8 Positive Skills for Stress Relief
Chicago Health Magazine with Judith Moskowitz (Northwestern Osher Center)

News Northwestern University

Social psychologist Judith Moskowitz, PhD, MPH, director of research at Northwestern Medicine’s Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, discovered the power of positive emotions 20 years ago when she was researching how men who were caregivers of their partners with HIV — a terminal illness at the time — coped with negative emotions and depression caused by their situation. Surprisingly, the caregivers wondered out loud why they weren’t asked about the positive, meaningful moments they experienced.

Moskowitz and her colleagues have taught the skills to family caregivers of people with dementia, advanced breast cancer, type 2 diabetes, HIV and other significant life stress. “In general, we have found that practicing these skills leads to more positive emotions and less depression,” Moskowitz says.

“The skills themselves are not challenging or difficult to learn, but you need to make them a habit. Like any behavior change, it’s difficult to make that happen,” Moskowitz adds. She points out that the skills can be helpful for anyone experiencing a stressful situation.

These eight key skills, she says, can foster positive emotions to help people better cope with stress. Pick one or more that suit you best, and practice using those new skills.

  1. Noticing positive events
  2. Savoring positive events
  3. Expressing gratitude
  4. Practicing mindfulness
  5. Reframing events
  6. Noticing personal strengths
  7. Setting and working toward attainable goals
  8. Displaying acts of kindness. 

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