Archives for Depression - Page 2
Most people I've met, if not all, would try like to be happy. There are all kinds of books on happiness, courses on happiness, and documentaries on happiness. So why aren't we all just happier? If we're approaching happiness as some goal to achieve, we're almost always going to reinforce that something is wrong with us and fall short. If we see it as an unfolding process of learning, we will most likely be able to be more grateful for the good times and more graceful during the more difficult times. I can't reinforce enough the critical importance of seeing happiness practices as something to continue to play with and learn from, rather than using them to achieve some desired end state. You might be able to taste happiness if you see it as a performance, but only with a learning mindset will you find more mastery with it. Here are 5 Practices for Daily Happiness
Be PlayfulWe NEED playtime and we need it daily! One of the first scientists to embark in the field of neuroplasticity, Marion Diamond, showed how rats that have toys and playmates inevitably ran mazes more efficiently and also showed growth in an area of their brain (the cerebral cortex) involved with cognitive processing. Play enhances social bonds and social learning, key areas for generating happiness. How do we figure out what play means to us? This is going to mean different things to different people. What's playful to you, may not be playful to me. You may enjoy competitive sports, board games, or going out and doing something — anything. Making it prosocial with friends adds another level of engagement.
One of the secrets to wiring our brain toward happiness is in the simple understanding that what we practice and repeat starts to become more automatic. Call it a happiness or resiliency habit and it’s something that anyone can create. The fact is, we all have thoughts and behaviors in our lives that influence states of unhappiness or happiness. While the brain defaults toward paying attention to negative stimuli to keep us safe, we are active participants in our health and well-being and can nurture a happier and more resilient brain. To help us really get to the root of all the elements necessary to make happiness a practice, I did my research. I interviewed over 20 highly respected and accomplished people in the field of happiness and well-being like Sharon Salzberg, Byron Katie, Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Jack Kornfield, Tara Brach, Dan Harris, Kelly McGonigal and so many more. I wanted to hear what their definition of happiness was and discover the practical ways we can make it come alive. This is the online Uncovering Happiness Symposium and it's live daily right now through July 3rd. For now, here’s a suggestion to start with that comes from the Daily Now Moments that many people receive in their inbox:
If you've followed my writing or heard me speak you may have heard me quote Philosopher and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel saying, "Life is routine and routine is resistance to wonder." Our brains are wired toward routine and we absolutely lose our sense of wonder in every day life. Yet wonder is a natural anti-depressant. When we pause, have a moment of mindfulness and open our senses, the sights, smells, tastes, sounds and feeling of things comes alive. There are so many wonders all around us that can bring alive the magic of the world. I wanted to share one of them with you put out by filmmaker Alexis Coram in National Geographic who films the "auroras" of the Northern Lights. Take 3 minutes and treat this as a mindful experiment. As you watch, what do you notice. See if you become aware of the fact that here we are sitting on a spinning planet in the middle of space. Look at this beauty, what comes alive in you?
At the root of it all we want to feel a sense of safety and security. We want to feel a sense of belonging and that we're connected to something greater than ourselves. In an upcoming online symposium on Uncovering Happiness that includes people like Dan Siegel, Rick Hanson, Sharon Salzberg, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield, Dan Harris and others, you'll see and hear Byron Katie talk about an essential truth saying, "If you have something valuable, you must give it away." This can be seen as a fairly extreme statement, but if we unpack it, what's the potential net effect? When we give things away, we're reminding brain that we're not alone and that we're connected to others. And when we give things away to those in need, we recognize that we have the power to make a positive impact on other people's lives. We are not islands, we are not alone and there's a sense of purpose. Feeling a sense of purpose is an essential ingredient to our well-being. One of the simplest happiness tips around is to make giving a part of your daily life. It doesn't necessarily come naturally to give since life is routine and many of us are often self-focused, so that becomes the routine. So we need to set a daily intention.
