Counter low mood and depression by planning positive experiences

Counter low mood and depression by planning positive experiences

Enjoying positive experiences can boost happiness.

Planning and enjoying positive experiences can also counter depression!

Check out this summary of some fabulous research focusing on how “daily uplifts” help overcome depression and enhance happiness…

via Psychology Today by Seth Gillihan

One of the most common symptoms of depression is “anhedonia,” the lack of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. If you’ve ever been depressed you probably recognize the experience of not looking forward to anything, even activities you used to enjoy. Even basic pleasures like food and sex may have lost their allure.

Multiple research studies have supported the “positive mood attenuation hypothesis”: When we’re depressed, positive things do less to lift our spirits. However, one of the most well-supported cognitive behavioral treatments for depression called “behavioral activation” relies on the mood-lifting effects of meaningful and enjoyable activities. How does this treatment work if the positive mood attenuation hypothesis is correct?

A new research study revisited this hypothesis in a sample of young adults. The authors pointed out that most of the studies showing positive mood attenuation in depression were done in the lab and used positive stimuli that are of questionable relevance to real life: “viewing positive images, … happy facial expressions, amusing videos, or receiving small monetary rewards.”

The good thing about a study done in the lab is it’s easy to control, and the researchers have a relatively clear idea of what is influencing the participants. The downside is that the design may not be a good model for real life. Indeed, when we’re feeling low we probably aren’t thinking, “You know what would really cheer me up? Finding a dollar. Or maybe watching another funny Youtube video.” The authors note that “real-life experiences are more personally relevant, more interactive, more wholly immersive, and more likely to have a tangible impact on the person’s future experiences.” In other words, they probably matter a lot more.

This new study examined the effects of real-life events on mood, depending on a person’s level of depression symptoms. Would individuals with high levels of depression feel better when good things happened? Participants reported their daily depressive symptoms and their “daily uplifts” (e.g., enjoying time with friends, exercising) through an online portal, which allowed for analysis of how mood and daily events were related. These analyses showed…

…keep reading the full & original article HERE