10 Ways To Use The Power of Gratitude To Help Depression & Anxiety

Last Updated: 14 Jun 2019

Episodes of depression and anxiety are common for people living with bipolar disorder. But research has found that practicing gratitude has a positive influence on one’s mood, outlook, relationships, and overall happiness—all of which can buffer against depression and anxiety. Here are ten ways to harness the power of gratitude:

#1 Understand appreciation

An appreciation for what you have makes it easier not to worry about what you don’t have. This helps recognize the positive aspects, which provides a calming effect—this in turn can make it less stressful to deal with mental health issues. Various studies have shown that being more appreciative of a romantic partner strengthens the relationship.

#2 Pay attention

By noting the things and people in life that you’re grateful for, it inspires you to pay attention and increase your awareness of what you will add to your journal or list, either in that moment or at the end of the day. Even the simple experience of gratitude may give you a dopamine boost and help depression and anxiety.

#3 Count your blessings

Practice the “three good things” exercise daily and keep a running list throughout. Many people find putting pen to a notebook with a gratitude journal gives the needed ritual experience that encourages an intentional focus on the day’s events. When journaling, you can write more detail about the events that made you feel appreciative.

#4 Make alphabet soup

If you’re seeking something a little different than keeping a list or a journal, why not try making an alphabet list? Note something, even if it seems small and simple, for every letter of the alphabet. Some find it helpful to keep a document in their smart phone or a small notebook so they can capture everything during the day.

#5 Dinner thanks

One of the most popular and powerful tools for cultivating thankfulness is to say it out loud. When you speak about gratitude instead of just thinking it, it engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which in effect increases serotonin and produces feelings of peace and calm. Many people make a habit of talking about the positive things from their day around the family dinner table.

#6 Give thanks to others

Practice appreciating others. Write regular thank-you notes one or twice a week—whether cards, letters, texts, or emails. The act of telling another you are grateful for him creates connection and spreads a feeling of validation that will hopefully be paid forward.

#7 Say it in a picture

If you are a visual/creative type, you could use visual reminders: Post pictures of loved ones or meaningful experiences in places where you can see them regularly. You could even create a gratitude wall in your home to act as a constant reminder to savor the wonderful people and moments in your life.

#8 Consider the alternative

Another exercise takes the It’s a Wonderful Life approach: recall something positive that happened in your life or a special someone and consider how life would be if the event never happened or you hadn’t met that person. That might not sound uplifting—and may not be the best idea when you’re feeling fragile—but this exercise helps you see how someone or something is a blessing.

#9 Your own gratitude style

The best route to success is choosing a gratitude practice that fits with your preferences and style. What works for one person may not for another. Experiment with several until you find the one(s) you find most enjoyable. You will be grateful you did.

#10 Make it a habit

To count your blessings when in a state of depression or anxiety is challenging and takes a conscious effort. However, if this is a habit and part of your every day routine, like brushing your teeth, you will be more successful. In fact, some people associate two daily routines like thinking about what you’re grateful for while brushing your teeth.

  1. Joke if you will, but it works for me.

  2. I am in a crisis right now, coming off Lamotrigine and starting on Latuda. Only the problem is I have been tapering off with no Latuda and I am a MESS. I have Isolated myself. The only friends I have is my family. God Bless them for learning with me and trying to understand what is happening to me in front of their eyes.

  3. Does anyone out there have times when you just feel blank inside?During these times I feel disconnected from everything and everyone. I don’t feel like talking, but my mind never stops thinking.
    I feel isolated even when with friends. Feels like I’m wasting my life.

  4. I practice gratitude on a daily basis. When I go to bed I start whispering each one. I always fall asleep while doing this because it calms me and improves my mood. If I’ve had a good day, it’s not hard to think of a lot of gratitudes. If I’ve had a difficult one, they don’t come as easily. On those days I start with the basics (thank you for a comfortable bed, enough to eat today, etc.) and it gets easier as I go along. If negative thoughts intrude I firmly crowd them out and continue with my list. This practice is something I look forward to each day. I recommend it to everyone, not just us.

  5. Thank you for this article on gratitude. Melody Beatty talks about “forced gratitude” in her book, Codependent No More and indicates that when we don’t feel gratitude is when we could force it and we benefit from it immensely. This book was one of the books in my life that had the most profound effects. I was only able to read 1-2 pages at a time some days. It is filled with many positive ideas which if applied produce much healing and peace.

Leave a Reply

Please do not use your full name, as it will be displayed. Your email address will not be published.