Just in case you are stuck on ways to give, here are 10 ways to give:
In Uncovering Happiness I talk about how the #1 bad habit that most people have can be surprising - our thinking. Before we fall into procrastination, stress eating, isolating, habitually engaging our Smartphones or any other addictive behavior there's a thought. The thought is something like, I need to get away from something uncomfortable that's here or at times, I want to elate the good feeling that's here. One of the most powerful ways I have found to change the atmosphere of the mind is a very simple gratitude practice (but with a power boost). Now, before your eyes roll you need to know this, thoughts may be arising in your mind right now such as, "not this gratitude stuff again, I've read this in a thousand places." If you notice this thought ask yourself, what is the net effect of this thought here. Does it incline you to move toward this practice that you've heard about a thousand times or away from it? The answer is most likely that it inclines you away from it. If we all know it's a supportive practice, why does the mind do this? Because the brain is wired to habituate to things. This is the classic top-down processing in effect. You
One of the greatest, most unproductive and destructive mind traps many of us face is self-blame. It's as if the brain doesn't know what to do with the uncomfortable feeling that's there and it projects it inward. I've never seen a single example where self-blame is constructive. We all make mistakes in life, some greater than others. But there is a simple truth in life that is worth understanding, we all do the best we can with what we know in any given time. It could never be any other way. There's a simple thing to practice that can bring us back to our senses with a bit more self-compassion. This inevitably will lead to greater ease, understanding and refocus us on a more constructive path of health and well-being sooner. Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn't know before you learned it. No matter what you've done, it doesn't serve you or anyone else to stew in self-blame. What would serve yourself and others more is moving into a place of understanding and making peace with yourself. From this space you are better able to more constructively serve yourself and others. In Uncovering Happiness I share a very personal story where in my twenties I was incredibly destructive to my mind and body. I would be constantly caught in a web of blaming myself for the things I would do - only to do them again.
Sometimes the most profound statements come out of children’s books. One of my favorite Dr Seuss books is Oh, The Places You'll Go! It seems to tell the story of what it is like to be human. It brings you through all the experiences in life: the triumphs, the doubts, the confusions, the depressions, the fearful moments and the moments you stare your difficulties in the face and overcome them. Another fantastic book that goes straight to the truth of it all is We're Going on a Bear Hunt. If you haven't read it, it's a picture book where a family goes on a bear hunt and they keep coming across these obstacles from tall grass, to swamp, to spooky forest, etc.. and each time they say, "You can’t go over it, you can’t go under it, you’ve got to go through it." This is life. As it's said, life is full of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. Try as we might to avoid those sorrows, we often have to allow them to pass through. Optimally we do this as a training ground to build the muscle of self-compassion. Here are some powerful anti-depressant and anti-anxiety (and happiness) side effects of Self-Compassion:
One of the primary pathways to an enduring happiness is facilitating a sense of connection. When we feel connected we feel balanced, when we feel balanced, we often feel happy. The problem is as we grow up in this world, we have to learn how to shield ourselves from vulnerability and so we build up walls or put on armor that make connection more difficult. One of the most powerful (and challenging) practices to do is look into another person's eyes for a prolonged period of time as it immediately makes us feel vulnerable. It may not matter whether it's a stranger or someone you've been in a partnership with for over 50 years (sometimes this makes it more difficult). But when we do it, it's fascinating what arises. Check out this short video from Soul Pancake to see some of the surprising results of people making connection:
Did you know that compassion, the act of recognizing someone else's suffering with the inclination to want to support them, creates important activity shifts in the brain that are associated with resiliency and well-being? I recently attended a talk at a fundraiser where the presenter, Amy McLaren, had conveyed her story of going to Kenya with her husband and making a deal with a child there that if he shares his report card with them at the end of the month, they would pay for a month of his schooling. They didn't expect him to follow through, but after they returned back to Canada, a month later they received a letter with a picture of this boy holding up his report card. He followed through and so did they. Every month he would send his report card and every month they would pay for another month of school. Years later this boy is now in business school and has developed
Let’s keep this simple. You may or may not have heard by now that our brain is wired to pay attention more frequently, and with great veracity, to what’s negative. This doesn't mean that the good moments in life aren't happening, we’re just not wired to pay attention to them. Why? Because as a human race, we’re wired to survive, not be happy. BUT, I have a theory that in this moment in time we’re going through an evolution as a species where because of the overabundance of things pulling our attention, we’re being thrusted into growing our awareness – the kind of awareness that breeds balance, well-being and a greater sense of what matters. So people are being turned onto mindfulness more. More spaces are offering it, more institutions are studying it and there’s greater media to