The Health Benefits of Counting Your Blessings

Gratitude journal

You’ve heard your grandma say it a thousand times: Count your blessings. The adage is annoyingly prevalent during the holiday season, but—as it turns out—granny was onto something. Burgeoning research shows that gratitude has tangible, positive effects on mental and physical health, including better sleep, reduced depression, and improved relationships.

Let’s back up a little—what is gratitude, anyways?

Robert Emmons (one of the leading scientific experts on this topic) defines gratitude as a “sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.”

If you’re feeling a little more Grinch than Cindy Lou, here are three science-backed reasons to start cultivating gratitude this Thanksgiving—and year-round, too:

1. Sweeter Sleep

After a long, stressful day, your head hits the pillow—and a compilation of your most embarrassing, cringe-worthy memories starts to play. Sound familiar?  

If you’re nodding your head “yes,” you might want to stop counting sheep and start counting blessings instead. According to a 2009 study, cultivating gratitude may help you doze off faster, sleep longer, and wake up feeling more refreshed.

The study linked gratitude to having more positive thoughts (and fewer negative ones) at bedtime. 

It seems obvious, but cultivating positive thoughts helps push pessimism and worry—the enemies of sleep—out of your mind. Rather than obsessing over a friend who forgot to text you back, you’re remembering the coworker who went out of their way to check in with you. Instead of stressing over an awkward social interaction, you’re thinking about that presentation you nailed at work.  

Better than a lullaby, right?

2. improved relationships

Turns out, gratitude is for lovers. 

According to research from the Journal of Theoretical Social Psychology, expressing gratefulness toward your partner can strengthen your bond, improve feelings of harmony, and boost overall satisfaction with your relationship.  

Couples who intentionally expressed gratitude for their significant other not only felt more positively towards them, but were more comfortable addressing concerns about their relationship, too. 

The study’s lead author, Dr. Sara Algoe, says, “Feelings of gratitude and generosity are helpful in solidifying our relationships with people we care about.” 

Want to put gratefulness to practice in your relationship? Here’s an easy tip: Find something you genuinely appreciate about your partner give them an authentic compliment.

3. Boosted physical health

The benefits of thankfulness go beyond the psychological—cultivating gratitude can improve your physical health as well. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, giving thanks on a routine basis can motivate you to meet your diet and exercise goals—and cut down on unhealthy habits such as cigarette smoking and alcohol abuse. 

According to Robert Emmons’ 2003 study, participants who kept a daily gratitude journal exercised more, had more energy and reported fewer aches and pains. 

Emmons also found gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression, which brings us to our next point…

4. Decreased depression levels

While research on gratitude is still in a fledgling state, many psychologists are exploring the relationship between thankfulness, mental health, and depression.  

A recent study in Current Psychology examined the link between gratitude and depression in university students in China. The discovery? Gratitude may “counteract the symptoms of depression by enhancing a state of peace of mind and reducing ruminative thinking.” (Rumination is repetitively going over a negative thought or a situation without moving into problem-solving.)

Anyone who’s struggled with depression knows how awful those persistent, cycling thoughts can be—so the notion that gratitude could help alleviate them is promising, indeed. 

gratitude is not a cure-all

We want to make one thing clear: there’s no evidence that gratitude can cure serious illnesses or depression. It’s not a panacea—and it’s not for everybody, either. 
What cultivating gratitude can do is help us focus on the positive things in our lives, which can help boost our mood more than we ever imagined. 

Ready to start practicing gratitude year-round?

Get started with the tried-and-true “three good things” exercise. Every night, write down three good things that happened during the day.

For some of us, “the most wonderful time of the year” is anything but. If you or someone you know needs mental health support through the holidays, we’re here.

Schedule Now

Burnout, Anxiety, and Depression Run Rampant in the Tech World

Let’s be real: Adulting is hard, and stressful workdays are inevitable. But for some employees, it’s not just an occasional case of the Mondays. Instead, crippling stress, long hours, and workplace pressure are daily realities.

While stress and burnout are issues in most American workplaces, they’re especially prevalent in the tech world, where regular overtime and high expectations for productivity are the norm. 

According to a survey from Blind, an anonymous workplace review service, a high percentage of tech workers suffer from job-related anxiety and burnout. (Burnout is defined as emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion caused by excessive, long-term stress.) The one-question survey had a simple “yes or no” query: “Are you currently suffering from job burnout?” Of the 11,487 users who responded, over half of respondents (57.16%, to be precise) replied “yes.” Frankly, it’s a mindblowing statistic. 

Even more concerning? Burnout, stress, overworking, and irregular work hours can increase a person’s chance of developing depression. “Generally, burnout is consolidated to work.  However, long-term work stress can lead to depression—burnout that’s extended to other domains in a person’s life,” says Zoom CMO Dr. Erik Vanderlip. 

