Study: Impact of Gratitude on depression, suicidal ideation, and self-esteem

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

One definition of gratitude is a state of mind where one feels and expresses thankfulness consistently over time and across situations (1).

In a previous post, we reviewed the role of specific gratitude exercise on happiness, stress, and depression (2, 3).

A recent study looked at the relationship of a person’s gratitude levels on depression, suicidal-ideation, and self-esteem among college students.

What did the study involve?
• 814 college students, with a mean age of 20.13 years (4).

• Participants completed questionnaires measuring gratitude, depression, suicidal ideation, and self esteem (4).
• The relationship between these four factors was analyzed (4).

What did the results show? (4)
• Participants with higher levels of gratefulness tended to have a higher level of self-esteem (4).
• Higher self-esteem decreased suicidal-ideation (4).
• Participants with higher levels of gratefulness tended to be less depressed, which also reduced suicidal-ideation (4).

What are some caveats?
• This was a small study looking at correlations, which does not necessarily tell us about cause and effect (causation).
• Specific factors that increased the gratitude of participants was not examined.
• Individual responses may vary.

Where can I learn more about gratitude?

Here is a link on a specific gratitude exercise: http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/12/

Harvard’s link on gratitude exercise (click then scroll down the page):  http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/in-praise-of-gratitude

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 gratitude practices help you feel better?

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.

References:

  1. Emmons, R. A. & Crumpler, C. A. (2000). Gratitude as a human strength:
    Appraising the evidence. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 19, 56–69.
  2. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/12/
  3. 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.
  4. Lin CC. The relationships among gratitude, self-esteem, depression, and suicidal
    ideation among undergraduate students.  Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 2015, 56, 700–707. DOI: 10.1111/sjop.12252

Healing As A Community

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

Unexpected traumatic events can cause a wide range of feelings, thoughts, and physical reactions that can last for days to weeks afterwards. Being proactive can help you with the healing process.

What are some practical ways of healing after such events?

  • Collect yourself:
    • Take a few slow deep breaths.  When feeling scared or upset, doing this can help you feel calmer.
    • Simplify your life:
      • Make a list of things you need to do. Is there anything you can put off for a while? Anything you can let go?
      • Put off making major life decisions, if possible; until you feel better.
    • Take a few minutes each day for “worry time”; write down your concerns or worries.
    • Listen to quiet or relaxing music.
    • Get organized.
    • Tidy up your living space.
    • Re-establish your daily routine if possible.
  • Practice healthy habits:
    • Eat healthy food
    • Exercise regularly
    • Taking a walk.
    • Get enough sleep. For more sleep tips, go here.
    • Avoid using alcohol or drugs because they can delay the healing process.
  • Connect with others:
    • Talk to a close friend or counselor. Processing your feelings can be helpful.
    • Spend time with others if possible.
    • Find ways to help others. Doing so may ease your suffering.
    • Thoughtfully limit your exposure to media.
  • Take a step back and gain perspective:
    • Make a list of things that give you hope.
    • Make a list of things you are grateful for.
    • How does this fit in your bigger picture?

Finally, be kind to yourself. The healing process can be different for each person and you can experience a variety of emotions along the way. Don’t hesitate to seek out professional help.

Where can I learn more?

OSU Office of Student Life’s Counseling and Consultation Services

SAMSHA: Coping with Traumatic Events

What to Expect in Your Personal, Family, Work, and Financial Life: Tips for Survivors of a Disaster or Traumatic Event

Anonymous Mental health screening. Suicide screening prevention.

Adapted from coping after terrorism for survivors and from the links above.

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.

 

How You Can Become More Resilient

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

Many students will experience more stress as the semester comes to an end.

Many will also experience other stressful events such as life tragedies, trauma, difficulties with finances, work, relationships, health, emotions, etc.

Practicing and increasing resilience in yourself can be helpful with these situations.

What is resilience?

Resilience has many definitions, here are some useful ways of thinking about resilience:

  • An ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change (1)
  • Emotional resilience is one’s ability to adapt to stressful situations (2).

What are some ways to increase resilience?

The key is to adjust.

The American Psychological Association’s report on Resilience (3) offers 10 methods to increase resilience:

Adjust your thinking

1. Practice developing confidence in your ability to solve problems.  It can be helpful to occasionally remind your self about times in the past where things were difficult and you problem solved through it.

2. Keep perspective.  Take a step back and remind yourself of the big picture, and where your current situation fits. Are you blowing things out of proportion? Or are you being realistic?

3. Keep a positive outlook by visualizing what you want instead of worrying about what you don’t want.

4. Look for solutions.  Stressful things will happen but shifting your focus from worrying about the problem to looking for solutions can be powerful. Just the change in thinking can help you feel better; and the solutions are a bonus!

5. Accept that there will often be change. It can be very helpful to accept the things that you cannot change and shift your energy to the things that you can change.

Act differently:

6. Move toward your goals:

  • Make sure that your goals are realistic.
  • Take a small step. Doing things regularly, even something small, that move you towards goals will help you feel better.

7. Take decisive actions towards problems instead of avoiding or procrastinating. This will also help reduce feelings of frustration.

8. Look for opportunities for self-discovery.

  • What lesson can you gain from the loss or setback?
  • The report goes on to say that many people who have experienced tragedies and hardship have reported better relationships, greater sense of strength even while feeling vulnerable, increased sense of self-worth, a more developed spirituality and heightened appreciation for life.

9. Connect with others:

  • Accept help and support. Counseling at OSU is a great resource.
  • Helping others can also benefit the helper. Some examples include: student organizations, civic groups, non-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, volunteer groups, or other local groups.

10. Connect with yourself:

  • Do activities that you enjoy and find relaxing.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Avoid alcohol, caffeine, drugs.

The report also suggests other ways that might strengthen resilience:

  • Journaling your thoughts and feelings
  • Meditation/Yoga
  • Spiritual and/or religious practices

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.

References:

  1. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resilience
  2. http://stress.about.com/od/understandingstress/a/resilience.htm
  3. http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/road-resilience.aspx