Mood Lifters: Change Your Thinking to Fight Off Depression, Stress, and Anxiety

Mood Lifters Emphasizes Positive, Healthy Action

Mood Lifters
Images courtesy Yuli Wu.

Mood Lifters is a weekly mental health program that draws on the most current science and focuses on affirming mentally healthy and positive activities to empower its participants. It is an affordable alternative to traditional therapy which involves education and provides support by empathetic peer leaders. 

Patricia Deldin, Ph.D., creator of Mood Lifters and the Professor of Psychology and Deputy Director of the University of Michigan’s Eisenberg Family Depression Center, was inspired by the success of the Weight Watchers peer-led programs.  

“After attending Weight Watchers, I asked myself, ‘Why don’t we have something like this for stress, depression, and anxiety? Something that is highly effective, low cost, widely available, de-stigmatizing, and has no waitlist?'” Deldin described.

Mood Lifters Helps During the Pandemic

Mood Lifters can help all age groups and address many different diagnoses including depression, sleep problems, and anxiety. Many of these conditions have increased during the COVID pandemic for all age groups.

“I’ve been in the field of psychology for many years and have the benefit of seeing strategies that can help almost everyone feel better — if done regularly,” Deldin described. “In Mood Lifters, we selected research-based skills shown to help most people live a healthier and happier life. For example, we teach people how to improve their sleep and to savor the positives in life, which can make a big impact on mood. From our own data, we see that Mood Lifters helps people of all demographics, but participants with at least moderate anxiety and depression see the most improvement.”

While their present groups are currently open to adults, research and planning have gone into involving younger participants in Mood Lifters groups. 

“Our main program offering is for adults, which teaches great strategies for both Mom and Dad!” Deldin exclaimed. “We also run a special group for parents of children who are seriously ill or in palliative care. With colleagues, we will soon offer new programs — currently in the pilot phase for kids (5-12), teens (13-18), senior citizens (65+), and other populations such as bipolar disorder. Although many of the skills we teach are the same across groups — such as getting good sleep, we are sure to use population-appropriate language, examples, and recommendations. Additionally, there are some unique strategies for each group based on the most current research. For example, in the teen groups, we teach healthy social media skills. In comparison, a special topic in our senior program is a focus on brain health as we age.”

Help Through Science and Positive Activities

Mood Lifters has identified core elements that can enable people at any age to lead a healthy, positive life. 

“We encourage participants to practice strategies and do activities in five areas: body, thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and relationships,” Deldin described. “By focusing on a variety of areas, we want to impart that life stresses and mental health challenges are complex and may be influenced by different factors for different people.”

Deldin points to the significance of interactions between Mood Lifters’ areas of concentration.

“All of these areas also influence each other: your thoughts impact your emotions and behaviors and vice versa — it is a cycle,” she described. “Our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are impacted by how our body feels and our relationships/community are the context in which all of these areas influence each other. Since all of these areas are interconnected and impact mental health, we encourage people to do activities in all these domains based on what seems to be working — or not working — for them.”

Deldin has specific positive tips for people struggling with mental illness, trying to emphasize healthier habits.

“The best advice I can provide to anyone interested in feeling better, regardless of age, is for them to build healthy habits,” Deldin stated. “Building these mentally healthy habits doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice and time. Be patient with yourself and acknowledge even the smallest amount of progress. Progress is most often not linear; some weeks are harder than others, and that is okay. Bottom line: we find that the people who benefit the most from Mood Lifters practice the strategies even when they don’t feel like it. As many group members can attest, you get out of Mood Lifters what you put into it.”

Uplifting Those with Anxiety and Depression

Deldin stated that depression and anxiety have increased among all age groups due to the pandemic. This increases the importance of Mood Lifters’ teachings and support. 

“This pandemic has taken its toll on most everyone,” according to Deldin. “Participants have shared their appreciation for Mood Lifters during COVID, expressing their gratitude of having the weekly meeting to look forward to during a time when their contact with others had been so limited. With rising rates of mental illness associated with the pandemic, we hoped that, at the very least, we would help people not become worse. However, we found that our current participants — during the pandemic — are improving the same as our participants before the pandemic. It appears that our participants are not only managing the negative impact of the pandemic on mental health but are making additional mental health gains, moving closer to the life they want.” 

Mood Lifters is distinguished from traditional therapy or support groups because it is science-based, holistic, broadly welcoming, peer-led, and uniquely cost-effective. Mood Lifters avoids dwelling on problems, empowers participants, and requires real work.

“As I always say, if I just talked about losing weight but never did anything about it, I couldn’t lose weight,” Deldin stated. “It’s the same with mental health. To live a happy and healthy life, people need to practice mentally healthy strategies — not just talk about their problems. Mood lifters last 15 weeks because we cover multiple topics in each area but also because it takes time to build and sustain new habits that lead to significant changes. And, realistically, there will never be a simple, one size fits all, quick-fix strategy for people to change their lives and solve their problems. If it were easy to do, they would have done it already.” 

For more information on Mood Lifters, visit their website.