“During active appreciation,” Baker writes, “the threatening messages from your amygdala [fear center of the brain] and the anxious instincts of your brainstem are cut off, suddenly and surely, from access to your brain’s neocortex, where they can fester, replicate themselves, and turn your stream of thoughts into a cold river of dread. It is a fact of neurology that the brain cannot be in a state of appreciation and a state of fear at the same time. The two states may alternate, but are mutually exclusive.”
Other studies have also highlighted how gratitude can buffer you from the blues, promote optimism, and, in general, make you feel peachy.
However, I firmly believe it is possible to be grateful and depressed.
For the last eighteen months I’ve experienced that heaviness of depression that so many of us know. However, that does not keep me from feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude for all the blessings in my life: for a husband who doesn’t toss me and my genes to the curb in a manic and/or depressive cycle; for two kids that bring much joy to our home; and for the countless friends and loved ones that support me in needy times and laugh with me during stable periods. In fact, during my worst depressions, I have kept a gratitude journal in which I write down five to ten things I am grateful for each day. That exercise helps to create new grooves, or neural passageways, that lead to healing; however, it doesn’t have the horsepower to abort the brain entirely and start from scratch with a purely optimistic outlook.
Can gratitude and depression coexist? I think so. What do you think?