Alphabetising your gratitude: an amazing strategy to combat Blue Monday struggles

Tomorrow is Blue Monday. More people struggle with depression, or a sense of feeling depressed on this day than any other day in the year. My observation is the average photographer (on the northern hemisphere) falls prey to this also: the holidays are over; winter is cold and miserable and will be here for a while. For many photographers’ this is the ‘slow season’ — clients generally start thinking about photography when the sun re-appears — in about three months.

Fighting to keep a healthy perspective

Blue Monday:

the holidays are over; you’ve had too much to eat, there’s not much work, winter is grey and cold; there is not much work, and you aren’t feeling very motivated anyway…


Am I the only one who ever feels like this?

Of course, not everybody struggles with ‘Blue Monday’. I wrote a blog about Blue Monday 2 years ago (Dutch), and from the responses I got it was clear not everyone understood why some people get depressed. Life is great! wrote a friend. If you don’t have enough work, pull yourself together and get more work!

I wish it were that easy. I write about Blue Monday because I can sympathise. I have struggled with melancholy for most of my life, and at times it borders on real depression. I find I need to fight to maintain a healthy perspective. If I let myself, I could spiral down like a comet hurling itself into the earth’s atmosphere. Houston, we have a problem…

And so I have developed strategies to maintain a sense of wellbeing. They include finding love and friendship; relaxing an appropriate amount of time; exercise, and setting achievable goals.

Thankful to over a thousand people for your cup of coffee

Today I want to highlight one strategy I am finding both to be a lot of fun and also remarkably effective. The strategy is Gratitude. Just being grateful for the good that comes your way.

You may wonder what is so profound about that. Sounds so simple. I am thankful for my wife and my and my kids. And i guess for my house and car. There, I’m done…

No, wait, there’s a strategy to this. Let me explain. First, you should listen to this podcast: 10 strategies to be happier through gratitude, by AJ Jacobs appearing on the Tim Ferris show. In this podcast, AJ Jacobs shares the story of how he tried to thank all the people who were involved in making his precious cup of coffee. He thanked the waiter, the barista, the coffee-machine maker, the coffee farmer, the guy who designed the coffee cup lid, even the cleaner at the factory where the coffee was made. It turns out there are a lot of people who contribute to his simple cup of coffee that he appreciates so much.

It’s a hilarious podcast. But as tells this story he gives you ten strategies for developing more gratitude in your life — and they are really helpful.

Alphabetizing your gratitude

I’m going to tell you about one. He talks about how something it is difficult for people to fall asleep. A known strategy is to make a gratitude list. As you lie down and put your head on the pillow, start listing all the things that you are grateful for from that day. Well, that part is easy. But then he adds a twist: do it alphabetically. A is for … access to the event when I thought they weren’t going to let me in. B is for … my client Bernard, who gave me a new project. C is for …. Uh, uh …. wait, what could C stand for?

It’s surprisingly hard! It’s also a lot of fun! It really helps you see all the good and forget about all the bad from a given day. And the interesting part is: I haven’t made it past G yet, before falling asleep.

In fact, the other day I fell asleep around D, and then woke up in the middle of the night. I was wide-awake, feeling frustrated. So I continued where I had nodded off, and promptly fell asleep again. And when I woke up the next morning, I was feeling so grateful and positive and excited — it was really interesting!

So, as you face Blue Monday, give the podcast a listen (or buy the book) and then start practicing your gratitude strategies. I think you’ll find they can make a big difference.

PS., please note: if you have been diagnosed with a clinical depression, trust your medical and psychological professionals for how to deal with that. I am not saying that gratitude-lists help in your case. I’m writing for those of us who just have a general sense of ‘yuck’.

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