Happiness research may help depressed

July 29, 2011 at 6:49 PM
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RIVERSIDE, Calif., July 29 (UPI) -- U.S. researchers propose a new approach for treating depression by teaching patients to increase their positive thinking and positive behaviors.

Kristin Layous and Joseph Chancellor, graduate students at University of California, Riverside; Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology and director of the Positive Psychology Laboratory at UC Riverside; and Dr. Lihong Wang and P. Murali Doraiswamy of Duke University conducted a review of previous studies of Positive Activity Interventions.

Positive Activity Interventions are intentional activities such as performing acts of kindness, practicing optimism and counting one's blessings taken from decades of research into how happy and unhappy people are different, the researchers say.

"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," Lyubomirsky says in a statement.

"However, few psychiatrists collaborate with social scientists and no one in my field ever reads the journals where most happiness studies have been published," Doraiswamy says.

"It was eye-opening for me as a psychopharmacologist to read this literature," Doraiswamy says.

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 study says.

The findings are published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

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