In a recent study published in Health Psychology magazine, findings have determined that positivity can be a powerful influence when battling anxiety, depression, and other mental health. The study focuses specifically on caring for caregivers – those that are closely involved in caring for and supervising the care of those with loved ones that are suffering from dementia, cancer, and other medical concerns.
The profile of a caregiver can vary from a sibling, parent, or family friend, but is most commonly a child caring for a parent. Caregivers face various struggles in attempting to maintain full-time work and relationships while still providing care for their parents.
The complicated dynamics surrounding family as a caregiver can be understood through the lens of positive or negative attitude. Caregiving has proven to be a layered and complex situation that provides each individual with a unique and occasionally isolating experience. Per NPR, “Judith Moskowitz of Northwestern University is a trained psychologist that studies the ways positive emotions can influence people’s health and stress.” Moscowitz has developed and tested a program that studies, analyzes, and provides solutions for depression in caregivers of adult family members struggling through the process of dementia.
The course created by Moscowitz includes eight skills to help those dealing with the stress of caregiving. “These skills can definitely help people, no matter what type of stress they are experiencing, even if it is ‘minor’ everyday stress,” Moskowitz says.
Moscowitz developed this program as an aid for herself, following the struggles of caring for her husband, who is diagnosed with dementia. Per NPR:
“Here’s a quick summary of the eight techniques used in Moskowitz’ study:
Take a moment to identify one positive event each day.
Tell someone about the positive event or share it on social media. This can help you savor the moment a little longer.
Start a daily gratitude journal. Aim to find little things you’re grateful for, such as a good cup of coffee, a pretty sunrise or nice weather.
Identify a personal strength and reflect on how you’ve used this strength today or in recent weeks.
Set a daily goal and track your progress. ‘This is based on research that shows when we feel progress towards a goal, we have more positive emotions,’ Moskowitz says. The goal should not be too lofty. You want to be able to perceive progress.
Try to practice ‘positive reappraisal’: Identify an event or daily activity that is a hassle. Then, try to reframe the event in a more positive light. Example: If you’re stuck in traffic, try to savor the quiet time. If you practice this enough, it can start to become a habit.
Do something nice for someone else each day. These daily acts of kindness can be as simple as giving someone a smile or giving up your seat on a crowded train. Research shows we feel better when we’re kind to others.
Practice mindfulness by paying attention to the present moment. You can also try a 10-minute breathing exercise that uses a focus on breathing to help calm the mind.”
Whether you are years into your journey as a caregiver, new to the reality of your loved one’s medical condition, or simply a spectator wondering what you might do if in this situation – you can benefit from understanding the complexity of Moscowitz’s study. The act of choosing positivity, reflection, and mindful decision-making can provide tremendous relief amid the chaos of uncertainty. Serving as a caregiver is an opportunity to grow closer to your loved one, look deeper into yourself and your role, and to provide your loved one with a trusted support system. The cost of caregiving can easily be your own mental health if not monitored closely. Keeping up with the techniques of positive situational framing is an opportunity to protect yourself from the overwhelming nature of your situation.