Coaching Happiness To Men With HIV Improves Their Health
Coaching individuals recently diagnosed with HIV to practice skills to help them experience positive emotions results in less HIV RNA in their blood, and lower antidepressant use proclaims a new study.
Researchers from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine are believed to be the first test of a positive emotion intervention in people newly diagnosed with HIV. Based on study results, the response is promising for people in the initial stages of adjustment to any serious chronic illness.
“Even in the midst of this stressful experience of testing positive for HIV, coaching people to feel happy, calm and satisfied — what we call positive affect — appears to influence important health outcomes,” a lead author Judith Moskowitz writes in the paper was published recently in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
The study group designed the tools based on evidence showing these particular skills increase positive emotions such as:
- Recognizing a positive event each day
- Savoring that positive event and logging it in a journal or telling someone about it
- Starting a daily gratitude journal
- Listing a personal strength each day and noting how you used this strength recently
- Setting an attainable goal each day and noting your progress
- Reporting a relatively minor stressor each day, then listing ways in which the event can be positively reappraised. This can lead to increased positive affect in the face of stress
- Understanding small acts of kindness can have a big impact on positive emotion and practicing a small act of kindness each day
- Practicing mindfulness with a daily 10-minute breathing exercise, concentrating on the breath
“From a public health perspective, that is potentially huge for prevention of HIV,” Moskowitz said. “HIV is less likely to be transmitted with a low viral load. To have a difference like that is amazing.”