Psychology in the news: Wall Street Journal article about research about behaviors that help people feel better

The Wall Street Journal published an article on 11-17-14 which reviewed interesting research about how people can improve their mood with relatively small changes of their behavior. The article, “Walk this Way: Acting Happy Can Make It So,” describe research that has found that people’s mood affects how they walk. The article notes, “when people are happy, they tend walk faster and more upright, swung their arms and move up and down more, in this way less side to side and sad or depressed people.

The article goes on to describe research that fines, “that deliberately walking like a happy person can lift one’s spirits.” Also, “adopting the gate of a depressed person can bring on sadness.” The article quotes one of the researchers as saying, “there is a mutual influence between mood and body and movement.” And, “there might be a specific type of movements that are specific characteristics of depression in this feeds the lower mood.”

The article goes on to connect this research with other studies that have found evidence of how changing behavior can improve mood. This body of research finds, “people can cheer themselves up in many little ways,” such as making conversation with strangers, participating in craft activities, “engaging rituals around eating and drinking,” and having a daily routine that includes things like participating in religious services or going to the gym are always to improve a sense of happiness.

Overall, this article is an interesting summary of various studies that find ways that relatively small, or perhaps medium to large (e.g., going to the gym regularly) behavioral changes can help a person feel and do better. Obviously, these studies support non-medication, behavioral interventions for people who are depressed, but the article also notes that, as is often the case, “more research is needed” to assess whether such interventions will actually benefit people with more serious depression.

Psychologists and other health care professionals could potentially provide a link to this article their patients were interested in “little things that you can do that make a difference.” Also, we should consider “prescribing” such changes as part of a comprehensive treatment plan.

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