Hey guys, happy Sunday! I hope you’ve been having a nice fun, relaxing (or crazy fun, whichever you prefer) weekend!
Recently I was watching a Ted Talk by Johann Hari about depression and anxiety. He discusses how not only are there biological factors that contribute to both, but also how society plays a part in it as well. I highly recommend watching the video, right here:
For those of you who may not have watched the video, this Ted Talk discusses how there are scientifically nine different causes to depression and anxiety. Only two of these causes are biological, your genes affect whether you are more prone to depression and anxiety, as well as chemical imbalances in the brain. The other seven causes though, are from the way we live our lives, including loneliness, lack of control in the work place and not spending enough time out in the natural world. One of my favorite quotes from this Ted Talk is when Hari is talking about the doctors in Cambodia who put it best: “You’re a human being with unmet needs”.
One idea he discusses is how material objects and wealth don’t provide real substance in our lives, which is something we’ve all heard and know. As Hari says along that same thought:
“Just like junk food doesn’t meet your nutritional needs, and actually makes you feel quite terrible, junk values don’t meet your psychological needs, and they take you away from a good life.”
At the time, he was talking to Professor Tim Cassor from Nox College in Illinois, who has been doing scientific research in the idea of material wealth and how it affects us mentally. While Hari’s talking with Professor Cassor, he asks a very important question.
If we already know that material wealth and money won’t provide us happiness, then why do we still pursue these things?
Professor Cassor’s answer?
It’s because we decide not to live by those values. As Cassor puts it, “We live in a machine that gets us to neglect these values.” In the pursuit of fulfilling these values society pushes on us, it takes away from what truly fulfills our fundamental needs, such as finding true meaning and purpose in our lives. It takes us away from means of support, and ways to get in touch with ourselves. We isolate ourselves from others (to the point where we feel that we have no to turn to when things go wrong), and don’t let ourselves relax and recharge (which could mean going out on hikes, or to the beach). Instead, we work towards what society deems as valuable, even though no real value lies within these “junk values”.
In my own personal experience, I found I am much happier and fulfilled when writing, (in any capacity). Writing gives me meaning in my life, and it’s why I to make the time to pursue it, whether it’s a blog post, a poem, or even a novel. It helps me clear my head, and organize my thoughts, making sense of everything buzzing around in my brain.
There are times though, when I need to take a break from writing and recharge myself. It’s funny he brings up the need to reconnect with nature, because Nick and I were recently talking about how we’re starting to appreciate nature more than before. Not that we hated it or anything, more of we didn’t appreciate it enough. There is something therapeutic about going outside to escape from the stress of work, school and other responsibilities, even for just a couple of hours. When I hike with Nick, or walk with my mom, I instantly feel more prepared for the day and optimistic about life. Spending time outside away from technology and getting Vitamin D lifts my spirit in a way that very few things can.
One of the main causes of depression, according to Hari, is isolating ourselves from other people. One statistic he mentions is how 39% of Americans feel as though they aren’t close to anybody right now. They have no one to support them when they are feeling overwhelmed, or when going through a tough time. Loneliness has lead to some of my biggest mistakes, and is more dangerous than we realize; it can even be the difference between life and death. It’s terrifying how much not having people who support and understand you affects your mentally. Loneliness has lead me to make some big mistakes in my life, as I was desperate to have people around me, so I sought seeking it in all the wrong ways and in all the wrong places.
At one point during the talk, Hari discusses the method of social prescribing as a means to help manage depression and anxiety. The example he uses is of East Londoner, Lisa, and the group she is a part of to help overcome her anxiety. The group decides to grow a garden together in the back of the wellness center, giving the members a purpose, as well as a means to reconnect with nature. If one of the members didn’t show up for a session, the others would check on them, to make sure they are okay and support them if needed. As Lisa puts it, “As the garden began to bloom, we began to bloom”.
It’s a powerful force, being a part of a group that not only has a purpose and meaning, but also supports you when life gets rough. It’s a powerful force that can positively influence your outlook on life.
Before we go, I want to note that although there are means to combat anxiety and depression without medication, doesn’t mean medication can’t also be helpful. There are people who truly do have a chemical imbalance in their brain causing their depression or anxiety, and medication is necessary to help combat that. However, there are more people than we realize whose depression and anxiety are caused more by the circumstances of their life, as opposed to the circumstances of their brain. Hari’s sums it up perfectly, saying:
“We need to talk less about chemical imbalances and more about the imbalances in the way we live.”
Thank you for reading, and I will see you guys tomorrow with a new post!
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