Excel At Life--Dedicated to the Pursuit of Excellence in Life, Relationships, Sports and Career
CBT Jealousy Depression Relationships Conflict Self-efficacy Happiness Goal-setting Motivation Wellness Sport Psych

Popular Articles

Crazy-Makers: Dealing with Passive-Aggressive People

Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

When You Have Been Betrayed

Struggling to Forgive: An Inability to Grieve

Happy Habits: 50 Suggestions

The Secret of Happiness: Let It Find You (But Make the Effort)

Excellence vs. Perfection

Depression is Not Sadness

20 Steps to Better Self-Esteem

7 Rules and 8 Methods for Responding to Passive-aggressive People

What to Do When Your Jealousy Threatens to Destroy Your Marriage

Happiness is An Attitude

Guide to How to Set Achieveable Goals

Catastrophe? Or Inconvenience?

Popular Audios

Panic Assistance

Motivational Audios

Mindfulness Training

Rational Thinking

Relaxation for Children

Loving Kindness Meditation

Self-Esteem Exercise

Lies You Were Told

Choosing Happiness

Audio Version of Article: Crazy-Makers: Passive-Aggressive People

Audio Version of Article: Why Are People Mean? Don't Take It Personally!

Audio Version of Article: Happiness Is An Attitude

All Audio Articles

PsychNotes Index

More PsychNotes: Happiness and Well-being

November 2, 2016       
print

It's Not as Simple as Being Grateful
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

journal
The current fad in psychology is positive psychology. People are told that peace of mind, well-being, and even improved health will come from journaling or expressing gratitude. Can these gratitude interventions be helpful? Certainly, but making it seem that such techniques can treat anxiety and depression may be a disservice to those who are truly suffering.

My concern about the emphasis on gratitude as a treatment for anxiety and depression is that it places a demand on people with mental illness. In other words, it can become another way of dismissing suffering and blaming the sufferer:

“You wouldn't be so depressed if you just expressed more gratitude!”

“All you need to do is journal what you are grateful for and that will change your life.”

“Focus on being grateful and you won't be so worried and anxious.”

A meta-analysis evaluating 32 published research studies (Davis, et al., 2016) has shown that gratitude interventions have a weak effect on well-being. This means that these techniques can be helpful to some degree especially for those who are minimally distressed and dealing with everyday problems. However, such techniques are not a substitute for other treatments for those with anxiety and depression.

Gratitude techniques are attractive as interventions because they are easy to understand and more pleasant to do than many other techniques thus increasing follow-through. Some therapists and others latch onto these techniques as if they are some new profound intervention when they are not. Such methods have been part of cognitive therapy for a long time. The difference is that cognitive therapy addresses the complexity of the situation. It doesn't provide a one-size-fits-all technique to solve problems.

The bottom-line is that gratitude interventions can be helpful for those with depression and anxiety as part of a larger plan of treatment. However, the weak effect indicates that it does not benefit everyone and should not be considered a panacea for all that ails people.

Davis, D.E., Choe, E., Meyers, J., Wade, N., Varjas, K., Gifford, A., Quinn, A., Hook, J.N., Van Tongeren, D.R., Griffin, B.J. and Worthington, Jr., E.L. (2016). Thankful for the Little Things: A Meta-Analysis of Gratitude Interventions. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 2016, 63, 20 –31. DOI: 10.1037/cou0000107


Questions and Comments


All comments and questions require approval so you may not see your submission immediately.

Kindle Books by
Dr. Monica Frank



Recent Articles

Analyzing Your Moods, Symptoms, and Events with Excel At Life's Mood Log

Why You Get Anxious When You Don't Want To

Why People Feel Grief at the Loss of an Abusive Spouse or Parent

“Are You Depressed?”: Understanding Diagnosis and Treatment

15 Coping Statements for Panic and Anxiety

Beyond Tolerating Emotions: Becoming Comfortable with Discomfort

Emotion Training: What is it and How Does it Work?

How You Can Be More Resistant to Workplace Bullying

Are You Passive Aggressive and Want to Change?

When Your Loved One Refuses Help

Newest Audios

Building Blocks Emotion Training

Hot Springs Relaxation

5 Methods to Managing Anger

Panic Assistance While Driving

Autogenic Relaxation Training

Rainbow Sandbox Mindfulness

Mindfulness Training