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Burnout Beyond the Wellness Programs: The Art of Job Crafting

Much has been written about how work-related stress is associated with burnout and depression. Burnout has become a buzzword that has spawned a modern-day cottage industry of one-size-fits-all wellness programs. Before we dwell on the remedies of burnout, let's talk about what causes it in the first place. From a psychological perspective, the hazardous effects of work environment on health, aka burnout, have been explained by the effort-reward model. According to this model, the imbalance created by high “costs” (spending high effort at work or over-commitment) and low “benefits” (in terms of monetary gratification, career opportunities, esteem, respect, and job security) produces emotional distress affecting both mental and physical health (Siegrist & Li, 2016). In fact, research shows that this effort-reward imbalance is associated with 1.5-fold increased risk of depressive disorders (Rugulies et al., 2017). In this context, the concept of “job crafting” is a helpful tool t…
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Optimism: What is Your Best Possible Self?

What is Optimism? Optimism is the belief that you can somehow accomplish your goals. Expressed in everyday life terminology, optimism is looking at the bright side, seeing the glass as half-full rather than half-empty, finding the silver lining in a cloud, feeling good about your future and the future of the world, believing that defeat is a temporary setback and not your fault, and confronting a difficult situation and trying harder (Lyubomirsky, 2007; Seligman, 2006).

A simple way to look at optimism is to ask yourself – “In the face of difficulties, do I nonetheless believe that I can achieve my goals?” If yes, then you are optimistic; if no, you are pessimistic (Peterson, 2000). An important lesson here is that being optimistic, however, doesn’t mean that you deny the negative or avoid all unfavorable information or that you constantly try to control situations that cannot be controlled.

What is Your Best Possible Self? The Best Possible Self exercise is the most studied optim…

The 3Ps of Pessimistic Explanatory Style in Depression

When faced with an adversity, people with depression default to a pessimistic explanatory style (Sweeney et al., 1986). This rigid style has three facets, also called the 3Ps (Reivich & Shatté, 2002; Seligman, 2006):

1. “Personal” thinking wherein a person finds a cause within themselves to explain an adverse situation. For example, if your boss didn’t respond back to your “Hi,” you assume that they are not happy with you.

2. “Permanent” thinking wherein a person facing a bad outcome believes that the situation is a never ending ordeal rather than temporary. For example, you have a disagreement with your coworker and your knee jerk reaction is, “She is always doing this to me.”

3. “Pervasive” thinking in which a person thinks that a particular problem will affect many areas of their life rather than having a circumscribed effect. For instance, you fail to meet a deadline at work and feel that you have never been an organized person your entire life.

People with…

9 Ways to Rediscover the Lost Art of Savoring

When was the last time you savored an experience in its true sense, or stopped to smell the roses if you prefer the more poetic expression for savoring? With our lives wrapped around multitasking at work, taking care of our loved ones, and keeping up with the social media chatter, the art of savoring has no doubt taken a back seat. While savoring can be construed as an art, there is a lot of evidence-based science that extols the benefits of this phenomenon. Psychologists define savoring as the ability to tune into, appreciate, and enhance enjoyment associated with a positive experience (Bryant & Veroff, 2007). There is a strong consensus amongst researchers that those inclined to savor report more optimism, life satisfaction, value fulfillment, self-esteem, and intensity and frequency of happiness. At the same time, these individuals also report less feelings of guilt, loss of pleasure, hopelessness, depression, and unhappy or neutral emotions (Bryant, 2003).

If you plan to red…

Inject Some Humor into Your Life if You are Prone for Depression

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines humor as:
A funny or amusing quality Jokes, funny stories, etc., of a particular kind The ability to be funny or to be amused by things that are funny For the purpose of this article, the third definition is the most apt. Humor has been used as a therapeutic tool for a long time for reducing anxiety, depression, anger, and pain (see Weisenberg et al., 1995). Of the various types of humor, the one that is most associated with well-being is the self-enhancing humor. This involves a generally humorous outlook on life, a tendency to be frequently amused by the incongruities of life, and to maintain a humorous perspective even in the face of stress (Martin et al., 2003). Self-enhancing humor is associated with greater cheerfulness, self-esteem, optimism, psychological well-being, and satisfaction.

People with depression may be less reactive to humor due to diminution in their sense of humor and they also tend to use humor less often as a coping str…

Growth Mindset: A Proven Antidote for Depression When Facing Adversities

Psychologist Carol Dweck describes people having two types of mindsets – the fixed mindset and the growth mindset (Dweck, 2008). Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that their qualities, temperament, abilities, talents, aptitudes, and interests are fixed and cannot be changed. Thus, when faced with a failure, individuals with a fixed mindset attribute this to their lack of talent or ability in the domain they failed (e.g., “I am never good in relationships” or “I am such a loser”). These people mistakenly assume that one doesn’t need to put in effort or take risks to succeed if one is talented to begin with. Therefore, they don’t challenge themselves and don’t reach their full potential. In contrast, individuals with a growth mindset view their personal attributes such as talents and abilities as being malleable and are open to improving themselves by learning from failures, stretching beyond their comfort zone, and making concerted efforts. They don’t blame their personality fo…

Value-Based Goals: The Cure for “Success Depression”

A disconnect between your present accomplishments and your core values may make you suffer from success depression wherein despite “having it all” (e.g., successful career, stable relationships, healthy children, etc.), you still struggle with depression and view your accomplishments as hollow (Zettle, 2007). The cure for this malaise is to clarify your core values and have goals and actions that are driven by these values.

