Helping Others to Help Yourself
< Jan. 04, 2012 > -- Practicing random acts of kindness can help you feel good about yourself - and may actually improve depression and other mood disorders.
Called "positive activity interventions," acts as seemingly trivial as counting your blessings or writing a thank-you note may serve as an effective, low-cost treatment for depression, says Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., at the University of California-Riverside.
"For a depressed person, they aren't trivial at all," Dr. Lyubomirsky says. "Depressed individuals need to increase positive emotions in their life, even a minute here and there."
A positive spin
Positive actions can include:
One advantage to this approach is that people can pursue these actions on their own - without a doctor's prescription.
"They aren't a substitute" for a doctor, Dr. Lyubomirsky says. "But they are a great alternative or addition to therapy or medication."
Effect of change
And focusing on the positive tends to have a snowball effect. Your positive actions often lead to positive actions from others, which then spawn additional positive actions from you.
"You might be more approachable to others, or be more creative and imaginative," Dr. Lyubomirsky says.
Such a simple path to well-being could have a significant impact. More than 16 million U.S. adults suffer from depression, and about 70 percent of reported cases either don't receive enough treatment or don't get treated at all.
Michelle Riba, M.D., a past president of the American Psychiatric Association, agrees that reaching out to others can have a dramatic effect on a person's psychological well-being.
"There's a lot of good research that shows these kinds of actions can have a positive impact on life," Dr. Riba says. "In general, people who help others stop focusing on their own pains and problems and worries and feel good about themselves."
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How to Change Your Mind
If you tend to count your worries instead of your blessings, it's time for a fresh approach. Here's how to start thinking more positively:
Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.
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