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Depression

Researchers Say We Can Teach Depressed People How to Be Happy

posted 03:15 AM EST, Sun July 31, 2011

Can teaching happiness help to reduce symptoms of depression? Researchers at Duke University Medical School and The University of California, Riverside say probably, and as an added bonus, learning to incorporate activities like counting your blessings or writing thank you notes into a daily routine gets happiness results fast, and doesn’t cost much at all.

About 8% of Americans and more than a 100 million people worldwide suffer from depression. Anti depressant medications can work well, but they don’t work for everyone and research suggests that a majority of people suffering with depression do not get appropriate or sufficient treatment for their symptoms.

But what if people suffering from depression didn’t need expensive treatments or slow-to-work therapies? What if people could just learn how to be happier by incorporating certain types of activities into a daily routine?

Researchers at Duke University Medical School and UC Riverside say that research over the last decades has revealed a wealth of information about the kinds of things that make people happy and optimistic in life. In a paper, entitled, ‘Delivering Happiness: Translating Positive Psychology Intervention Research for Treating Major and Minor Depressive Disorders’ the researchers say that we should start using what we’ve learned on happiness from social science studies in the realm of medical treatments for disorders like depression.

After a review of studies on happiness, the researchers suggest teaching people with depression to incorporate ‘Positive Activity Interventions’ (PAI) into daily life. Examples of PAIs include:

  • Taking a few minutes each day to count your blessings
  • Performing general acts of kindness
  • Meditating on compassion for others
  • Practicing optimistic thinking
  • Practicing activities based on your personal strengths

The researcher say that while few studies have been done on using PAIs on people with depression those few that were done have shown significant and lasting benefits and that while PAIs haven’t been tested on people with severe depression, incorporating PAI teaching into therapeutic practices has a lot of potential. In the report, they write, “This approach may help the some 60 percent of depressed individuals who don't respond to pharmacotherapy, 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.”

The full research results have been published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine

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Story Highlights
  • Depression: People with depression may not need medications - they may only need to learn and practice activities proven to make people happier
  • Treatment: A substantial majority of the world's 100+ million depressed people do not get sufficient, or any, treatment.
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