Reducing Bitterness and Boredom Helps with Depression and Anxiety

Life review is a therapeutic approach that involves recounting the experiences of one’s life in order to assign new meaning and appraisals to memories. This form of therapy helps clients with negative memories transform harmful coping strategies and has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression. Life review therapy relies on several forms of reminiscence including instrumental reminiscence. This form of reminiscence can be broken down to include boredom reduction and bitterness revival. Boredom reduction reminiscence occurs when a person focuses on past events to escape the challenges of current difficulties. Bitterness revival takes place when an individual constantly focuses on the negative life events of their past and uses them as a method of justification for present behaviors.

Although life review therapy itself has been shown to have positive outcomes in depressed and anxious individuals, few studies have examined the direct influence of bitterness revival reminiscence and boredom reduction reminiscence on symptoms. To explore this further, Jojanneke J. Korte of the Department of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Twente in the Netherlands recently led a study on 202 older adults with depression and anxiety. The participants were divided into two treatment groups, life review and treatment as usual. Korte evaluated the participants at the beginning of treatment, at treatment conclusion, and 3 months posttreatment. They were assessed for symptom severity, reminiscence patterns, self-esteem, mastery, and positive affect and thoughts.

The results revealed that life review significantly decreased the severity of anxiety and depression. The participants in life review saw decreases in boredom reduction and bitterness revival, which led to increases in positive affect, thoughts, and mastery. Compared to the treatment as usual participants, the life review participants were able to reduce their symptoms of both depression and anxiety. These gains were maintained 3 months posttreatment. These findings shed a new light on the effect of reminiscing. Korte said, “Rather than the frequency of reminiscing per se, it is the way in which people look back upon their past that is related to mental health.”

Korte, J., Westerhof, G. J., Bohlmeijer, E. T. (2012). Mediating processes in an effective life-review intervention. Psychology and Aging. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0029273

Related articles:
World Health Day: Keeping Mind and Body Fit at Every Age
Self-Care to Combat Anxiety
The Irritable or Angry Experience of Depression

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  • Carla


    July 27th, 2012 at 4:04 AM

    So ultimately these are people who are focusing on all of the bad things that have ever happened to them to justify how bad they are feeling today. They are the classoc the glass is half empty kind of folks. generally these are the kind of people whom I try to stay far away from. No matter what you do when you hang with people like that they are bound to rub off on you. You can feel great but them get around them for a while and I guarantee that they will bring you down. If there is anything available that could help them change the way that they think and process life, then that is definitely something that they should pursue.

  • kate


    July 27th, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    Life review could really vary from person to person in terms of the things that they choose to focus on. Are they looking at the good times from the past or the bad? If they are concentrating on all of the bad things that have happened to them in life then this could be a cause for concern. If you dwell too long on the past and its negativity I in no way can see what kind of benefit that this could bring. But maybe you can look back on this fondly, as perhaps even bittersweet, but determined to learn more about how this made you a better person today. I think that when you can put a positive spin on it like that then you will gain far more benfits from life review treatment.

  • Ashwell


    July 27th, 2012 at 9:53 PM

    While these feelings are natural for anybody,I dont get how someone can blame past events to justify present actions.I mean yes they could say that excuse to another person but deep down inside they know the truth.So do such people really have a problem or are they just trying to shift the blame for being apathetic?

  • Les


    July 28th, 2012 at 6:07 AM

    looking back on the past with fondness helps you make peace with it rather then begrudging every bad thing that may have ever happened to you

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