By Alane Stieglitz, ND, CNC
Daily mindfulness practice improves many areas of your life. Boosting your mood and creating optimism to relieve the symptoms of depression can be accomplished with some daily mind exercises.
In one study on gratitude, conducted by Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., at the University of California at Davis and his colleague Mike McCullough at the University of Miami, randomly assigned participants were given one of three tasks. Each week, participants kept a short journal. One group briefly described five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week. Another five recorded daily hassles from the previous week, which displeased them. The neutral group was asked to list five events or circumstances that affected them, but they were not told to focus on the positive or negative. Some of these participants dealt with symptoms of depression, and some did not.
Ten weeks later, participants in the gratitude group felt better about their lives as a whole and were a full 25 percent happier than the hassled group. They reported fewer health complaints and exercised an average of 1.5 hours more.
In a later study by Emmons, people were asked to write every day about things they were grateful for. Not surprisingly, this daily practice led to higher increases in gratitude and fewer symptoms of depression than the weekly journaling in the first study. But the results showed another benefit: Participants in the gratitude group also reported offering others more emotional support or help with a personal problem, indicating that the gratitude exercise increased their goodwill towards others, or more technically, their “pro-social” motivation.
Positive vibes aren’t just for hippies. If you want in on the fun, here are some simple things you can do to build positive momentum toward a more happy and fulfilling life: The goal is you have more joy and fewer symptoms of depression and the blues.
1) Keep a daily journal of three things you are thankful for. Writing in a journal works well first thing in the morning or just before you go to bed. Write your life as you want it to happen, as if it already exists.
2) Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner, or friend something you appreciate about them every day. A great way to improve your mood and lift symptoms of depression is to encourage and lift up others.
There’s an old saying that if you’ve forgotten the language of gratitude, you’ll never be on speaking terms with happiness. It turns out this isn’t just a fluffy idea. Several studies have shown symptoms of depression to be inversely correlated to gratitude. It seems that the more grateful a person is, the less depressed they are.
A clinical psychologist at Eastern Washington University, Philip Watkins, found clinically depressed individuals showed significantly lower gratitude (nearly 50 percent less) than non-depressed controls.
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