Feel that you live under a rain cloud? Life does not go your way? Many of us have a little angry and disheartened Eeyore.
But here's the good news (I'm sorry to be so cheerful): You can be taught to have a more positive attitude. And – if you work on it – a positive attitude can lead to less anxiety and depression.
The latest evidence comes from a new study of caregivers – all of whom have had the difficult job of caring for a loved one with dementia. The study found that, following a 5 week course, participants' depression scores fell by 16 per cent, and anxiety scores fell by 14 per cent. The findings are published in the current issue of Health Psychology.
The course teaches eight skills to help people cope with stress. Techniques include deep mindfulness and breathing, setting an achievable daily goal, keeping a thank you journal, and – yes, we work – performing small acts of kindness.
Suspicious? Melissa Meltzer Warehall was also. She cares for her husband Paul, who is 64 and diagnosed with early Alzheimer's disease in his 50s.
"It's very frustrating," says Warehall. "I knew the man he used to be and the shell of the person he's now."
When she agreed to become a participant in the study, it was a way of reaching out for support. She knew she could not change her circumstances, but wanted to learn to cope better.
"When you're experiencing a lot of stress, it's easy to suddenly turn," said Judith Moskowitz from Northwestern University. He has trained as a psychologist and is studying the ways in which positive emotion can influence people's health and stress. The taught program developed for caregivers.
As part of its research, hundreds of people under stress have taken the five week skills class, including women with breast cancer, newly diagnosed HIV, people managing Type 2 diabetes. , and people with depression. It has documented benefits in each of those studies.
"Definitely, these skills can help people, no matter what kind of stress they are experiencing, even if it's stressful every day," Moskowitz said.
Warehall says she has started to feel a move to a noisy look just a few weeks into the program. One skill that he learned: How to re-frame the troubles of everyday life is something positive.
For example, it says that it can be difficult to take my husband on trips; she must be wary of him wandering away. It has also started to struggle to get in and out of the car, which can be frustrating for them. But, instead of focusing on the disadvantage, she has learned herself to spend those long moments by being aware of what they can do with each other still.
Although her husband can no longer work or take trips, she has helped her rediscover music. "I signed it for harmonica lessons every Saturday," he said. And that's great for both of them. "Just being with him when we make music – we play mean blues harmony – it's great for me too."
She's learning to stick to the positive times that come hand in hand with the stress. And this makes it easier. "Everything we do is challenging, I look for that silver lining," Warehall said.
But this does not come naturally, he says; she has tried to build a habit of thanks. Writing one thing every day reminds us well that there are still many joyful moments – despite their difficult situation.
"[Paul] my energy is positive, and if my energy is positive it's easier to look after him, "said his wife.
She has learned to focus on what is, rather than what was lost. "I remind myself that he still has it. I'm still able to hug him and hold him and tell him that I love him."
"In the context of stress, it can be difficult to see the positives," Moskowitz said. "So taking a moment to notice things you are grateful for is very beneficial."
Moskowitz says that she knows the delay or the resentment that people sometimes feel when told to them, 'Cook it up!' w handling if you are looking for the news of serious diagnosis or other traumatic experience.
"We don't say you're not upset about what is happening," Moskowitz emphasizes. "But we know that people can experience positive emotion alongside that negative emotion, and that positive emotion can help them cope better."
He says that these strategies and skills are widely applicable. "Anyone can be taught to be a little more positive."
Moskowitz and colleagues are about to launch another study of dementia carers (anyone interested in getting involved can contact his laboratory, he says). And while that particular program is not available to the public outside the research project, Moskowitz is pointing to an online program, from the name "It & # 39". s All Good Here 's learning similar skills. (Moskowitz has consulted the program creator to share some content, but has no financial links with the company.)
He says that the strength of the eight technique approach is that there is no individual skill that helps everyone. "Our buffet of skills," said Moskowitz, so gives people a lot of options.
Here is a quick summary of the eight techniques used in the Moskowitz study:
- Take a moment to note one positive event every day.
- Tell someone about the positive event or share it on social media. This can help you taste the moment a little longer.
- Start a daily Thanksgiving journal. Try to find a few things that you are grateful for as a cup of good coffee, a pretty nice rise or nice weather.
- Recognize personal strength and reflect on how you have used this strength today or in recent weeks.
- Set a daily goal and follow your progress. "This research-based show that when we feel progress towards a goal we have more positive emotions," Moskowitz said. The goal should not be too high. You want to be able to see progress.
- Try to practice a positive reappraisal: 'Include a daily event or activity that is troubled. Then try to rearrange the event in a more positive light. Example: If you are stuck in traffic, try to enjoy the quiet time. If you practice this enough, it can start to become a habit.
- Do something nice for someone else every day. These kind of everyday actions can be as simple as giving someone a smile, or putting your seat on a crowded train. Research shows that we feel better when we are kind to others.
- Practice mindfulness by paying attention to the present moment. You can also try a 10 minute breathing exercise using focus on breathing to help calm the mind.
Janice Kiecolt-Glaser of Ohio State University was not part of this study, but has investigated the effects of caring on the aging process, and says that Moskowitz's work fits in with a lot of it. own findings.
"There is certainly plenty of evidence of our research and others that the stress of giving dementia care to families can be bad for mental and physical health," says Kiecolt-Glaser.
"This study used a simple intervention that had measurable positive benefits. It's a lovely contribution to the literature, and we'll hope to see this method and similar methods being implemented more widely." , "he said.