Sometimes, those little positive-thinking pic posts on Facebook and Tumblr can seem a bit much, particularly when you’re in a none-too-pleasant mood yourself.
But new research into depression seems to indicate that while the idea of puking rainbows when you’re bummed out isn’t always intuitive, it could be one of the ways forward out of a slump. A recent paper on the subject of the effect of “positive activity interventions” on depression indicates that the simple action of helping someone- just a random stranger struggling with groceries or even tallying your reasons to be happy individually- can serve as an “effective, low-cost” way to battle depression.
Psychology professor at the University of California Riverside Sonja Lyubomirsky recently co-authored a paper on the topic, and Lyubomirsky concedes that the gestures or actions could seem a small thing- but often impact mood or feeling more than you might believe. She explains:
“They seem really trivial. They seem like, what’s the big deal, you feel good for 10 minutes. 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.”
Lyubomirsky points to the absence of positive emotions- the emptiness, nothing or ennui associated with many instances of depression- as the reason why even small-seeming gestures could impact an individual’s level of happiness. She says:
“The major aspect is the positive emotion. The most significant feature of depression is the absence of positive emotion- just a feeling of nothing, of emptiness… You might be more approachable to others, or be more creative and imaginative. It snowballs, and you are more likely to experience even more positive emotion.”
According to the study, an estimated 100 million people worldwide struggle with depression. 70% of cases of depression are either undertreated or go entirely untreated, the study reports.