How Gratitude and Meaning in Life Overcome Depression

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Modern Western Science found an interesting link between decreasing depression and higher levels of gratitude and meaning in life. It was already known for decades that positive life events contribute to the remission and recovery of depression. But now we know what generates these positive life events. Research so far only focused on negative predictors, but now they found interesting new evidence. The personality traits of gratitude and meaning in life increase positive life events and therefore help people to overcome depression. Science considered personality as something static in the past, but now it’s viewed as malleable. Personality can change in response to life events and role changes. For example, having a successful career, getting married, losing your spouse can change our personality. Interventions targeted at specific traits can also change personality. This suggests that a desired trait can be achieved with hard work. For example if we are pessimistic in nature, we can change this with an intervention targeted on optimism. This means we can change depression by targeting on predictors that elimninate depression. In this case; gratitude and meaning in life.

Two questions arise: 1). Why do gratitude and meaning in life decrease depression? 2.). How can we acquire gratitude and meaning in life?

It is argued that when we are grateful we notice and appreciate the positive in the world. It generates a feeling of giving back to others and society. Motivated by genuine altruism we express pro social behavior and experience positive feelings that may facilitate positive life events, which in turn help overcoming depressive symptoms.

When we find meaning in life we are motivated to pursue our life goals which in turn generate positive life events. Having meaning in life tackles the anhedonia common in depression and sustain intrinsically motivated behavior. A great part of meaning in life are personally significant goals mostly for achievement/work, relationship/intimacy, religion/spirituality, and self-transcendence. Research hypothesize that when people with depression strive for meaningful goals in these life domains, they will experience more positive life events.

How can we become more grateful? Experimental tests of gratitude interventions show that we can become more grateful when we practice being more grateful. For example, writing three things a week we are grateful for helps us to train ourselves to experience more gratitude. Want to be more grateful? Try this experiment: Write down everyday for a week before you go to sleep what you’re grateful. All you need is a notepad, a pen, and 5 minutes of spare time. Divide the page up into three sections: 1). What you’re grateful for in life. 2). Which people you’re grateful for. and 3). What you’re grateful for in yourself. In every section write down as many ”thank yous” as you want to say. Thank everyone and everything. It doesn’t matter if it’s small like good weather or a nice meal, write everything down! And see how your life is improved after this experiment. I will try this experiment myself and let you know the results in a new article.

How do we find more meaning in life? Studies show that clinicians and coaches use new meaning in life interventions. For example they create a portfolio of photos showcasing sources of profound life significance. Want to find more meaning in your life? Think about the following questions. 1). Who and what matters in your life? 2). What are your dreams you want to fulfill? 3). What skills do you want to achieve? If you’re stuck in answering these questions. Try meditation. By meditating you will find your true self. Your true self knows your true needs that will give you direction in your life. But the most important, go out and play! Yoy is the source of all creative energy. And trust me, that moment will come when everything falls in place.

It does not matter how long you are spending on the earth, how much money you have gathered or how much attention you have received. It is the amount of positive vibration you have radiated in life that matters.” – Amit Ray


Written by Sadja Faili

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