The important thing is that the research shows quite clearly that it does work.
Oh, I can give you half a dozen theories, that’s one advantage of having an MA, but I quite like the following explanation:
It’s a special kind of conversation where two people get to know one person (you) better. While we both get to know you better, many of the problems in living that caused you to attend seem to resolve, or fall away, and be seen in a different light.
Sometimes missing life-skills can be identified, and we can agree on coaching to rectify these gaps in skills, such as deep relaxation, or assertiveness.
Or we can just agree it’s magic, and let it go at that!
(if you still want a more scientific explanation, here’s one – link – that’s pretty close)
Paul Mills, a professor from the University of California in San Diego, is the lead author of an article on the practice of Gratitude, and its effects on physical health and emotional wellbeing.
I have thought for some time that because – for obvious evolutionary reasons – the body is hardwired to prioritise danger and other bad stuff that happens or might happen to us, that we need to find a way to restore some balance by consciously remembering the good stuff, the stuff we can be grateful for.
It is particularly important for anyone who suffers from periodic episodes of depression, that when we feel “up” we make lists – the longer the better – of the good stuff, so that we have something to buoy us up when we feel “down.”
But this article talks about the physical effects too: “better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health.” The study involved 186 men and women who had been diagnosed with asymptomatic (Stage B – structural damage but no symptoms) heart failure for at least three months.
“We found that those patients who kept gratitude journals for those eight weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate variability while they wrote. Improved heart rate variability is considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk,” said Mills. “It seems that a more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart, and that gratitude journaling is an easy way to support cardiac health.”
The full study is published by the American Psychological Association here (link to pdf)
Here’s a good subject to start the blog off.
A few years ago (2009) I came across an interesting bit of research. Personally, I have no doubt it’s accurate. Here’s an extract:
Research by the University of Warwick and the University of Manchester finds that psychological therapy could be 32 times more cost effective at making you happy than simply obtaining more money.
Chris Boyce of the University of Warwick and Alex Wood of the University of Manchester compared large data sets where 1000s of people had reported on their well-being. They then looked at how well-being changed due to therapy compared to getting sudden increases in income, such as through lottery wins or pay rises. They found that a 4 month course of psychological therapy had a large effect on well-being. They then showed that the increase in well-being from an £800 course of therapy was so large that it would take a pay rise of over £25,000 to achieve an equivalent increase in well-being. The research therefore demonstrates that psychological therapy could be 32 times more cost effective at making you happy than simply obtaining more money.
Governments pursue economic growth in the belief that it will raise the well-being of its citizens. However, the research suggests that more money only leads to tiny increases in happiness and is an inefficient way to increase the happiness of a population. This research suggests that if policy makers were concerned about improving well-being they would be better off increasing the access and availability of mental health care as opposed to increasing economic growth
A fuller description of the research is still up on the Warwick University website. That would be four lots of six sessions I suspect, today. You can do a great deal of work in that time.
Actually clients have told me that having a significant amount of therapy actually helped them make more money as well – promotions at work, greater self-confidence, that sort of thing. Sort of having your cake and eating it too, I suppose.