11/29/2010 06:58 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Is Spiritual Growth Tied to the GDP?

Is the recession good for your soul?

The economic numbers continue to fluctuate, and the most reported psychological symptoms of the recession are depression, fear, worry and stress.

Yet what has gone relatively unreported is the rise insavings gratitude and an appreciation for thrifty living.

According to a study from market research firm Decitica, 71% of men say they feel more fortunate now, and 76% of women say they feel more grateful. Both figures are up significantly from previous years.

What's more, over 50% of people say that they're more appreciative of the benefits of thrifty living.

My husband and I lost a family manufacturing business in 2009, so I'm not trying to suggest that the last two years have been all sunshine and roses. But if our collective psyche is becoming more appreciative, grateful and frugal, perhaps there's an upside to the economic downturn.

I know that when our company was tanking, I found myself even more appreciative of my family and friends.

What about you?

Are you more empathetic and understanding than you were two years ago?

What goes through your mind if a relative or friend loses their job? How about when you see someone at an exit ramp with a sign asking for money?

Do you judge them, or do you feel kindness and compassion?

Do you try to distance yourself from someone who's having problems, or do you feel even more of a connection?

Search your spirit, and you may discover that while the GDP was tanking, you were actually becoming a stronger, more empathetic human being.

I'd always considered myself a kind person. In the past, when I saw someone suffering, I used to think, "There but for the grace of God go I." But now I'm more inclined to think, "There connected by the grace of God am I."

It's a subtle, but important, difference, and I'm not the only one who's experiencing it.

I believe that the recession has expanded our spirit. And believe it or not, it hasn't been too bad for our savings accounts either.

Another underreported fallout from the Great Recession is a reduction in personal debt.

In the October issue of O: The Oprah Magazine, Suze Orman reports that credit card debt has fallen from an all time high of $989 billion in December 2008 to $831 billion today. Still high, but it's an unprecedented 16% reduction in a short period of time.

Two thirds of credit card users now say they pay their bills in full each month, compared with only 43% a year ago. Less credit card debt means more savings. Half of Americans say they intend to save even more once the economy recovers.

In addition to becoming kinder and more compassionate, we've also gone on a savings binge.

Interesting, don't you think?

More savings, less debt, more gratitude, more appreciation. I'd be hard pressed to see those as negative outcomes.

The arc of history is long. Hard times are, well, hard when you're in them.

But previous generations of people have often looked back to discover that what they perceived as hard times were actually a catalyst for spiritual growth.

Financial situations will always fluctuate, collectively and individually. But growing your compassion and strengthening your character are changes that tend to stick.

Once your soul expands, it doesn't get small again. Because unlike home values and interest rates, the growth of your spirit is not contingent upon market conditions.

Lisa Earle McLeod is keynote speaker, author, columnist and business consultant who specializes in sales and leadership training. Her newest book, The Triangle of Truth, has been cited as the blueprint for "how smart people can get better at everything." Visit for a short video intro.