Friends shaking hands

Live Well: Links Between Gratitude and Depression

The holiday season has begun and while this is a festive and joyous time, many people still experience anxiety, depression and stress during this time of year. If you find yourself struggling with depression in the midst of all the holiday cheer, you might be interested to know that perhaps the most important aspect of Thanksgiving actually can lift your mood. The links between gratitude and depression are backed by studies and scientific research that tell you that giving thanks can make you a healthier, happier individual.

What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is derived from the Latin word, gratia, which can mean several things depending upon the context. Gratia means thanks, being grateful, graciousness and gracefulness. Harvard Health states “[i]n some ways gratitude encompasses all of these meanings. Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.” To practice gratitude, you must acknowledge that your life is full of great things, even if you don’t always feel that way. In doing so, you will usually realize that there are many things outside of yourself that you are appreciative of and that give your life meaning and pleasure. Harvard notes that “…gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature or a higher power.”

It is important to note that realizing how much better off you are than others does not equal gratitude. You can certainly appreciate that you have a car that drives you where you need to go, that you don’t have to worry about where you’re next meal is coming from or that you have clothes that fit and are clean, but gratitude is not about making comparisons. Gratitude is all about you taking the time to truly acknowledge and appreciate what you have in your life.

Gratitude and Depression: The Science Behind it
In an article published on Psychology Today, author Alex Korb, Ph.D., several studies on gratitude and your health and happiness are summarized with the links being clear. A 2003 study lead by American researchers recruited young adults to see what effect gratitude has on happiness. One group of young adults was asked to keep a daily gratitude journal and to write in it every day. Other groups of young adults was also asked to keep a daily journal, and one group was told to write about things that annoyed them while the other was told to journal about ways in which they realized they were better off than others. “The young adults assigned to keep gratitude journals showed greater increases in determination, attention, enthusiasm and energy compared to the other groups.” The same researchers then conducted a separate study on adults and the findings were consistent with those of the young adult study findings. In the adult study, the links between gratitude and happiness were observed even if the adults did not write in the journal daily, and the researchers also noticed that exercise patterns approved in adults who were mindful of things to be thankful for.

How to Cultivate Gratitude
“Regardless of the inherent or current level of someone’s gratitude, it’s a quality that individuals can cultivate further,” according to Harvard Health. Your daily life is filled with so many stresses and obligations that it can be all too easy to forget how so many amazing things happen each and every day. It doesn’t have to take a natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina, for you to realize that the simplest of things are sources of gratitude: running water, electricity and shelter. Practicing gratitude requires commitment and consistency in order to truly live a grateful life. One quick and easy way to practice gratitude daily is to keep a small notebook beside or near your bed. At night, before you tuck yourself into bed, write down at least one thing for which you were grateful that day.

Anxiety, stress and depression are incredibly common occurrences and taking proactive steps to combat these feelings can help empower you and significantly improve your mental health. A gratitude journal is an excellent way to decrease feelings of depression. Investing just a small amount of money for a notebook and pen (both of which you probably already have in your home) and a small amount of time each night can help significantly reduce depression.

A woman holding a 'thank you' card in a field of tulips.

Resveralife Live Well Guide: Better Health with Gratitude

We normally celebrate the festival of offering thanks once a year, but how about celebrating this practice throughout the year? Researchers say that showing gratitude on a daily basis can help you enjoy optimal health. Is this really possible? Can one stay healthy without a strict diet, exercise routine or medication? Are positive emotions enough to guarantee good health? There are a number of questions that might be running through your minds, but the connection between gratitude and good health is nothing new. According to Robert Emmons, the Professor of Psychology at the University of California, there are thousands of years of literature which talk about the benefits that showing gratitude has to offer. Apart from psychological and religious literature, modern day science has also proved the wonders that gratitude has to offer to your health.

The benefits of gratitude

Those who practice gratitude on a daily basis have a definite edge when it comes to their health. People who are grateful by nature manage to take better care of themselves and also manage to engage in protective health behaviors more regularly. This section of the Resveralife Live Well Guide from Vine Vera examines some of the main benefits of gratitude.

1. Stress Buster. Gratitude helps you to relieve stress and it is no secret that stress plays a huge role in making you look and feel sick. Stress is also believed to be the reason behind most of your doctor visits. As it turns out, gratitude can help you to manage stress better because feelings of thankfulness have an immense value in helping people to deal with everyday problems.

2. Gratitude boosts the immune system. People who are grateful by nature are usually known to be more optimistic and this helps to boost the immune system. There is a particular study which shows that being optimistic helped in maintaining a higher number of blood cells that helped to protect the immune system.

Who is likely to be grateful?

