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With Depression, Helping Others May in Turn Help You
Date:1/2/2012

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Doing something nice for someone else often leaves people feeling good about themselves and positive about their place in the world.

But does that mean practicing random acts of kindness has scientifically proven therapeutic value in treating mood disorders like depression?

Yes, according to a growing body of research that has found that "positive activity interventions" -- like helping someone with groceries, writing a thank you note or even counting your blessings -- can serve as an effective, low-cost treatment for depression.

"They seem really trivial. They seem like, what's the big deal, you feel good for 10 minutes," said Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, who co-authored a recent paper on the topic. "But for a depressed person, they aren't trivial at all. Depressed individuals need to increase positive emotions in their life, even a minute here and there."

After a rigorous review of research on the therapeutic benefits of positive emotion, Lyubomirsky said, she and her colleagues found widespread support for the notion that people with a tendency toward depression can help themselves by helping others or otherwise introducing positivity into their day-to-day lives.

Such a simple, low-cost path to well-being could have big-time implications, given that more than 100 million people worldwide suffer with depression, according to Lyubomirsky's study. That includes more than 16 million U.S. adults, of whom about 70 percent of reported cases either do not receive enough treatment or do not get treated at all.

Positive activity interventions come in a variety of forms, including:

  • Being kind to others
  • Expressing gratitude
  • Thinking optimistically
  • Meditating on the good things in life

"The major aspect is the positive e
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