Study: Happiness, Stress and Depression might improve with Gratitude and Mindfulness

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

There are many studies showing that mindfulness and positive attitude can improve mood, anxiety, and happiness.

But what exactly do you need to do? And how often?
A recent study suggests possible clues.

What did the study involve?
• 65 women ages 18-46 years, with a mean age of 28.35 years.
• Randomly assigned to wait-list or gratitude or mindfulness groups.
• Online exercise of gratitude or mindfulness 4 times per week for 3 weeks.
What exactly was the intervention?
Four times a week for 3 consecutive weeks:
• Gratitude group was asked to list 5 things they felt grateful for; and 1 thing they were most grateful for.
• Mindfulness group kept a mindfulness diary for listing thoughts, feelings, and emotions in the present moment; and did mindfulness meditation, called the Body Scan.
• This took 10–15 minutes to complete.

What did the results show?
By the end of the study, compared to the wait list control group, participants reported being:
• Less depressed on Edinburgh Depression Scale.
• Less stress on The Perceived Stress Scale
• More Happy on the Subjective Happiness Scale

Gratitude was more helpful for stress, and mindfulness was more helpful for depression and happiness.

What about effect size, side effects or drop-out rate?
• Overall effect size ranged from 10-20%,but the time commitment was also small (4x/week).
• Even though the intervention was a few minutes 4 times per week, only about half the participants completed the study.
• No side effects were reported

What are some caveats?
• This was a small study with specific exercises; larger studies to confirm results would be helpful.
• Since the study population was women only, we don’t know how well these specific techniques would work for other populations.
• Individual responses may vary.
• For the amount of time invested, the results are impressive.
What are some resources to improve depression?

Counseling at the OSU Student Life Counseling and Consultation Service
Holiday stress article from the Mayo Clinic
Mindfulness and Body scan techniques at the OSU Wexner Medical Center
Depression information at the National Institute of Mental Health
Anonymous mental health screen
Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Could mindfulness techniques and gratitude practices help you feel better? How do you know?

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

Oleary K, Dockray S. The Effects of Two Novel Gratitude and Mindfulness Interventions on Well-Being. THE JOURNAL OF ALTERNATIVE AND COMPLEMENTARY MEDICINE. Volume 21, Number 4, 2015, pp. 243–245