There are some people who manage to feel grateful even in the most challenging circumstances. And then there are those who sink into despair the moment the smallest problems disrupt their routines. Gratitude is mostly about a person’s perspective and the framework through which he/ she looks at the world. People who tend to be more grateful are more mindful of the benefits gratitude has to offer.

How to get started?

If you’re looking to follow the principles of Thanksgiving on a daily basis, Vine Vera helps you to get started by offering you with five tips on how to be grateful on a day-to-day basis.

Tip No. 1 – Maintain a weekly journal

Maintaining a weekly journal is one of the most effective ways of being more grateful. All you need to do is set out some time each week to record some of the things that happened during the week for which you feel grateful.

Tip No. 2 – Make the most of visual reminders

Two of the main obstacles to gratitude are lack of awareness and forgetfulness. The best way to counter these problems is to place visual reminders in your bedroom or at your work desk. Another option would be to set a reminder or an alarm on your smartphone or computer which reminds you to take some time out and count your blessings.

Tip No. 3 – Have a partner

Having a gratitude partner helps a lot. Most people lack discipline to do things on their own. This is where having a partner helps. If you stick around people who are grateful by nature, you are more than likely to inculcate their values and follow them on your own.

Tip No. 4 – Make a public commitment to be grateful

Social support groups have grown in relevance over the years. You can find all kinds of social support groups in your city or on the internet. Become a part of one of these support groups that supports being grateful and try to set weekly goals for yourself. If you make this goal public within the group and share your status update after each week, chances are that you will be more likely to follow through on your promises.

Tip No. 5 – Change the way you converse with yourself

People converse with themselves all the time. Having negative conversations with one’s inner self can lead to a lower mood. All you need to do is try to change your outlook and think about positive things. Change the tone in which you say things to yourself and this should actually work wonders in making you more grateful.

Hands held up to the sky in a sign of gratitude

Resveralife Examines the Relationship Between Gratitude and Your Health

Irrespective of how you are planning to spend Thanksgiving this year or who you plan to spend it with, make sure that you celebrate the festival the way it is meant to be celebrated. Thanksgiving is a day to spend some quality time with your loved ones and celebrate your victories of the past year. It is a day to show that you love someone and a day when you express your feelings with gratitude. And gratitude doesn’t just make you a nicer person. It also helps you to look better and live for a longer period of time.

Recent studies conducted to determine the effects of adding gratitude to one’s everyday life have shown that practicing gratitude and saying thanks regularly can help a person to become healthier, calmer, happier and peaceful. Moreover, people who are nice on the inside are also perceived to be more beautiful on the outside.

So what is it that makes being grateful so special? Vine Vera came across a number of theories which state that people who are grateful are more than likely to recognize their core values and prioritize their goals in the correct order. Moreover, these values also help them to take care of themselves as well as their loved ones. In other words, if one practices gratitude on a daily basis, he/ she is more likely to eat better, exercise better, get professional treatments and engage in better protective health behaviors.

Being grateful and practicing gratitude doesn’t need to be very hard and it doesn’t require a major lifestyle change either. Resveralife examines the four simple steps that you can add to your everyday lives in order to start enjoying the health benefits that gratitude has to offer.

Focus on positive things

Life has always been challenging and it always will be challenging. What really matters is how you approach the challenges thrown at you. Gratitude has often been defined as the attitude of a person towards the external and internal world. Thus, those who are more aware of the positive things in their lives, both inside and out, are more than likely to focus their attention on things besides themselves, thereby managing to lead a better and more fulfilling life.

Learn to appreciate what you have

Irrespective of which spectrum of the society we belong to, we often end up looking at others and hoping of having or doing things that they seem to be having or doing. However, most of us don’t bother to remember that there are people who dream of doing and enjoying the same things that we have the privilege of enjoying. There are very few people in the modern world who know how to value and appreciate what they have. It is important to understand that what a person has cannot be calculated only in terms of his/ her material possessions. It also includes the people, the person’s health and the person’s talent. Ultimately, it’s not about what you have or don’t have. It’s about what you feel about what you have.

Try to reframe those challenging situations

Problems are a part and parcel of our life. No one can enjoy a problem-free life. Every person is bound to face some kind of problem or the other at some point of time or the other. As difficult as your problems might seem to be, you need to understand that they won’t always be the same. There will be times when you have problems and there will be times when the going is smooth. After all, that’s the beauty of life. That’s what makes you who you are and defines you as an individual. What you need to understand is that you cannot change people around you or your situations. What you can change is your attitude and how you perceive your problems.

Remind yourself of the reasons for being grateful

Try to appreciate and value the things that you already have. In the midst of our everyday life, it is often easy to forget about the reasons we have to be grateful. Try to think about a few things you have to be grateful before going to sleep. Reflect on your gratitude journal and figure out all you have to be thankful for. It won’t just help you become happy, it will make you a better person as well.