Depression vs Happiness

The How of Happiness book has a good insight into depression and what can cure it:

The world health organization predicts that by year 2020 depression will be the second leading cause of mortality in the entire world, affecting 30% of all adults. Many experts believe that depression has become an epidemic.

Depression has been described as a syndrome distinguished by a deficit of positive emotions: a lack of joy, curiosity, contentment, enthusiasm. Inability to take pleasure in joyful events is a hallmark of depression. The positivity deficit is also evident in how depressed people think about the future and the past. Their problem is not so much that they anticipate bad things to pass but that the good things will come.

Activities like practicing daily gratitude, being generous and spending quality time with loved ones can help to get out of depression. The most important is social support. Validation of people close to you. Confiding your worries and troubles to others can reduce stress if you learn that they are endured similar experiences and have survived or thrived. It can reduce anxiety when other people comfort and reassure. When I just started meditation I was not still (but was told that it was normal, otherwise I would make an assumption that I’m a failure and meditation doesn’t work for me). Peers, buddies, mentors, close ones can motivate you and remind you to continue to practice your happiness activities. Offer positive feedback, encouragement and warmth. Sometimes it is necessary to establish ties with a new group of people – perhaps from happiness-relevant chat groups or websites who might share similar goals and concerns as you. Or you might want to seek out new friends in your own work, school and neighborhood communities, as a way to find partners who support each other’s efforts. Remember you don’t need a posse, often just one caring friend will do.

Psychological vulnerability. What causes a depression?

The first explanation is Aaron Becks cognitive – behavioral therapy. He says that some people have dysfunctional attitudes that make them vulnerable to becoming depressed in the face of a negative event. These maladaptive attitudes often involve the notion that our happiness and self-worth depend on our being perfect or hinge on other people’s approval. If something happens, we automatically have negative thoughts about ourselves, our present experiences and our futures.

A related explanation for depression, called hopelessness theory, came from the work of Martin Seligman and his students. According to this theory having expectations that bad things will happen to us and that good things will not happen, and that we cannot do anything to change the situation, can cause depression. True hopelessness is thought to be at the root of depression. How we interpret life experiences influences our feelings about those experiences.

The most effective treatments for depression.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy. The job of the therapist is to help the depressed patient to recognize and dispute her negative beliefs. The behavioral part consists of teaching depressed patients skills that they might lack such as problem-solving (teaching you how to define life-problems and helping you generate possible solutions to those problems and choose among them), self-control (teaching you to set weekly goals and then to monitor your behavior and reward yourself for meeting those goals), and behavioral activation (encouraging you to take action rather than avoid difficult situations). The main goal of behavioral therapy is to engage depressed individuals in activities that they enjoy and that afford them a sense of mastery. This strategy increases positive emotions and distract the depressed person from overthinking about her feelings and problems.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is relatively short term, usually lasting from 4 to 14 sessions. However sometimes it is longer. Patients treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy until their depression have lifted are less likely to relapse or to suffer from a future depressive episode. There are other types of therapy discussed. As for antidepressant approach, I, fortunately, disagree with Sonja Lyubomirsky.

The most important solution to depression is finding your life’s meaning. We need a sense of meaning to feel that we matter, that our suffering and our hard work aren’t futile and our life has a purpose.

Life is more meaningful when you are pursuing goals that are harmonious and within reach, when you have the time, the ability and the energy to devote to your most important goals.

Write down your own life story. Who are you now and who were you before? What future do you imagine for yourself? What are the obstacles in your path? What assumptions do you hold about the world and why things are the way they are?

Try creativity – in the arts, humanities, and sciences and even self-discovery – it can impart a sense of living to many people’s lives. Fourth, there is sometimes powerful meaning in anguish and trauma, suffering may bring about posttraumatic growth. Timeless perspective on possible life paths. If you ever find yourself depressed, the result will be survival, recovery and thriving. I wish you the latter one.

