A New Antidepressant

Do you know someone with depression? I do know multiple people that suffered at least once from a depressive episode. And even more, concerning is the drastic increase in depressive symptoms during the current COVID-19 crisis. While people become more aware of the disease as such, treatment options are rather limited and have not been challenged for years.

Fortunately, this is changing: positive psychology is proposing self-compassion, a caring, and understanding attitude towards oneself, as an act that has the potential to decrease depressive symptoms.

Shapira and Mongrain (2010) investigated the lasting effects of a self-compassion intervention on depressive symptoms in 1002 Canadian participants in an online study. They assessed depressive symptoms and changes in happiness prior to the intervention, as well as 1, 3, and 6 months later. During the intervention, participants were randomly assigned to 3 conditions: self-compassion, optimism, and early memory. On 7 consecutive days, subjects in the self-compassion condition had to think about a distressing event they experienced during the day and write a letter to themselves in an understanding manner. The optimism condition involved imagining a positive future and writing from a future perspective about current issues that have been resolved, as well as giving oneself advice. To see whether the intervention is effective they also included an early memory condition where they had to think about an early memory and write it down in as much detail as possible.

The results were promising: participants in the self-compassion and the optimism condition expressed fewer depressive symptoms up to 3 months and were happier up to 6 months when comparing them to the early memory condition.

Shapira, L. B., & Mongrain, M. (2010). The benefits of self-compassion and optimism exercises for individuals vulnerable to depression. The Journal of Positive Psychology5(5), 377–389. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439760.2010.516763

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