Anxiety, Depression and Thankfulness

(Make sure you read to the end of the post!)

There’s a lot to be said for being thankful.

1.For a start, we have a lot to be grateful for – Even when we’re suffering, and life is full of pain.

Most of us will have a decent roof over our heads, enough food to eat, some family and friends … And then there’s the beauty that surrounds us in the world. When we start to think about it, the list becomes quite long.

2. Gratitude can also help us to keep things in perspective. When things are really tough, we usually feel quite negative. And feeling negative affects the way we see the world. There’s a dark and dusty filter over everything in life. We have lost all sense of hope. We expect the very worst. This is normal, and it’s natural, when we’re in this situation.

However, thinking of those things that we’re grateful for in life can help steady this imbalance (an understandable imbalance.) Yes, our friends have let us down, and they didn’t understand.  

But perhaps there are some things we can still be thankful for.

3. Being grateful helps to temporarily shift our focus from ourselves and our pain, onto the larger world again. It shifts it back onto a world which – it seems – is much the same. And that in itself, can help to ground us once again. It can offer some relief when it feels like chaos reigns.

What does the research tell us?

However, the research also shows[1] that when we practice gratitude, the effect is minimal if we’re anxious or depressed.

That is, it doesn’t change our feelings for any length of time.

What can we take away from this?

Yes, there’s value in being thankful. It can balance out wrong thoughts. But if you suffer from depression or anxiety, then it helps to know being grateful will have limited effects.

So, pay attention to the research. Show compassion to yourself.

And know that being thankful really isn’t a cure-all.

[1] David R. Cregg, Jennifer S. Cheavens. Gratitude Interventions: Effective Self-help? A Meta-analysis of the Impact on Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety. Journal of Happiness Studies, 2020; DOI: 10.1007/s10902-020-00236-6

21 thoughts on “Anxiety, Depression and Thankfulness

    • Thank you, and good to hear from you Joshua! Being thankful really doesn’t cure depression or anxiety. It might provide a very temporary (and minor degree of) relief… but the sample size in the study was large, so the results were fairly conclusive.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I echo Joshua’s comment. Humans excel at finding the magic formula to make everything better. As you have often noted, trauma (by its very nature) is complicated. There are few quick fixes. The truth is, it takes lots of things and often lots of time to recover from significant damage. Even then, the scars will remain.

    Liked by 3 people

    • You are absolutely right. As I was just saying to Joshua, the sample size in the study was large, and I think it essentially highlights something we know is true if we have been traumatized, or have struggled with clinical depression, or powerful feelings of anxiety. As you say, there is no magic formula or quick fix. Thanks so much for adding your thoughts. They are always valued!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent. Its main theme is to see the hope which is to come. I pray that we can all find the light of hope in our own lives. Even a small glimmer. I appreciate your words about those who experience anxiety and depression as some of my family deals with these dark anchors on hope.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Like everyone else, I agree and thank you for highlighting that thankfulness doesn’t work too well when you’re depressed or anxious. Gratefulness, hope, etc never seemed to work for me either – but I got through the worst and though I still experience panic/anxiety and depression, it’s never as bad as it once was 🙂 Or, perhaps I just deal with it better.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The last point in the post highlights the fact that being thankful doesn’t relieve feelings of anxiety in the long run … at least that is what the research indicates. So, no, I wouldn’t say most anxious thoughts originate from being deprived.

      Liked by 1 person

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