IT is uplifting to set goals and complete them.
But when goals go unachieved, the discouragement is difficult to shirk.
This simple notion was the basis for an ECU Joondalup study, which found the treatment of clinically depressed patients could be improved by helping them set achievable goals while avoiding those that are unattainable.
Researchers studied 42 subjects with a history of depression and 51 others without the illness.
While it would be easy to assume those with depression would not be motivated to set goals, lead researcher Joanne Dickson said the findings indicated this was not the case.
“This was backed up by the fact that both groups listed a similar number of goals and valued their personal goals similarly,” she said.
“However the group with depression were more pessimistic about achieving their goals and had more difficulty generating goals focused on positive outcomes.
“The group with depression was also more likely to give up on goals they saw as unattainable and at the same time reported greater difficulty in setting new goals to pursue.”
Professor Dickson said this could exacerbate a patient’s depression, which emphasised the importance of developing better ways to help a depressed person set goals.
“Building confidence and self-belief around goal pursuit may also provide a useful strategy in preventing the onset of depression,” she said.
The University of Exeter and University of Liverpool collaborated on the research, which was published in the Plos One online journal.