Patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) may be able to avoid depression and anxiety if they have some positive experiences, a new study has revealed.
The study conducted by Alexa Stuifbergen, professor of nursing and associate dean of research at The University of Texas at Austin, and Lorraine Phillips, assistant professor in the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing has found that increasing positive experiences can decrease depression symptoms in MS patients.
"Positive experiences significantly affected the participants' perceptions of the quality of their lives and symptoms of depression, even when taking into account age, education and disease-related factors, such as mobility, vision and cognition," said Phillips.
"People with MS typically rate the quality of their lives lower than that of the general population, so it is important for people with MS and clinicians involved in their care to understand what factors may improve the quality of their lives.
"The participants were asked to record the frequency of positive experiences in their lives, such as "I said 'thank you' and meant it," "I said something pleasant to someone who didn't expect it," and "I exercised and felt good about doing it," she added.
Phillips found that participants who reported a higher number of positive experiences had lowered depression symptoms.
"By incorporating positive experiences or behaviours into their lives, people with MS may be able to limit the additional risks and costs of medical treatments for depression," she said.
"Health care providers should encourage people with MS to participate in positive activities every day.
"Previous research found that people with MS benefit more from frequent smaller activities like smelling fresh flowers, talking with neighbours or writing letters, than they do from larger activities like taking a week-long vacation or buying an expensive outfit that they can only do once in a while," she added.
The study, "The Influence of Positive Experiences on Depression and Quality of Life in Persons with Multiple Sclerosis," was published in the March 2008 issue of The Journal of Holistic Nursing.