Alleviating Depressive Symptoms through Mindset
University of Kansas
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Background: Depression is a devastating public health problem, and various treatments such as exercise have been shown to be effective in decreasing depression. However, depressed individuals often have difficulty initiating exercise due to low energy and motivation. Perhaps changing a person’s mindset (i.e. beliefs and expectations) during exercise to decrease depressive symptoms could be a key to facilitating the antidepressant effects of exercise without changing the behavior itself. Methods: 58 participants with a BDI score of 10-25 were recruited through the University of Kansas Psychology Department’s SONA website. Participants completed surveys inquiring about depressive and anxiety symptoms and current level of exercise at three time points over the course of 7-10 days. The experimental group (N=27) was given a mindset manipulation informing the participant that their daily activities were considered exercise which would alleviate their depressive symptoms. The control group (N=31) was read a script that discussed various strategies to alleviate depressive symptoms with no mention of their daily activities. Results: A linear mixed model analysis indicated a significant difference between the experimental and control groups’ depression scores over time, F(1,113)=4.80, p=.03, with the experimental group’s depressive symptoms decreasing more rapidly than the control group’s depressive symptoms. Conclusion: In sum, the results show that altering mindset during exercise (current daily activities) is an effective method to decrease depressive symptoms in mild to moderately depressed individuals compared to the control group.
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