In another Blind survey, users were asked to answer “true” or “false” to this statement: I believe I am depressed. Nearly 40% of the 10,081 tech workers who participated responded with “true.”

What causes employee stress and burnout?

Burnout, anxiety, and depression are hardly exclusive to tech companies. However, the prototypical startup culture may make employees more vulnerable to mental health issues.

Some of the top-cited factors leading to workplace-related mental health issues include unreasonable workload and too much overtime—virtual cornerstones of life at a tech company. 

Why employees’ mental health matters

It’s simple: When employees are happy, they’re more likely to thrive at work. When they’re suffering, their work suffers. According to the CDC, 200 million workdays are lost each year due to depression—which amounts to roughly $17 to $44 billion in lost productivity.  

Happier employees are more productive, but—beyond the financial consequences for companies—there’s a moral, humanitarian component to consider. People are important. Their health, including their mental health, is vitally important. 

Companies should care about their employees’ mental health because the ripple effect is far-reaching. Job-related anxiety and depression (and the ailments they cause) result in over 120,000 deaths each year, making them more deadly than diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, or influenza.

How ZOOM+Care can help 

Long wait times and limited availability are barriers to mental health treatment—and they’re especially difficult to overcome when you’re a busy, overworked tech professional. 

At Zoom, we offer ultra-accessible mental healthcare that fits into your busy schedule. Even if you only have 30 minutes during your lunch break, we can help. You can schedule a same-day ZOOM+Care visit directly from your phone, easily refill or manage medications, or simply to reach out for guidance. 

If you or someone you know has a pressing mental health concern, we’re here.

Schedule Now

Exciting news: ZOOM+Care Mental Health is now available in Bellevue! Never used ZOOM+Care before? Learn more about our unique approach to Mental Health.

There’s a Mental Health Crisis on College Campuses. We’d Like to Help.

Empty college classroom

The college experience is painted with bright-colored brushstrokes. It’s supposed to be a time of self-discovery, exploration, and experimentation. However, reality doesn’t always match the glossy ideal on the brochure. Students feel an immense pressure to ‘figure things out’—figure out their lives, their careers, and their place in an ever-changing world. On top of that, many have to shoulder sizable debt with no with no certainty of being able to repay it. For today’s students, a college degree no longer guarantees the economic security it once did. 

Simply put, college is a massive burden for a young person to bear.

While college has always been stressful, recent data suggests it’s becoming moreso—and the additional burden of mental illness doesn’t help. Compounding this problem, many mental health disorders don’t begin until the late teens or early 20s. So—not only are students living away from home for the first time—but they may be experiencing anxiety and depression for the very first time, too.

All over the country, colleges and universities are reporting an explosion of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide. According to a 2018 study from the American College Health Association, over 60 percent of university students reported “overwhelming anxiety” over the course of the year. More than 40 percent said they felt so depressed, they had difficulty going about daily life. 

While most colleges provide free, short-term counseling and care, the number of students who need mental healthcare far exceeds the resources of most counseling centers. What’s more, the demand for these services tends to be cyclical, with students increasing use toward the middle of the semester—which creates a bottleneck. 

Even more concerning? Some students avoid using university resources altogether out of fear of repercussion. Frequently, students are forced to take medical leave to avoid liability related to campus suicides. Some colleges have even expelled students who express suicidal ideation.  

While the cause of the spike is still undetermined, one thing is for sure: There is a substantial unmet need for mental health treatment among college students. 

Lonely college student studying on couch

How ZOOM+Care can help 

Limited options and long waits aren’t strictly a campus problem—they’re the norm for mental healthcare everywhere. At ZOOM+Care, we’re helping break down barriers by offering ultra-accessible, affordable visits to people in all walks of life.  

We don’t want anyone, student or not, to be stuck on a waiting list for weeks, unable to get help. That’s why we take a “no wrong door” approach to mental healthcare.

Getting assistance is as simple as scheduling a same-day ZOOM+Care visit directly from your phone. You can see a member of our mental health team, or try your hand at our daily care offerings. You can also use Chat Care to refill or manage medications—or to reach out for judgment-free advice and guidance. It’s all private, all on your terms, and all in your control.

If you or someone you know has a pressing mental health concern, we’re here. 

Schedule Now, or check out our Mental Health FAQs. 

Manic One Day, Meh the Next? It’s Not Just You.

Letters spelling mood on swings

Zoomers in Portland and Seattle report rapidly cycling moods that have nothing to do with their love of bikes.

Consider what went through your head the last time someone casually asked how you’re doing.

Did time slow down as you debated five answers that ranged from “Great!” to a philosophical reflection on suffering and the human condition? Take heart — you’re not the only one stuck in a mental spincycle.

