Feeling sad? Improve it with whatever you think works


How can you improve your mood when you are feeling sad? A new study suggests that it could be any skill you believe you are the best at.

You think you are good at mindfulness techniques? That may be the best approach for you. Do you prefer a more cognitive approach? Use that.

Researchers discovered that people in sad moods improved faster when they used mood-improving methods that were not their strongest skills. Participants who were asked to improve their skills in a particular area of weakness improved faster than those who were not told.

“We found that it helps people to think they’re working with their strengths rather than something they see as a weakness,” said Samuel Murphy, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in psychology at The Ohio State University.

The most striking thing about the study is the random assignment of participants to be best at one or more mood-enhancing skills.

“Our results suggest that whether participants were good at the skill was not relevant. It was the belief that they were good at that skill that made it effective,” said study co-author Daniel Strunk, professor of psychology and head of Ohio State’s Depression Research Laboratory.

The study was recently published online in the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

This finding is important because psychotherapists have focused for years on fixing the problems of their clients. It has become more common for therapists to use their strengths to assist clients with problems such as depression.

Strunk stated that researchers are still trying to figure out how clients benefit from focusing on their strengths.

The way therapists frame treatment may have a significant impact on how it works. Strunk stated that clients may benefit from being told they will be working on their strengths.

Sixteen undergraduate students were involved in the study. Participants were briefly briefed by the researchers about cognitive and mindfulness therapy skills that could be helpful in everyday life. Therapists use both to assist clients with depression.

Cognitive skills are the ability to identify and reevaluate negative thoughts and beliefs. Mindfulness skills are the ability to accept and be aware of one’s thoughts, feelings and beliefs without trying to change them.

Participants were then presented with a hypothetical scenario in which they could use these skills. This included feeling hurt that a friend had not invited them to a social gathering. They were directed to practice the skills and take some steps to demonstrate how they would use them.

Randomly, each participant was told which of the following skills they were most proficient in – cognitive or mindful – and that they would use that skill in the next phase of the experiment, a “sad-mood induction.”

Participants were then asked to imagine the death of someone they care about while the researchers played “Russia Under the Mongolian Yoke” at half speed. This made it even more sad.

Most people experienced a decrease in their moods within minutes of the induction. The participants were then asked to complete five mood assessments within the first few minutes of the sad mood induction.

After the induction, all participants noticed a gradual improvement in their mood. The results showed that participants’ moods did not improve if they were asked to use mindfulness or cognitive skills. However, the framing of whether it was their strongest or most important skill had an impact on mood recovery.

Participants who were told the skill they would use is their strongest, regardless of cognitive or mindfulness skills, saw greater improvements in their moods than those who used the skill they were told was their least.

Although the study results aren’t conclusive, they can be used to determine if framing the intervention in terms of strength produced better results.

Murphy stated that it is possible for children to be encouraged early in life that they are good at a particular strategy. This may encourage them to persevere and build confidence, which can lead to better results.

It could be the reverse.

Strunk stated that people may feel discouraged when they are told a skill is not their strength and stop trying as hard as they can or believe it will work.

Researchers believe the findings could be useful for therapists who work with clients to build their strengths. Murphy stated that clients can easily be told that they are building on their strengths. If it increases the benefit, Murphy suggested.

Strunk stated that the results could be helpful for anyone who is dealing with a problem such as a sad mood.

He said that while we only focused on mindfulness and cognitive skills, there are many ways to improve mental health. “The ones that you think would work best for you probably will indeed work best.”

Researchers are currently conducting related research on Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, with new patients from Ohio at Ohio State University’s Depression Treatment and Research Clinic.

Categories: Life