Posts Tagged ‘positive psychology coping with depression’

Want a Happy Child? Positive Psychology & Creative Gratitude Strategies to Reduce Depression

November 15th, 2011

What are your thoughts on happiness? It seems like you either have it or you don’t, and as a society we are continually pursuing it. Heck, it’s even a constitutional right here in the U.S. as decreed in the Declaration of Independence. These days Happiness is a Hot Topic in therapeutic research and for those whose lives are impacted by mood disorders and depression there are some hopeful findings. Interestingly enough the research on Positive Psychology (yes, the study of happiness) suggests focusing on our strengths and giving gratitude daily can reduce symptoms of depression and long-term change. Now that is something to be very grateful for!

Positive Psychology is the study of mental well-being encompassing positive emotions, and character traits (Park et al., 2005). The research offers some insight into happiness and how much we control we have over our happiness.  David Lykken studied 4,000 sets of twins to determine how genetic influence happiness.  Lykken concluded 50% of our happiness comes from genetic predisposition.  Moreover only 8% of circumstantial factors (life events) influence an individual’s well-being.  Gratitude appears to be linked to happiness and quality of life.

Research by Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests doing five acts of kindness increased overall happiness.  Moreover, Robert Emmons found gratitude exercises improved health and energy levels, especially for those with neuromuscular disease (Wallis, 2005).

Martin Seligman and his colleagues (Park et al., 2005) studied positive psychology interventions using the internet to collect data. They presented one of five exercises to participants and one placebo (or fake intervention).

The five exercises were:

  • gratitude visit (write and deliver a letter of thanks),
  • three good things in life (document three positive experiences daily),
  • you at your best (write about a time they were at their best),
  • using signature strengths in an new way (using top five strengths identified on inventory of character strengths in a new way),
  • identifying signature strengths (take the survey of character strengths),
  • and the placebo intervention: early memories (write about earliest memories).

The results suggest that two interventions reduced depressive symptoms and increased happiness for six months, using your signature strengths in a new way and three good things.

The gratitude visit caused a spike in positive change for one month, however within three months participants resumed their baseline status.  Notably, those who participated in three good things saw an increase in positive affect at the one-month follow-up and they maintained this positive affect at the six-month follow-up. In addition, using signature strengths in a new way yielded long-term change in affect at the six-month follow-up, but immediate effects were not as pronounced as three good things.

So what can you take away from this article and apply in your own life?

Happiness is not “fixed” or genetically based; so you can increase your happiness and there are some specific strategies you can use such as learning what your signature strengths are and using them in a new and novel way. Also, a very simple tool of three good things in life, documenting three positive experiences daily, may reduce symptoms of depression.

You can use art and art therapy practices to help reduce depression and increase happiness by creating a a daily gratitude practice. Write in a journal, ask your children to name three good things at dinnertime or bedtime, create an art journal and draw, paint, or collage images of three good things that happen each day. Create a gratitude box and each day add words, objects, and images to it and when you are feeling down go back and look at what you added to the box. Document three good things with your camera each day and if you have a social media page start a daily gratitude post or share a daily gratitude picture. Do this daily and see how it impacts your mood over the next 3-months.

Of course, if you or your child has any symptoms of depression or concerns please seek out the support of a professional immediately, and if it is an emergency call 911. If you or your child is in need more support you can schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking here.

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Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) and Art Therapy For Depression

November 11th, 2011

child depressedIf you are suffering from depression there has been a tremendous amount of research that suggests that Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is an effective form of treatment. The recent research on positive psychology that suggests it may be complementary to CBT interventions as it relates to depression. Moreover, how can we use art therapy to reinforce these theories and interventions?

Garratt, Ilardi, and Karwoski (2006) offer a compelling article on the integration of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and positive psychology for the treatment of depression. The authors present the two primary goals of cognitive behavioral therapy, modifying dysfunctional thoughts and creating long-term cognitive skills to reduce relapse. The meteoric popularity of CBT as a treatment modality arose with Beck’s research of CBT and depression. However, studies suggest that long-term recovery is sustained in less than half of the clients who receive CBT for treatment of depression. It is the implication of long term success with clients that leads the authors to explore the principles of positive psychology as it relates to cognitive behavioral therapy.

The article suggests the conceptual overlap between CBT interventions and positive psychology approach, including a strong therapeutic alliance, focus on distinct goals, here-and-now focus, cognitive reappraisal, and client collaboration. Moreover, the authors suggest there is an overlap in techniques that are congruent in both CBT and positive psychology. Both encourage pleasant activities scheduling, identifying and reviewing success experiences, mood monitoring, relaxation training, and problem-solving. The authors suggest that positive psychology can provide CBT with the opportunities to move beyond removing negative affect, consequently moving the client towards positive affect, influencing quality of life. The positive psychology constructs that could blend with CBT to reduce depression and enhance over all well-being include: capitalizing on strengths, instilling hope, flow (being absorbed in the moment while engaged in an activity), mindfulness (being fully present), addressing unsolvable problems, optimism training, meaning, physical exercise, and humor.

The aforementioned interventions blend well with art therapy. Using art the art therapist can capitalize on the inherent creative strengths of the individual. Creating a picture of what the individual can imagine as a possible positive outcome can instill a sense of hope and provide a tangible road map to achieve their goals. Flow and mindfulness occurs when the individual is fully present in the creative process and is often accomplished in an art therapy session. The art making process can be used to explore choices for problems that appear unsolvable, and create meaning and purpose for the individual. Therefore, art therapy offers a bridge to CBT and positive psychology by the process of using therapeutic art interventions that reinforce the tenants of these two theories.

If you live the Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton area child art therapy can help your child develop new coping strategies to overcome their depression . To learn more sign-up for your complimentary child support consultation here.

If you don’t live in the area, don’t worry. I created parenting resources to help children and teens you can immediately download and implement to help your child. You can lean more here .

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