DAVID GREENE, HOST:
If you know someone who sees things as a glass half empty, might be tough to even imagine them with a sunnier outlook on life. But as NPR's Allison Aubrey reports there's a new study; it finds that skills can be taught to encourage a positive outlook - even to people who are depressed or stressed.
ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Imagine for a moment that you're madly in love. You get married, plan out a life. And then, just when you have the time and the money to travel and live it up, your spouse gets early onset Alzheimer's. That's Melissa Meltzer Warehall's story. Her husband, Paul, developed symptoms in his early 50s.
MELISSA MELTZER WAREHALL: Every single day is depressing and anxiety-producing. And it's very, very frustrating to know the man who he used to be and the shell of the person he is now.
AUBREY: She knows she can't change her circumstances. But she wanted to learn to cope better, so she reached out for help.
JUDITH MOSKOWITZ: When you're experiencing a lot of stress in your life, it's easy to sort of head into that downward spiral.
AUBREY: That's Judith Moskowitz of Northwestern University. She developed a program that teaches people how to cope with stress.
MOSKOWITZ: It's a set of eight skills taught over the course of about five weeks.
AUBREY: It can be taught in person or virtually using Skype or FaceTime. And when Melissa signed up, she agreed to be part of a study to test the program's effectiveness.
WAREHALL: I was a little bit skeptical.
AUBREY: But she says a few weeks into the program, she began to feel her attitude shift. She learned the basics of meditation and deep breathing. And she learned a technique called reframing. It's easier said than done, but the idea is that you aim to see a daily hassle as something positive. For Melissa, daily hassles include Paul wandering off.
WAREHALL: It's very frustrating.
AUBREY: But rather than focus on the negative, she now focuses on what they can still do together. For instance, she helped him rediscover music.
WAREHALL: So I signed him up for harmonica lessons every Saturday.
AUBREY: And that's great for both of them.
WAREHALL: Being with him when he's making music - he plays a mean blues harmonica - is wonderful for me too.
AUBREY: And she tries to hang on to these positive moments.
WAREHALL: Every single day, I look for that silver lining.
AUBREY: Judith Moskowitz says these skills are widely applicable.
MOSKOWITZ: Anyone can be taught to be a little more positive.
AUBREY: And her study finds that caregivers who practice these skills had a significant drop in depression and anxiety. Melissa noticed it in herself and in Paul.
WAREHALL: If my energy is positive, it's easier to care for him.
AUBREY: She says she tries to write down one thing each day to be grateful for.
WAREHALL: I remind myself I still have him. And I can still hug him and hold him, and I still tell him I love him all the time.
AUBREY: It's a way to focus on what is instead of what's lost.
Allison Aubrey, NPR News.
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