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How Gratitude Helps Us Cope with Anxiety

Giving thanks is a self-care tool we can use at any time.

Gratitude helps with anxiety
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“Some people grumble that roses have thorns,” wrote the 19th-century French novelist Alphonse Karr, “I am grateful that thorns have roses.” 

Karr’s idea is at the heart of my thinking this Thanksgiving—and it’s a helpful framework for keeping anxiety in check as the pandemic continues to weigh heavily on us all. The practice of gratitude—whether in a journal, on a note pad, on the phone to a loved one or simply reflected in a quiet moment taken out of your day—helps us focus on the full picture of our lives.

A recent study demonstrated the power of gratitude to keep anxiety from dominating the inner, emotional conversation. A group of high school students were given a six-week course that covered a number of gratitude strategies, including an app that allowed them to track and share what they were thankful for. A control group of students did not receive the program. 

At the end of the six-week period, the students who received the program reported significantly lower anxiety levels, fewer negative thoughts and greater overall life satisfaction than those who had continued with their regular classes without the gratitude strategies.

The study’s authors noted that the ability to share their gratitude with others was a key component to its success. We don’t need to be on social media or use an app to bring that into our routines—we can pick up the phone to tell a friend or family member we’re thankful for them, call out to our postal workers or garbage collectors or even look in the mirror to give ourselves a “thank you” out loud

In other words, carefully pick up that rose, aware of the thorn, and offer it to someone you love. As you do, recognize that although you might prefer thornless roses, your robust gratitude practice doesn’t mean you have to ignore the thorns to enjoy the beautiful blooms. 

How does gratitude help you manage your anxiety?

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