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symptoms of depression in teens

Can Practicing Gratitude Reduce Symptoms of Depression in Teens?

Telling your child who is struggling with depression to be more grateful for the positive things in their life won’t necessarily lift their feelings of hopelessness, but it is a small step in helping them shift their perspective. A recent analysis shows that gratitude can make a difference in helping teens with symptoms of depression in teens, but that it is more effective when combined with other therapies. 

How Can Gratitude Help Symptoms Of Depression In Teens?

According to study author, David Cregg, “it is good to be more grateful — it has intrinsic virtue and there’s evidence that people who have gratitude as a general trait have a lower incidence of mental health problems and better relationships.” 

However, Cregg believes the “the problem is when we try to turn gratefulness into a self-help tool. Gratitude can’t fix everything.”

At Red Mountain Colorado, gratitude is just one of many mindfulness practices integrated into our clinical model. Often, teens participate in activities without realizing their greater value in teaching them to be more self-aware, grateful, and compassionate towards others. They may think, “we meditate in the mornings to practice sitting with our thoughts” or “we go on recreation outings because they want us to exercise.” The bigger picture is that these activities help them learn more about themselves, what they like and don’t like, and how to integrate more of what they like into their daily routine as a way to cope with feelings of depression and hopelessness.

Practicing gratitude through organized activities can lead to greater sensitivity to the experience of gratitude in the future. When teens first seek mental health treatment, they are dealing with a lot of stress and anxiety and often feel unmotivated. As they begin to connect with others and themselves, they begin to internalize the joy and gratitude they feel for these interactions and activities.

Ways to Practice Gratitude:

  • List positive things that have happened throughout the course of the day. Morning gratitude journals are a great idea, but it can be hard to start the day with an open mindset. At Red Mountain Colorado, we focus on intention setting during morning mindfulness and encourage students to cultivate awareness of things they are grateful for throughout the day. By the end of the day, teens are better prepared to reflect on positive interactions and moments of laughter, even if they took them for granted in the moment.
  • Tell someone you appreciate them and why. One of the most powerful parts of group therapy is the intimate relationships that teens develop with those around them. Even in moments where they’ve felt insecure and disconnected, hearing positive feedback from others helps them to internalize these positive messages about themselves. While it is natural for teens to be impatient with others or to trust that others have their best interest, group therapy creates space for teens to show appreciation for others who offer them support. 
  • Observe the effect that showing gratitude has on you physically. When you tell someone “thank you” or “I appreciate you,” does your body feel more tense or does it release some of the feelings you’ve been holding onto? It doesn’t necessarily take keeping a gratitude journal or writing a letter to feel the impact of gratitude in day-to-day interactions. We teach teens how to get more in touch with how they physically respond to situations by doing body scans. While they may be in their head and holding onto negative thoughts, their body has a more instinctive response to positive interactions. Learning how to check in with your body through body scans helps re-align one’s body-mind connection and increase positive thinking.

Red Mountain Colorado Can Help 

Red Mountain Colorado is a residential treatment center for young people ages 14-17. We help students manage symptoms of depression in teens and other mental health challenges. The program focuses on influencing a positive change in the lives of students through mindfulness and holistic therapies. Healthy, sustainable activities are also incorporated so that students will be able to apply the things they learn to their everyday lives. Students leave Red Mountain Colorado feeling empowered and in control of their lives.

For more information, call (877) 302-5022. We can help your family today!