Warning! Doing these things can depress you, so avoid them!

March 9, 2011

The first positive psychology study dates 20 years before positive psychology was established as a field.  In 1977, Michael Fordyce conducted a study where he showed that he could increase people’s happiness and life satisfaction by having participants do things that happy people do.  I’ll share with you the details of what these happy people did in next week’s newsletter.

This week, I draw on that same hypothesis to say, if you do as depressed people do you’ll make yourself depressed.

Here are 4 things to avoid doing:

  1. Avoidance:  People experiencing depression are more likely to avoid healthy risk taking behavior.  Their mind chatter convinces them out of it.  “Why bother going to that charity event tonight.  No one is going to talk to you.  You’re going to have a miserable time,” says the brain, and the depressed person buys into the excuse.  Encourage yourself to step out of your comfort zone with the desire to learn and grow.
  2. Social isolation:  Nurture the relationships you currently have.   We are social creatures.  Our primitive brain gets confused and often depressed when we don’t spend enough time with people or feel we don’t have close bonds to others that we can turn to for support.  Make authentic connections with people a priority.  Meet new people.  All people, on a fundamental, biological level, want to be cared for, seen and connected with.  Holding this information in your mind can make you more active in putting yourself out there.
  3. Lacking creative expression:  Humans have an innate drive to use their creativity.  It often gets stifled in the world of to-do lists, families, internet and other distractions.  One way of describing depression is that it is a form of learned helplessness, learning that nothing you do matters.  When you are using your creativity, making or doing things in the world, it is harder to feel that like nothing you do matters.  Whether it be a simple painting, writing piece, dinner you cook up, travel itinerary, photograph or dance sequence, using your creativity is empowering.
  4. Lack of exercise:  Your body is made to move.  You’re an animal, really you are!  Research shows that the anti-depressant effects of exercise are so strong that not exercising is like TAKING A DEPPRESSANT.  Research also shows that being sedentary for more than 30 minutes begins to make the brain less efficient and increases the release of cortisol (hormone for stress) in your body.   Not exercising puts you into a vicious spiral.  Since your body isn’t moving it has less energy, since it has less energy it’s harder to get yourself to move, which gives you even less energy.

Give these practices a go!  Your happiness is your birthright and your unhappiness can be prevented.

Love and light,


Discovering and using your strengths

May 23, 2008

Welcome to my blog!

For the next few weeks I will be blogging about strengths: What are they? How do we discover them? How do we use them?

Strengths are a big focus in positive psychology; we focus on building what is right with people rather than just trying to fix people’s weaknesses.

Those of you familiar with psychology may know of a book called the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual IV- affectionately known as the DSM-IV. This manual is used to diagnose or at the very least label all the things that can possibly be wrong with people.

Drs. Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman pointed out that psychologists now understand a great deal about what is wrong with people and very little to nothing about categorizing what is write with people. They took on what I consider the largest project in positive psychology’s history. They scientifically studied and identified character strengths and virtues that have been identified throughout history and multiple cultures. The published a voluptuous book called Character Strengths and Virtues and a handy-dandy (albeit lengthy) questionnaire for figuring your strengths out.

Before I spill the beans about where you can take the questionnaire to discover your strengths (for FREE!). Think about your strengths?

What are you naturally good at?

Now strengths are different from talents. You can be a talented singer or basketball player. Hitting high notes and dribbling balls are talents.

Being a leader, curious about the world, empathetic and supportive, those aren’t talents they are strengths.

A good way to figure out your strengths is to think about what you did in the past few days that made happy? Then begin to dig deeper and look for the strengths that you displayed there.

For example, I had a great coaching session with a client today that made me feel great. One of the reasons it felt so great was because I was using my strengths

Make a list of 5 things that you consider to be your strengths.

Then log onto www.authentichappiness.com, sign up real quick, and take the VIA Character Strengths questionnaire. Taking the complete version might take you 30 or so minutes. If you’d like, take the abridged version- The Brief Strengths Test, which is 24 questions and should take less then 5 minutes. There is also a children’s version.

Find out what some of your strengths are. Do these strengths match the list you created?

To delve deeper into the world of strengths check out this web site www.viacharacter.org.

In the next few blog posts I’ll look at each of Peterson and Seligman’s 24 Strengths. Then we’ll explore Gallup’s Strength Finder which is all about the use of strengths in careers and business.

Looking forward to hearing from you!