Psychotherapist Russ Harris describes values as our heart’s deepest desires for the way we want to interact with the world, other people, and ourselves. They are what we want to stand for in life, how we want to behave, what sort of person we want to be, and what sort of strengths and qualities we want to develop (Harris, 2009). Values are subjective; what one may consider as a value (e.g., being famous) may be considered as being cocky by another person. Moreover, values do change with time. For instance, you may value social popularity and raising a family in y…

Increase Your Happiness Using the “CASIO” Model

Quality of Life Therapy (QOLT) has been used as a positive psychology intervention to promote happiness and wellbeing and has also been shown to be an effective treatment for depression (Frisch, 2006; Grant et al., 1995). One of the core techniques of QOLT that you can use to boost your life satisfaction and thereby increase your happiness is the CASIO model. The five strategies in this model target satisfaction in important areas in one’s life, with satisfaction defined as one’s subjective evaluation of the degree to which one’s most important needs, goals, and wishes have been fulfilled. The acronym CASIO stands for:

Objective Circumstances of an area in lifeAttitude or perception of an areaStandards of fulfillment for an areaImportance placed on an area for one’s overall happinessSatisfaction one experiences in Other areas not of immediate concern
To apply this technique, first identify areas of your life you are unhappy with and want to change and then use the five strategies belo…

The Do's and Don'ts of Communicating with Your Partner

Improving communication is a proven intervention for improving relationships and entails not only learning how to address negative issues in a relationship but also how to consistently express positive feelings to each other. When you communicate, you are doing one of three things:

1. Speaking: Sending a message or sharing your thoughts or feelings.
2. Listening: Hearing and paying attention to what the other person is telling you.
3. Responding: Replying or answering back to your partner after listening to them.

Failure to communicate can be due to a problem at any or all of these processes of communication. Below are some guidelines to improve your communication skills (Duggal, 2018):
Improving Speaking Skills Establish eye contact and maintain eye contact with your partner to ensure that they have your attention.Speak in clear and direct fashion. Don’t beat around the bush and play games.Make sure that what you are communicating is in line with your non-verbal communication – tone…

Beyond Medication: Bright Light Therapy for Depression

What Is Bright Light Therapy? Bright light therapy involves exposure of the eyes to bright light for a specific duration of time on a daily basis. The person sits next to a light box or a lamp that emits a full-spectrum light. It is a safe, rapid, and effective way of treating depression, both the seasonal variety which commonly happens during winter and the non-seasonal ones (American Psychiatric Association, 2010; Morgan & Jorm, 2008). Bright light therapy is also beneficial for sleep disorders in people with sleep-wake cycle disturbance, especially in older adults (Sloane et al., 2008).

Seasonal Depression and Bright Light Therapy If you are getting symptoms of depression every fall or winter and they usually go away around springtime, then it is likely that you have a seasonal pattern of depression. Of course, having a stressor such as being without a job every winter will preclude such a diagnosis. Having two episodes of depression during a particular time of the year in the…

How You Respond to Good News Matters in Relationships

When good fortune knocks, our first response is often to contact significant others to share the news. Sharing of good news with others promotes well-being by enhancing positive emotions and life satisfaction (Gable et al., 2004). However, this also depends on how you actually respond to the good news. Gable and colleagues elaborate that people respond to their partner’s sharing of good news in four different ways. Below is an exercise to gauge what your partner’s response to your sharing of good news is (or what your response is being perceived by your partner) (Gable et al., 2004):

"Please take a moment to consider how your partner responds when you tell him or her about something good that has happened to you. For example, imagine that you come home and tell your partner about receiving a promotion at work, having a great conversation with a family member, getting a raise, winning a prize, or doing well on an exam at school or a project at work. Please consider to what exten…

3 Ways to Express Gratitude

Gratitude is one of the most commonly used and proven positive psychology interventions that not only enhances well-being but also is an effective way of self-managing depression. Grateful people experience higher levels of positive emotions such as joy, enthusiasm, love, happiness, and optimism. Gratitude buffers you from hurtful feelings of envy, resentment, greed, and bitterness. In addition, grateful people can cope more effectively with everyday stress and show increased resilience in the face of trauma-induced stress (Emmons, 2013).

Whether or not you have a grateful disposition, the good news is that it is possible to cultivate gratitude intentionally. You can choose one of the following three methods to express gratitude, but most beginners start with a gratitude list at it is a simple yet effective strategy.
Gratitude lists This the “classic” and the most studied method of expressing gratitude. It involves making written lists of several things for which you are grateful o…

3 Ways Money Can Buy You Happiness

For the longest time, armchair philosophers have told us that money can’t buy happiness. It has been postulated that after a person has enough income to meet basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and security, additional income seems to have little impact on happiness. However, recent research disproves this notion. Money can buy you happiness – the only catch is that if you spend it in of the one of the following three ways:

1. Spending on others: Social scientists have found that spending money to buy gifts for others or donating to charities promotes happiness (Dunn et al., 2008). You don’t have to shell out enormous amounts of money on others to reap this benefit; amounts as low as $5 spent on others are sufficient to produce significant gains in happiness. However, people are still hesitant to spend money on others, mainly because they feel that spending money on themselves will make them happier than spending money on others. Research shows otherwise.

2. Buying an…