New Study Shows Simple Ways to Safeguard Your Hope CULTIVATE JOY
Just because it’s May doesn’t mean everyone’s life is sunshine and lollipops. I’ve helped enough grieving, wounded, and worried families in all seasons of the year to know that suffering doesn’t hold off for spring. If you’re in a season of anguish or struggle, remember our state motto: “While I breathe, I hope.” It’s a powerful notion. A recent study shows you can train yourself to do just that, with some exciting results. The best part is that you don’t need misfortune to use these skills. You can start reaping their benefits right now. On May 5, National Public Radio reported about the study, which is published in the current issue of Health Psychology. It involved the impact of a five-week course teaching how to have a positive attitude. In a true test of the course’s effectiveness, all participants held an intensely stressful, emotionally painful job: the caretaking of a loved one with dementia.
After the course, depression scores fell by 16 percent and anxiety scores by 14 percent.
5. Set a daily goal and track your progress. Research shows that progressing toward a goal generates positive emotions. Here’s great news: Don’t aim too high! You need to be able to perceive progress. 6. Create a new habit of “positive reappraisal.” Identify an event or daily activity that’s a pain. Reframe the event more positively. If you’re stuck in traffic, enjoy the time to yourself. 7. Do a daily act of kindness. It can be as simple as giving someone a smile, but make it meaningful to you. Research shows we feel better when we’re kind to others. 8. Practice mindfulness by being involved in the present moment. You can use a 10-minute exercise that focuses on breathing to help calm the mind. If you’re looking for help with this, try Headspace.com. You can sign up for free meditations. It’s not weird, and it can really help. Whatever season of life you’re in, I hope this helps you find joy and nourish it. –Rob Usry 864.582.0416
So yes, you can teach yourself to be positive, even in the midst of trauma or tragedy. And being positive makes you less anxious and depressed. But, there’s a catch.
You’ve got to work at it.
Luckily, it’s not time-consuming or hard to do. Also, it does not require ignoring or downplaying the reality of harsh circumstances. Instead, the teaching offers positivity alongside the struggle, with the aim of lifting your spirits. Here’s the skinny on the study’s eight-step “buffet of skills” that produce joy.
1. Every day, take a moment to identify one positive event.
2. Tell someone about the moment or share it on social media. This can help you savor it a little longer.
3. Start a daily gratitude journal. Search for little things you’re grateful for. Nothing’s too small. Springtime weather’s definitely one!
4. Identify a personal strength and reflect on how you’ve used it recently.
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