Two areas to consider examining if you’re feeling depressed:

Two areas to consider examining if you’re feeling depressed:

By Joel Christie

One: What takes up your time?

Is your schedule too full? Or maybe you don’t really have a schedule? If you’re perfectly happy with how you spend your time, I sincerely congratulate you. But many of us spend too little time doing what replenishes us, or fortifies us, or bolsters confidence and helps us grow. Maybe we turn into workaholics or perhaps we gradually become trained to pursue small, temporary pleasures that ultimately leave us unsatisfied or even drained. We neglect our social lives, or we neglect adventure. Or perhaps we neglect our responsibilities because they’re too hard or just not especially fun, resulting in unpleasant consequences that can sew anxiety and depression, amidst the other consequences they bring. It’s not so different than the body’s need for nutrition: we need iron, and calcium, and vitamin B12, and whatever else, but also not too much sugar or saturated fat, of course, because why should we get to eat delicious stuff all the time? (Thanks, stupid body.)

Our souls need a healthy balance too, of course, just like those self-help books will all remind us. And if we’re looking for something to weaken the smothering hold of depression, this can be an invaluable area of life to examine. Extroverts may need an abundance of meaningful time with people, but they also need time to reflect and be introspective. Creative types certainly need time to create, but they may also need to spend time doing the grittier unpleasant tasks of training and application and bloody annoying paperwork. Why? Because these can be the kind of activities that promote growth and produce confidence as we realize our own competency and self-sufficiency. We need to be challenged. And we need time to rest, relax, and replenish. But then we need to get up and keep going. If we stop to reflect, most of us can identify areas in our lives that could benefit from more time and attention. So how about you? What could you benefit from spending more time doing?

Two: How do you approach problems?

Our problem-solving instincts can dominate our lives if we’re not careful. It looks different from person to person, but at its root, it’s trying to fix what we perceive is wrong with the world around us. Facebook arguments, staying late at the office every night to impress your boss, trying to make your spouse finally see your side of things, that one friend who never does what you want, bills, disappointing family members, and so on. There are a million places where our problem-solving instincts flare to life. We often get a small, short-term boost of empowerment from pointing out or identifying a problem—that “I’m smart” feeling that allows us to believe we’re on our way to fixing things. And indeed, identifying what’s wrong is the beginning of the problem-solving process. But identifying problems this can leave us depressed and depleted if we rarely see positive changes occur, either because of the lack of response our criticism produces or because of our disappointment with ourselves for not doing something more direct to fix the problem.

Yet most frustrating of all, our efforts often will fail to solve our problems. Repeat: our efforts will never eliminate all of the problems we are able to identify. Which is why gaining the ability to accept the slow, clumsy, annoying, and the perpetually ongoing process of problem-solving is so valuable. As we come to accept that problems are a normal part of life (and not things that “shouldn’t be happening to me!”), we can learn to expend less energy wishing they would just go away. We can cultivate durability, which frees us up to be more content before the problem is resolved as we gradually pursue the outcomes we desire. This doesn’t mean we ignore problems, it means we recognize that our problem-solving instinct will dominate us if we don’t shut it down from time to time. It means we’re better off thinking of ourselves as people who are able to keep striving and enduring in this world that is never short on problems than as people who need our problems to end in order for us to experience happiness.

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I "Like" Doing Things

I "Like" Doing Things

By Daniel M. Fisher Ed.S.

I like to tell my clients how, in order to overcome depression, they have to take action steps to accomplish this goal. Depression is an illness of the minimums. By this I mean it's an illness that takes away motivation, excitement, and interest in our lives for reasons we have a hard time putting a finger on and puts us in the mindset of "how can I get through my day by expending the least amount of effort or energy as possible." Some might disagree with this notion, but I find a lack of motivation and interest in once loved activities really shows up quite a bit and the rationale is "well I just don't feel like it." This is a very passive way of hoping to get out of depression and my question is always "Why would we aid in this process by succumbing to sometimes irrational ideas of avoiding the things we love or avoiding the social connections we crave?"

In pondering these ideas, I recently I found myself scrolling through my Facebook news feed, as I so often do, and "liking" things left and right. A friend of mine made a pithy comment about a celebrity, so, of course, I "liked" it. I saw a picture of a puppy licking an ice cream cone, so I "liked" it. Another friend posted about bicycles, so I "liked" it. Facebook, in its algorithmic wisdom, saw I had "liked" a post about puppies and then about bicycles, so naturally, they suggested that I "Like" the "I Love Puppies" page and "Bicycles" page in order to signify my undying support for these two aspects of my life. And you know what? I did it! I am not ashamed to admit, I love puppies and I love riding bicycles! What a wonderful turn of events! Now, all of the 312 people on Facebook who I've proclaimed to be my "friends" will now know even more about me and for some, our mutual interests will become even more intertwined. It's amazing. I have never felt so close to people in my life.

Only, no one is around. I haven't talked to many of these "friends," save for the occasional supportive "like," in years. I became a little sad in participating in my daily Facebook excavation and I got to thinking about this notion of "liking" things.

It occurred to me how Facebook and other "social" networks help create an illusion of activity and inclusion but accomplish, in many cases, the opposite. For me, sitting and "liking" something is similar to avoiding the actual real life social participation so many suffering from depression describe. It's not on purpose and social networks are a wonderful way to stay connected but, like anything else, it can't be our only form of social activity if we expect to maintain interpersonal relationships and activity levels necessary for overcoming or preventing our depression.

What does it all mean if I don't actually do any of the things I "like" to do? So what am I doing here sitting in front of my computer "liking" things and getting depressed about it when I could be out DOING things? I can only answer that with: "See you later, I'm going for a bike ride."

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