Pushing gratitude on someone who is experiencing depression (DW#640)

We are discussing how forcing gratitude on others may not work and may cause people to be the opposite of grateful. It especially may not work with someone who is experiencing moderate to severe depression.

Research suggests that gratitude exercises may trigger the "inner critic" in individuals experiencing anxiety or depression.

When a person is experiencing depression, by definition they are not able to look on the bright side or find things that are positive in their lives. And being asked to find things that are positive may make their depressive feelings worse.

In a recent study, completed in 2017, the researchers found that individuals with symptoms of depression sometimes felt indebted, guilty, or "like a failure" when they were not able to find something to be grateful for. In other words, being told to practice gratitude worsened their emotional state and added other negative emotions to those they were already feeling.

Others in the study who were able to find something to be grateful for also had mixed emotions to the memory that triggered gratitude. For example, upon recalling a time when they received generous financial support, one participant shared, "I felt happy because it relieved some pressure on us, but I was also ashamed because I had to ask for help."

So while gratitude definitely increases wellbeing, it needs to be approached with caution when advising others who may be going through a tough time in life. Those who are in a vulnerable emotional state may not be in a state to find things to be grateful for.

Let’s be mindful of these situations and let’s not be gratitude pests.

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