Finally, an essential path to finding meaning in your life is to work on developing your faith. Faith provides answers to the big questions: Who am I? What is my life for? Who is the creator? How do I live a virtuous life and improve the world around me?

“May your days be many and your troubles be few. May all God’s blessings descend upon you. May peace be within you may your heart be strong. May you find what you’re seeking wherever you roam.” Irish Blessings quotes.

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How The Imperfectionists Came About

The moment I saw the book The Imperfectionists at the Airport shop, I wanted to read it. It is on my list to read, and today I found writer’s review of the book. It is an example of resilience in action and reminds me of A Movable Feast, when Hemingway was in Paris trying to write a novel. Here is what Tom Rachman says about his book:

“I grew up in peaceful Vancouver with two psychologists for parents, a sister with whom I squabbled in the obligatory ways, and an adorably dim-witted spaniel whose leg waggled when I tickled his belly. Not the stuff of literature, it seemed to me.

During university, I had developed a passion for reading: essays by George Orwell, short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, novels by Tolstoy. By graduation, books had shoved aside all other contenders. A writer–perhaps I could become one of those.

There was a slight problem: my life to date.

By 22, I hadn’t engaged in a bullfight. I’d not kept a mistress or been kept by one. I’d never been stabbed in a street brawl. I’d not been mistreated by my parents, or addicted to anything sordid. I’d never fought a duel to the death with anyone.

It was time to remedy this. Or parts of it, anyway. I would see the world, read, write, and pay my bills in the process. My plan was to join the press corps, to become a foreign correspondent, to emerge on the other side with handsome scars, mussed hair, and a novel.

Years passed. I worked as an editor at the Associated Press in New York, venturing briefly to South Asia to report on war (from a very safe distance; I was never brave). Next, I was dispatched to Rome, where I wrote about the Italian government, the Mafia, the Vatican, and other reliable sources of scandal.

Suddenly–too soon for my liking–I was turning thirty. My research, I realized, had become alarmingly similar to a career. To imagine a future in journalism, a trade that I had never loved, terrified me.

So, with a fluttery stomach, I handed in my resignation, exchanging a promising job for an improbable hope. I took my life savings and moved to Paris, where I knew not a soul and whose language I spoke only haltingly. Solitude was what I sought: a cozy apartment, a cup of tea, my laptop. I switched it on. One year later, I had a novel.

And it was terrible.

My plan – all those years in journalism–had been a blunder, it seemed. The writing I had aspired to do was beyond me. I lacked talent. And I was broke.

Dejected, I nursed myself with a little white wine, goat cheese and baguette, then took the subway to the International Herald Tribune on the outskirts of Paris to apply for a job. Weeks later, I was seated at the copy desk, composing headlines and photo captions, aching over my failure. I had bungled my twenties. I was abroad, lonely, stuck.

But after many dark months, I found myself imagining again. I strolled through Parisian streets, and characters strolled through my mind, sat themselves down, folded their arms before me, declaring, “So, do you have a story for me?”

I switched on my computer and tried once more.

This time, it was different. My previous attempt hadn’t produced a book, but it had honed my technique. And I stopped fretting about whether I possessed the skill to become a writer, and focused instead on the hard work of writing. Before, I had winced at every flawed passage. Now, I toiled with my head down, rarely peeking at the words flowing across the screen.

I revised, I refined, I tweaked, I polished. Not until exhaustion–not until the novel that I had aspired to write was very nearly the one I had produced–did I allow myself to assess it.

To my amazement, a book emerged. I remain nearly incredulous that my plan, hatched over a decade ago, came together. At times, I walk to the bookshelf at my home in Italy, take down a copy of The Imperfectionists, double-check the name on the spine: Tom Rachman. Yes, I think that’s me.

In the end, my travels included neither bullfights nor duels. And the book doesn’t, either. Instead, it contains views over Paris, cocktails in Rome, street markets in Cairo; the ruckus of an old-style newsroom and the shuddering rise of technology; a foreign correspondent faking a news story, a media executive falling for the man she just fired. And did I mention a rather adorable if slobbery dog?”

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