Improving Your Outlook in a Manic Depressive Economy

by Lisa Jacobson, MAPP

A “manic depressive” stock market, an economic “downward spiral”, a potential economic “depression”. When economists use psychiatric jargon to describe the economy, we all have reason for concern. Relief from this pervasive economic malaise is in order. The remedy? A healthy dose of positive psychology.

What is positive psychology? In short, it’s the scientific study of what goes right in life - a relatively new and emerging branch of psychology that specializes in subject matters related to the things that make life worthwhile (see the introductory article called The Emergence of Positive Psychology). Things like: flourishing, positive emotions, hope, goals, character strengths, talent, pleasure, achievement, and resilience are the focus of positive psychology (as opposed to the traditional psychological focus on depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, paranoia, and other "negative" areas of focus).

Unfortunately, humans are wired for negativity (see Jimmy's related happiness tip, Don’t Watch the News for more on this “negativity” issue as it relates to our ability to be as happy as possible).

Negative emotions have roots in “fight or flight” survival mechanisms. “Fight or flight” emotional reactions have served Homo-Sapiens well. Especially in ancient history when a pack of saber toothed tigers loomed nearby. This has evolved to the point today where, unfortunately, we naturally lean towards the negative. That’s why in times like these – when the economy is crazy and things are very scary - we need to work at being positive. Just like muscles in our arms and legs need working out, so do the thinking patterns in our minds. If positive thinking patterns are not used or developed, they tend to atrophy.

One of the most effective means to improve one’s outlook and build resilience is a positive intervention known as “Three Good Things”. Research indicates that people who take the time - everyday - to consciously account for three good things for which they are grateful improve their level of well-being and outlook, even when times are tough.

Curious? Try the following exercise for seven consecutive days. Write down or verbally share with someone a daily list of 3-5 things for which you are grateful or things that went well. Do this in the morning, at dinner, or before bedtime - whatever works best for you. If you want to measure the outcome, contact me - Lisa Jacobson - for instructions on how to take a before and after test. I will measure your well-being and outlook before you start the exercise and then afterwards. For instructions, contact me at

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