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5 Ways to Move Beyond Coping

In two years of running real-world therapy groups for survivors coping with the loss of a loved one, Judith M. Stillion, Ph.D., author and professor emeritus at the University of North Carolina system, has found that positive psychology can move us through the grieving process, offering “almost a mini-vacation,” and helping us feel as though we have more control over our lives.

Here are five exercises that Judith recommends to her clients:

  1. Every evening, focus on three positive events of the day, however small, that you are grateful for. “If you foster gratitude, you can’t stay totally depressed,” she says.
  2. Do something for your physical body daily. Do it thoughtfully and mindfully, whether it is taking a walk or even eating a special piece of food you enjoy.
  3. Find a cause bigger than yourself to work on, like making hats and scarves for the homeless, for example. Do something that “takes you outside your small self and makes you feel like you are giving something larger than yourself,” Judith says.
  4. Plan something for the future—tomorrow or next month or next year—allowing you to tap into your hope and optimism.
  5. Write 10 beliefs that you hold. Dig deep to see what you really believe, and realize that “beliefs are choices,” Judith says. It’s good to share your beliefs in a very small, trusted group.

All of these exercises are better done in a group, and not even necessarily those led by a counselor or therapist, Judith says. When you are in a group, you can see others doing the same exercises—and you tend to open up more than you might individually.

“Don't give up on groups just because the first group didn't work,” Judith says. “You can really be supported for a long time, if you get in the right group."

This article originally appeared in the October 2014 edition of Live Happy magazine.
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