The Good Word  

April 2000

Hey!  Everybody gets depressed sometimes.  But for some people it is chronic, and severely hampers their effectiveness and happiness.  For others, it's an occasional inconvenience.  The following principles for addressing the problem may not solve everyone's problems, but maybe they will help you.  Enjoy in good health!

The Happiness Cycle

This cycle illustrates one important dimension of happiness: feeling that you are a capable, effective human being.

The beginning of the cycle is to have some goals, something you want to achieve or have.  It could be a special vacation, a toy or bauble, or an improved relationship with someone important to you.  It is not our purpose here to discuss this exciting area of goals, but simply to point out that it all begins with a dream or need that you have.  Begin by focusing on that goal.

The second step is to take actions to move you toward your goal.  It is important that these actions take you toward your goal, not necessarily that you achieve it entirely.  Hey, if you are moving toward your goal, that is progress.  So, after goals come action and effort.  Massive effort may be the key.  A wise man once said, "Whatever you do, do it with all your might."

And this effort will always yield some results, the third position on our cycle.  Maybe not all you wanted or just what you wanted, but you will get results.  This is the key.  Have a goal, make an effort and you will get at least some results.  This achievement can help you directly to the fourth point in the cycle which is . . .

Feel good!  Well, maybe just a little bit if you had a small goal and didn't put in a lot of effort, and consequently got a small result.  But any results are a step on the road to your goal.  There's nothing to keep you from going around the wheel again.  In fact, that's just what you should do.  Feeling good from your achievement encourages another trip.  Encourages?  Indeed, there has been an increase in your self-esteem.  The marginal increase in confidence leads you to two things on the next round:

1.  An even higher goal.

2.  Even greater effort.

Either or both of these are the premium fuel that drives the happiness cycle, the best antidote to depression.  After all, the best defence is a good offence - go for it!

But, if you must know, aside from organic problems, depression can result from the obverse of the happiness cycle.  The depression cycle.

The Depression Cycle

It's not hard to figure out, really.  Depression happens when you have no goals to strive for.  Without goals, why would you make any effort?  Lack of goals and effort leads for sure to no positive results.  The consequences are feeling bad, self-reproach and criticism.  I mean, in that condition, how likely are you to form any positive goals or crystallize a positive dream?  Not likely.  Poor self esteem, made even lower by nothing good happening, puts the brakes on any possibility of the happiness cycle working.

How to break this depression cycle?  Formulating goals is not necessarily the answer.  If you're really depressed, what's the chances of breaking it by changing your thinking?  Not much.  So . . .  Move directly to action.  Forget the goal bit, you may not be ready for it.  But I'll bet you know somebody who could use some action in helping them achieve their goals.  Hey, surrogate goals are better than no goals at all.  Somebody needs your action.  Volunteer to help.  If you think you are worthless yourself, OK, let's not argue.  But surely you know someone who is not worthless.  Some worthy person.  Help them and, voila, you will feel better.  Action and effort can prime the pump when you have no goals of your own to fuel the cycle.

Once you race around the track a few times with your friend, colleague, boss (yes, work can be therapeutic), etc., it's very likely you can take the training wheels off and do a lap or two on your own "new" goals.  Once again, go for it!

Your friend, Herb Sorensen