'Over 40 million Americans are struggling with mental health concerns, according to Mental Health America (MHA). Since MHA released its first State of Mental Health in America report in 2015, there have already been “alarming increases” in adult suicidal ideation and major depressive episodes in young people, demonstrating how serious this problem has become.
As someone who suffers from depression, I can tell you firsthand how debilitating mental health issues can be and it can feel as if there are no remedies available to really address the problem. If you go see a doctor, you will likely be prescribed medication. And while some find this approach helpful, others, like myself, have fallen victim to some of the horrendous side-effects of antidepressants, which include severe weight gain, an increase in suicidal thoughts, and even death.
But what if instead of taking a pill that comes with a list of risk factors, something as simple as gratitude could be the answer? This might sound overly simplistic, but as it turns out, there is actually science to back up this claim.
A few years ago, Dr. Joshua Brown, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Indiana University and his colleague, Dr. Joel Wong, an associate professor of counseling psychology at Indiana University set out to answer one question:
How can they help clients derive the greatest possible benefit from treatment in the shortest amount of time?
Over the course of their research, the pair came to the conclusion that the answer to this question could be found in supplementing traditional therapy sessions with gratitude exercises. Over the last decade, several studies have found that those who routinely count their blessings are overall happier and experience less depression. However, while much of this research focused on those who did not suffer from mental health concerns, Brown and Wong set out to see if gratitude could make a noticeable difference for those struggling with mental health issues.
Brown and Wong, along with others, conducted a study comprised of nearly 300 college students who had each sought mental health counseling on campus. The participants were recruited right before they began counseling and each suffered from some degree of anxiety and depression. The student participants were separated into three groups. In addition to therapy, the first group was asked to write a letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks. The second group was asked to dig deep and write about their negative life experiences. And the third group was not asked to do any sort of writing activity. And the results were fascinating.'
Read more: How Gratitude Can Rewire Your Brain For Happiness And Success