This Thanksgiving Holiday follows others without a break; with hardship on some, confidence lost for many and uncertainty for everyone.  We all have good reason to be suspicious.  But:

The story for Americans after a year of trials is to take a day for thinking of the positive and spending thoughts on what is good, lucky and successful.  No matter how hard, if one still has the ability for forward progress – thanks for any part of the steps past and steps to come are thoughts that are necessary for Americans and for leading forward anywhere.  It a holiday the whole word needs.  It’s a basic part of our American way of life – its fundamental for living – the mental oxygen for life.

Its astonishes to hear of so many without those positive thoughts reflecting on what is good in life, what is worthy of thanks, why we can go forward.

Your humble writer read something like an estimated nine percent of all American adults currently (reported in October of 2010) suffer from depression, according to a study published in the Centers for Disease Control’s latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  That’s more than one in ten – we all know more than one and many don’t know they have the condition.  Depression is a serious problem for the economy, progress and the welfare of all of us.

Depression Image.

If you’re experiencing the condition or care to help others there are new tools to find and – your writer is thankful this news broke this week:

New research led by the University of Exeter in the UK provides the first evidence that depression can be treated by only targeting an individual’s style of thinking through repeated mental exercises in an approach called cognitive bias modification.

The research shows how this new treatment could help some of the 3.5 million people in the UK and something near 30 million in the U.S. living with depression. The full paper is published at the journal Psychological Medicine and for the moment can be downloaded in a pdf file.

The background – for those curious or experiencing the condition is people suffering from depression have a tendency towards unhelpful abstract thinking and over-general negative thoughts, such as viewing a single mistake as evidence that they are useless at everything.  Hardship, lost confidence and uncertainty can only feed negative thinking.

The great thing is the study suggests an innovative psychological treatment called ‘concreteness training’ can reduce depression in just two months and could work as a self-help therapy for depression in primary care.  The pharmaceutical industry isn’t going to let this study get far – but the best successes known to this author came from those folks using cognitive behavior therapy – so the idea seems to have a strong basis in real world application.

Concreteness training (CNT) is a new and unique treatment approach that attempts to directly target the unhelpful abstract thinking and over-general negative thoughts tendency. Repeated practice of CNT exercises can help people to shift their thinking style.  That description looks a lot like mental habit retraining.

CNT teaches people how to be more specific when reflecting on problems. This can help them to keep difficulties in perspective, improve problem solving and reduce worry, brooding, and depressed mood. This study provided the first formal test of this treatment for depression in the UK’s National Health Service.

The formal study seems small where 121 individuals who were currently experiencing an episode of depression were recruited from GP (Genera Practices). They took part in the clinical trial and were randomly allocated into three groups. A third received their usual treatment from their GP, plus CNT, while some were offered relaxation training in addition to their usual treatment and the remainder simply continued their usual treatment. All participants were assessed by the research team after two months and then three and six months later to see what progress they had made.

The CNT protocol involved the participants undertaking a daily exercise in which they focused on a recent event that they had found mildly to moderately upsetting. They did this initially with a therapist and then alone using an audio CD that provided guided instructions. They worked through standardized steps and a series of exercises to focus on the specific details of that event and to identify how they might have influenced the outcome.

The results?  CNT significantly reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, on average reducing symptoms from severe depression to mild depression during the first two months and maintaining this effect over the following three and six months. On average, those individuals who simply continued with their usual treatment remained severely depressed.

Although concreteness training and relaxation training both significantly reduced depression and anxiety, only concreteness training reduced the negative thinking typically found in depression. Moreover, for those participants who practiced it enough to ensure it became a habit, CNT reduced symptoms of depression more than relaxation training.

Professor Edward Watkins of the University of Exeter said: “This is the first demonstration that just targeting thinking style can be an effective means of tackling depression. Concreteness training can be delivered with minimal face-to-face contact with a therapist and training could be accessed online, through CDs or through smartphone apps. This has the advantage of making it a relatively cheap form of treatment that could be accessed by large numbers of people. This is a major priority in depression treatment and research, because of the high prevalence and global burden of depression, for which we need widely available cost-effective interventions.”

The Exeter researchers are now calling for larger effectiveness clinical trials so that the feasibility of CNT as part of the National Health Service’s treatment for depression can be assessed.

Lets offer a bit of thanks for the Brits work on the condition and that the funding is forthcoming. Clicking their website can only help.

It may not be conclusive yet, but sense allows that most of those suffering from depression have cause – that a culture and social system make very hard to handle without special tools.

The tools look to be coming. It may be worth a look just to have a sense of how to better talk with associates, friends and loved ones when the circumstance of their lives make a healthful thinking style become a self induced destructive habit that leads to a debilitating condition.

Yet counting one’s blessings once a year is a pretty healthy cultural thing and makes for a fine holiday.  It looks like counting them every day is a pretty good personal mental and physical health thing as well.

Here’s your author’s personal message – may your day be filled with blessings to count and thanks to give for them every day all the coming year!  Your being here is one of mine, so I Thank You.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all.


1 Comment so far

  1. Matt Musson on November 25, 2011 8:20 AM

    Certainly shows that changing your thinking can reduce depression. Anyone who has spent significant time in 12-step rooms can vouch that this works.

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