Positive Psychology Studies Offer Hope for
Depression Self Help
Chronic depression has traditionally been treated with drugs, often combined with psychotherapy. The new science of positive psychology offers the promise of alternatives for fighting depression with natural remedies and self-help interventions.
Depression is thought to be caused by an imbalance of the three brain neurotransmitter chemicals: norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. Anti-depression medications work by increasing the availability of these neurotransmitters or by changing the sensitivity of the receptors for these chemical messengers.
Positive Psychology Studies and Depression
Positive psychology studies indicate that cognitive therapies may also be effective as treatments for depression. The University of Pennsylvania's Master of Applied Positive Psychology website states, "Positive psychology interventions can also lastingly decrease depression symptoms."
Dr. Christopher Johnstone, in a presentation at the 5th Annual Bristol Happiness Lecture in May, 2010, described a model for depression self-help he terms Medication-free SSRI. Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRIs for short, are a popular family of antidepressant drugs frequently prescribed today; Johnstone's Medication-free SSRI model stands for Strategies, Strengths, Resources, and Insights.
Medication-free Depression Treatment
Several self-help or natural remedy depression treatments have shown promise: Medication-free SSRI, Positive Psychology Interventions, and Well-being Therapy.
Using Johnstone's medication-free SSRI model in fighting depression, a depressed person's focus is shifted from the negative aspects of depression to positive abilities and actions available from past experiences. He suggests writing a story of the adventure of overcoming depression, with the depressed person as hero and author. The hero of the story overcomes depression using strategies, strengths, resources, and insights gained from reflection of past experiences in overcoming adversity.
A small positive psychology study conducted by Dr. Martin Seligman involving three-hundred students at the University of Pennsylvania, some of whom were categorized as clinically depressed, evaluated the efficacy of using positive psychology interventions to impact depression symptoms. The study used several interventions to impact the students' positive emotions, levels of engagement, and experiences of having a meaningful life.
Results were encouraging, as they revealed that positive psychology exercises relieved depression symptoms for at least six months (compared with no intervention), and they decreased levels of mild-to-moderate depression over a one year period. Though this study offers hope that positive psychology interventions may be effective in treating depression, more research is required.
Another approach at treating depression with natural remedies is termed well-being therapy. Well-being therapy works to enhance a depressed person's awareness of positive thoughts and situations in life, while helping her focus on personal growth, life purpose, self-acceptance, positive relationships, autonomy, and mastery of her environment.
Fighting Depression without Drugs
Though studies generally show that the most effective treatment for depression combines medication with therapy counseling, the research studies of positive psychology offer hope that natural remedies for depression will someday eliminate the need for medications.
"Positive Psychology for Troubled Times, Focusing on your strengths, not weaknesses, can benefit problem-solving," Michael Miller, M.D., Harvard Health Publications .
"Positive Psychology Responses to Depression" Bridget Grenville-Cleave, Positive Psychology Daily News, May 30, 2010.