to step back and recognise that these are not 'live' feelings but triggers, echoes, and that it is most likely that my reads on people in this new situation are completely wrong. But it is hard, and I am feeling more emotionally volatile than i have for a while.  But I will just keep pushing through.

    Distraction is my friend today.

  15. BeeGee
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    9 April 2015 in reply to JessF

    Hmmm, I hear you Jess.  Those triggers that bring the past into the present can pop up out of nowhere, can't they?!

    I'm interested to hear that you are assessing your perceptions of others, and considering whether you are misreading them.  My natural inclination is to give others the benefit of the doubt - not through any conscious decision or intentional process, but through some innate recognition that I can't know what is going on in someone else's head/heart/life that has led them to that moment.  On the other hand, I know exactly what has gone on in my own life, and judge myself very harshly when I don't meet my own expectations.  This is endless fodder for guilt, self recrimination and self loathing.  Clearly there is something broken in this self-assessment process, but I haven't yet learnt the key to escaping or dismantling this destructive cycle.

    I can see that emotional disengagement has been for me a survival mechanism to escape from the pain of this... unfortunately it's only a diversionary tactic that does not stop the onslaught.

    I don't think my current psychologist really gets this about me.  I feel like he is working from a standardised CBT script rather than actually addressing my issues.  Time for a change I think.

  16. JessF
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    10 April 2015 in reply to BeeGee

    Have you ever done any ACT work? My logical mind appreciates the skills of CBT, but sometimes I think it can be used in the wrong way, to try and force your mind into thinking in a different way - almost like a more sophisticated version of someone saying "cheer up it might never happen".

    ACT is much more about accepting that you have the feelings or thoughts, and not placing any kind of moral or truth value on them and working from there.

  17. white knight
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    10 April 2015 in reply to JessF

    Hi Everyone

    Re: "cheer up it might never happen".  the same as a quote on Facebook yesterday "not feeling grateful? feel your pulse"

    I'm sure that will end all my troubles. I realise now at the point of this discussion that we cant appreciate everything all the time. It's fairy world stuff. Running through the fields loving and appreciating the daisies, the sky, the air and the ground. Patting the rabbits and watching the koalas.

    Yes, we can immerse ourselves into this activity but none of those actions will wash the dishes, but the food, earn the money for the food and mow the lawns. So being grateful is a part time activity to help one lift your mood if you are taking life for granted. With mental illness how many take life for granted? Not many I'd suggest. Most people are not arrogant about life.

    Tony WK

  18. JessF
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    13 April 2015 in reply to white knight

    You're right Tony, but like so many things we often get trapped into 'all or nothing' thinking. It goes right through our society, from our everyday personal problems right through to our politicians debating important issues. We must choose either this or that, do this or that bad thing will happen.

    It's absurd to think that we would all be happier if we spent our days running round and smelling the daisies, but of all the moments in a day that rush by us, surely we can grab a few to just be in and appreciate. We're supposed to put in 30 minutes of exercise a day to stay physically healthy, imagine if we did the same just to be mindful and in the moment?

  19. White Rose
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    13 April 2015 in reply to JessF

    Just found this thread. It's fascinating, to quote a well known alien.

    I think the point of mindfulness is that you are always being mindful. It doesn't mean sitting and contemplating your navel but being awake to all that you are and all that your are doing in that moment.

    You mindfully wash the dishes, go for a walk, hang out the washing, hug the children and kiss your spouse. That is you are concentrating only on what you are doing NOW.

    Meditation on the other hand is a process where you stop everything and, usually, sit, allowing your mind to empty to connect with what ever divinity/life force/spiritual being/universal karma you believe in or trust.

    So while you are mindful of the present moment you cannot be thinking about other horrible stuff or what happened yesterday or will happen tomorrow. Being grateful then becomes the default position.

    So without wanting to make this a religious debate, the lilies of the field that "toil not, neither do they spin" that Jesus referred to, are clothed better than Solomon because they, the lilies, were concentrating on their job of growing, not on all the other things they could be doing.

    They are being grateful for having soil to grow in and enough rain to drink. Not wanting to have the same shape petals as a daisy, to last as long or have as many flowers. So no John. No need to run through the fields in any way. Just do what comes next and do it by paying attention to what you are doing and how you are doing it. This is why actions such as mindfulness and mediation work. And also work in people with a mental illness.

    I see your point about ACT Jess. Seeing that a colleague is talented, watching a great sunset, knowing you have a mental illness and accepting them all without judgement or distress. These things are and go with being mindful about our everyday activities because these are the things we do and must be done to the best of our abilities, like the lilies.

    Rosslyn

     

  20. BeeGee
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    16 April 2015 in reply to JessF

    No, I haven't done any ACT stuff Jess - read a little about it but that's it.  My wife is doing it atm and finding it very helpful, and some of the stuff she's talked about with me seems to make a lot of sense.

    I got a new MHP from my GP last week and a referral to a different psychologist; I might ask her what she thinks about it after we get through the introductions.

    I will certainly be grateful once these wretched withdrawal symptoms subside... it's been a week now and I'm still waiting... I feel like buying some billboard space and warning people never to try this med.  Now I discover the pages and pages of forum posts (not here of course) of people suffering these symptoms for extended periods after discontinuing this poison.  It's a shame my doctor didn't think to mention it before we started.  But I digress...

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