Yesterday, I wrote about a Beatles’ song, “Eleanor Rigby,” which I’ve always connected with, at a visceral level, for the way it describes how I felt during a difficult period of my life. The lyrics of that poignant song so eloquently describe the secret world of isolation and hopelessness that many people who suffer from mental illness experience every day. They go about their day living lives of quiet desperation, invisible to the rest of us, their inner pain cloistered away from public view.
These are people we encounter at work and in social situations. They expend huge amounts of psychic energy to maintain their “public face,” while yearning for the time they can be alone and not “work” at presenting a false persona of happiness and engagement to those around them.
In my own life, one of the pathways out of this labyrinth of mirrors has been to get out of my head by mindfully focusing each day on the things and people I’m grateful for.
In fact, recent research conducted at UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center has shown that expressing gratitude on a regular basis literally rewires our brains to make us feel happier. Being happy gives us a sense of peace and tranquility and helps us avoid reacting negatively to difficult people or situations.
Here are some tips about instilling a sense of gratitude in your own life:
- Keep a journal. As a recovering alcohol of 36 years, I wrote in a journal each morning. Some people prefer to journal in the evening. It seems most important to do it at the same time every day, so that it becomes as routine as brushing your teeth.
- Be sure to tell the person or people closest to you that you appreciate them. Do it every day.
- While you are getting ready in the morning, remind yourself about something you have done for someone recently or something you are proud of and have done well recently.
As long as I live, I will forever be grateful for the treatment I received for clinical depression while at the Menninger Clinic. It changed the course of my life.
There are millions of people like I was. We need to acknowledge, as a society, that many of people who suffer with mental illness work with us and live in our neighborhoods. Because of the stigma, they are afraid to tell anyone of their fears, their personal demons and their chronic struggles with feelings of hopelessness.
I never want to diminish anyone’s suffering or suggest that something as simple as music “fixes” another person’s feelings of despair. In my own life, music has been a balm and a treasure. I have a playlist of songs that make me feel more hopeful every time I listen to them.
Here are some of the songs on that list that help lighten my mood and foster a sense of gratefulness in my own life. They are available on YouTube.
- What a Wonderful World – Louis Armstrong
- A Change is Gonna Come – Aretha Franklin and Mavis Staples
- A Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon and Garfunkel
- Don’t Worry Be Happy – Bob Marley
- Will the Circle Be Unbroken – Johnny Cash and the Carter Family
- Oh Happy Day – Edwin Hawkins
- I’ll Fly Away – Allison Krauss
© Tyra Manning 2018