At ZOOM+Care, our mental health team is seeing more people struggling with mood swings. “The first thing I’m hearing is that people feel irritable and annoyed at everyone and everything,”  says Erik Vanderlip, MD MPH, Psychiatrist and Primary Care Lead at ZOOM+Care. “When we dig further, there’s a pattern of feeling highly productive and energetic or restless — almost manic — for a few days or weeks, followed by a period of draining doubt and frustration.”

It sounds a little like bipolar disorder, but it’s not that severe. “What we’re learning in the mental health field is that every condition exists on a spectrum,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “Changing moods can become disruptive to your well-being, relationships, and/or job without reaching the level of the most severe forms of bipolar disorder.”

Think of mental health issues the same way you would a cough: If it’s just a tickle in your throat that has minimal impact on your day, it’s no big deal. If it persists for two weeks and it’s bugging you at home and work, consider seeing a doc.

WHAT TO ASK YOURSELF:

  • Are the ups and downs getting disruptive? If your mood is putting stress on your relationships or making it harder to get things done at work, it’s time for a mental health check-up.
  • Are you still as resilient as you were before? When problems come up on down days, do you feel as capable of handling them as in the past? Or are you so checked out, you’ve lost your resolve to fix things?
  • Are you worried about how much you worry? There are a lot of rational things to be worried about, but if anxiety is becoming its own issue, talk to a doc.

WAYS TO MANAGE MOOD SWINGS ON YOUR OWN:

  • Keep a journal to track mood changes and their triggers.
  • Stay active — take short walks a few times a day.
  • Avoid skipping meals.
  • Keep a regular sleep schedule.
  • Breathe deeply in stressful moments.
  • Lean on friends you trust.

WHERE TO GET HELP:

At your neighborhood ZOOM+Care clinic – Schedule a same-day, no-wait visit for mental health.  “At Zoom, we make it super easy to get treatment for any health issue, whether it’s for your ankle, lungs, or frontal lobe,” says Dr. Vanderlip.  

Schedule Now

Hey Zoom, Fidget Spinners Don’t Actually Help with Anxiety, Do They?

There’s no research on fidget spinners, but some psychiatrists are optimistic that the toy can help kids with autism avoid more disruptive behaviors. It may also reduce nervous habits like nail biting.

Like stress balls or worry stones, it’s really how you choose to use a fidget spinner that matters.

Continue reading “Hey Zoom, Fidget Spinners Don’t Actually Help with Anxiety, Do They?”

Hey Zoom, Is It OK to Suggest Someone Get Help for Anxiety or Depression?

It depends on where you’re coming from, says Erik Vanderlip, MD MPH, Psychiatrist and Zoom’s Mental Health Team Lead.

Here’s why you should give yourself a gut-check before bringing up potential anxiety or depression — and how to express your concern the right way.

Continue reading “Hey Zoom, Is It OK to Suggest Someone Get Help for Anxiety or Depression?”

Hey Zoom: Is Doing the Nude Bike Ride Good for My Mental Health?

YES! And we’re not just saying that because we plan to take pics and blackmail you when you run for office, start a company, or file for custody of your children.

“If you do the Nude Bike Ride the right way, it can boost your confidence and resilience,” says Psychiatrist and Zoom Mental Health Team Lead Erik Vanderlip, MD MPH.

Here’s how to turn June 24th into your own personal pep rally. Continue reading “Hey Zoom: Is Doing the Nude Bike Ride Good for My Mental Health?”

Health Hack: Hate Your Job? Say These 3 Things to Feel Better

Your boss is unbearable, the work is beneath you, the money sucks… we’re hearing a lot of people wallowing in work stress these days. You too?

To help you enjoy the rest of your life, we tracked down Erik Vanderlip, MD, Psychiatrist and Mental Health Team Lead at ZOOM+Care and got some advice on diffusing work stress at the end of the day.

Continue reading “Health Hack: Hate Your Job? Say These 3 Things to Feel Better”

Hey Zoom, I Keep Thinking About the MAX Attack and I’m Scared to Ride the Train. Is This Normal?

If there’s one thing we’ve learned about Mental Health professionals, it’s that they’re not keen on labelling stuff “normal” or “not normal.” But when we cornered ZOOM+Care Psychiatrist Erik Vanderlip, MD, MPH, and insisted he answer your question, he said “Well, it isn’t abnormal.”

“When something happens in the world around us that’s traumatizing and awful, it can open old psychological wounds or create new ones,” says Dr. Vanderlip. “The closer and more directly we’re impacted, the deeper the wound and the slower it is to heal.”

Luckily, there are proven ways to overcome your anxiety.

Continue reading “Hey Zoom, I Keep Thinking About the MAX Attack and I’m Scared to Ride the Train. Is This Normal?”