The Power of Positivity in Battling Depression
A new study has found that people who recovered from major depression tend to focus more on negativity than positivity, which puts them at risk of relapse.
According to Alainna Wen, PhD, lead author of the research, formerly depressed patients spend more time processing negative information like sad faces than they spend on positive expressions like happy faces. And this is a problem because one of the biggest characteristics of depression is negative thinking.
Feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and negativity about life can lead one into depression. And when a person is depressed, you don't usually find them thinking about the positive things in life.
This focus on negative thinking can lead formerly depressed patients into another bout of depression. Conversely, positivity can help prevent a relapse and keep them on a healthy path.
How positive thinking can help prevent depression relapse
Major depression is a serious issue in the US. And even with effective treatments, relapse rates remain distressingly high.
More than 50% of those who experience a first-time major depressive episode will find themselves back in the throes of depression within two years of their initial recovery. So, what could be causing this relapse?
Wen and her team dove into the intricacies of depression. They found that this focus on negativity was not evident in individuals who had never faced depression.
They examined how participants responded to various emotional and neutral stimuli. Some participants were shown happy, sad, or neutral human faces and asked to react accordingly. The results were interesting.
Healthy individuals with no history of depression responded quickly to both emotional and neutral stimuli when compared to those with a history of depression.
But what truly stood out most was this. People who have recently recovered from major depression showed a bias toward focusing on negative information more than positive or neutral ones.
It was as though their brains had difficulty processing the negative information, and so had to spend more time focusing on it, giving less attention to positive stimuli.
One thing we can draw from this is, rather than trying to reduce negative thinking, which apparently is challenging for formerly depressed people, the priority should be on increasing how they process and focus on positive stimuli.
Tips to make positivity a habit
If all I've talked about resonates with you and you wish to lean more towards positivity, here are steps to take:
- Mindful Awareness: Start by becoming aware of your thoughts and emotions. When you catch yourself dwelling on negativity, make a conscious effort to redirect your focus to positive aspects of the situation or your life in general. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and deep breathing exercises, can be invaluable tools in achieving this.
- Gratitude Journaling: Have a journal where you jot down things you're grateful for each day. This simple act can help you recognize and appreciate the positive elements in your life, no matter how small they may seem.
- Surround Yourself with Positivity: Cultivate relationships with people who radiate positivity and support. Spending time with friends and family who uplift and inspire you can have a profound impact on your mood and overall well-being.
- Engage in Activities You Love: Whether it's painting, hiking, dancing, or playing a musical instrument, engaging in activities you love can foster a sense of accomplishment and happiness.
- Practice Self-Compassion: Be kind to yourself. Understand that everyone has both positive and negative moments in life. Instead of dwelling on your setbacks, acknowledge them, learn from them, and move forward with self-compassion.
- Set Realistic Goals: Break down your larger life goals into smaller, achievable steps. Celebrate your successes along the way, no matter how minor they may seem. This positive reinforcement can fuel your motivation and sense of accomplishment.
- Exercise and Nutrition: Regular physical activity and a balanced diet can significantly impact your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, the body's natural mood lifters, while proper nutrition provides the fuel your brain needs for positive thinking.
- Limit Negative Influences: You want to be mindful of the media and content you consume. Limit exposure to negative news and focus on more uplifting sources of information.
- Join Support Groups: Connect with others who are experiencing similar challenges. Support groups provide a safe space for sharing experiences, gaining insight, and receiving encouragement.
- Seek Professional Help: When all seems bleak, and nothing is working, don't hesitate to seek professional help. Therapy, counseling, and cognitive-behavioral techniques can provide valuable guidance and strategies for shifting your focus toward positivity.
Building a more positive outlook takes time and effort. It's a journey that often involves setbacks, but every step forward brings you closer to a brighter, healthier future. And at Hope Mental Health, we are committed to helping you navigate this journey. Through medication, therapy, and other techniques, we can help you combat depression and embrace positivity so you can break free from the chains of depression and pave the way for a more fulfilling and joyful life.
Come, let's talk!