Positive Actions and Thoughts Decrease Depression

Positive Activity Interventions uncover depression symptoms

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) For people suffering from depression, there are alternatives or additions to medication and therapy. You can also think and act yourself into being happier.

Simple positive acts, such as counting your blessings, practicing optimism and performing acts of kindness, are found to be effective remedies against depression, with lasting improvements for six months.

"Use mindset and positive activities to counter your depression."

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside and Duke University Medical Center conducted a rigorous evaluation of Positive Activity Interventions (PAI), using previous studies of thousands of normal men and women, as well as people with depressive symptoms, to determine how happy and unhappy people are different.

“Over the last several decades, social psychology studies of flourishing individuals who are happy, optimistic and grateful have produced a lot of new information about the benefits of positive activity interventions on mood and well-being,” said Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology and director of the Positive Psychology Laboratory at UC Riverside.

Effective PAIs used in the study included writing letters of gratitude, counting one’s blessings, practicing optimism, performing acts of kindness, meditating on positive feelings toward others, and using one’s signature strengths. Lyubomirsky said that people often underestimate the long-term impact of practicing brief, positive activities. Even momentary positive feelings can build long-term social, psychological, intellectual, and physical skills and reserves.

This is good news, given the fact that although more than 16 million U.S. adults suffer from depression, about 70 percent do not get recommended treatment, or any treatment at all. And while antidepressants can work wonders for some, initial drug therapy produces full benefits in only 30 percent to 40 percent of patients.

The team, led by Kristin Layous, released their findings in the August 2011 issue of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, proposing PAI as a new approach for treating depression. This new approach has the potential to benefit depressed individuals who don’t respond to pharmacotherapy or are not able or willing to obtain treatment, is less expensive to administer, is relatively less time-consuming and promises to yield rapid improvement of mood symptoms, holds little to no stigma, and carries no side effects.

Researchers cautioned that this approach has not yet been fully studied in people with moderate to severe depression.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 30, 2011
Last Updated:
August 2, 2011