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September 29, 2015

Post-pope depression is real – and here’s how to deal with it

Expert in positive psychology gives tips on how to keep the Francis feeling going

When Pope Francis gave his final blessing and his plane, Shepherd One,  lifted off the tarmac on Sunday, Philadelphians may have breathed a sigh of relief that this hectic weekend was over – but that sigh was tinged with sadness, too.

As much angst as the papal visit caused before it happened, with fears of overwhelming crowds and over-the-top security measures, the weekend itself was filled with wonder, excitement and joy. Several Philadelphians took to Twitter to lament that they had PFD – Post-Francis Depression.

While some people loved seeing Pope Francis himself, others just enjoyed the general air of excitement and the freedom of walking around a car-free city.

Even people in Washington, D.C. felt it:

“With the intense positive feelings that we experience in the joy of his visit, with his absence now, there's a very natural effect” of sadness, said Louis Alloro, co-founder of the Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology Program in Philadelphia.

"We can still harvest those positive emotions. It takes a little bit of mindfulness and a little bit of work," he said.

Here are Alloro’s tips for making the happiness of this historic event last after all the cardinals fly home:

1. Write down both the small and the big moments.

Alloro brought up a concept called the Peak-End Rule, which states that people tend to remember the end of the event and the most intense moment, but forget the rest. Hold on to both the peak moments and the smaller happy memories that may slip away from you by writing your impressions in a journal.

2. Create a sense memory.

"When you have a sensory experience that is filled with such joy and positivity, it stays with us," said Alloro. So take note of specific cues from the five senses that could help you remember the papal visit in the future – for example, the feeling of the wind in your hair as you biked down the center of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

3. Follow the pope’s example.

“Oh my God, this guy exudes positivity,” said Alloro. Whether you are religious or not, think about what message from Francis resonated with you the most and try to live your own life a little better.