Johann Hari – Causes of Depression
9 factors causing depression (7 are psychosocial, and 2 are biological)
Psychological reasons and upsets give rise to the physical symptoms of depression.
Disconnection from work that gives meaning and purpose (little control or autonomy in your work).
Disconnection from people (feeling profoundly lonely). Not sharing any meaningful experience with any other people.
Disconnection from meaningful values. Focusing on materialism, and doing things purely for extrinsic rewards instead of intrinsic reward.
Disconnection caused by childhood trauma. For every traumatic experience, you go through as a child it significantly increases the likelihood of a later diagnosis of depression.
Disconnection from respect. Modern life cultivates the view that status, celebrity and wealth are what denote success and anxiety over the loss of financial security and status often are underlying constant stress in people.
Disconnection from the natural world. Faced with the vista of the natural world we feel ‘small’ not ‘big’, and we feel like we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Animals in captivity rock, lose interest in sex (why they are so hard to breed in captivity) and show other compulsive and depressive behaviors they don’t exhibit in the wild. We are animals. We need to be outdoors. Rates of depression when exercising in the natural world, and spending time outdoors all reduce in comparison to time spent outside. We often feel ‘more alive’ when outdoors in nature. Grounded.
Disconnection from loss of hope for a better future.
The role of genes and biology in depression. Neuroplasticity means the brain is continually growing and changing and does not stay the same. This means the concept of a ‘broken’ brain that cannot be fixed is not supported by current scientific evidence. However, distress from the external world and brain changes occur together which lead to depression. Johann Hari in his book “Lost Connections” on page 146, says that these changes in the brain can then “acquire a momentum of their own that deepens the effects from the outside world.”
Scientists have discovered that for depression there is a 37% genetic inheritance, BUT for those who carry the gene and are born with it — the inherited gene HAS to be activated by your environment.
It is WHAT happens to you in life that determines if that gene for depression is switched on or not.
Biological factors can influence depression as it has been proven that suffering either glandular fever or underactive thyroid can significantly increase the rates of depression in people who are vulnerable.
Some forms of bipolar are seen by some (not all) scientists as having a greater biological component, but psychosocial factors are still seen as influencing and affecting all forms of depression.
When I studied psychology at university, I learned about the bio-psycho-social model about mental health. However, when I went to the doctors with acute symptoms, not one doctor has ever asked me:
“What happened to you?”
What has happened in your life?
What happened in your childhood?
What happened to you in the last year that has been a major trigger?
What support systems do you have in your life?
Do you have friends?
Do you have a family? Do you have a supportive family?
How is your marriage?
How are your children? What is happening to them?
How is your job? Are you fulfilled at work?
A psychiatrist that I was referred to 20 years ago when I had attempted suicide asked me all these questions over the period I saw her. I do not think I would be alive today if it were not for her superb care and attention to help me create new meaning rebuilding my life.
But the doctor gave me a prescription for some pills, and I was out the door in 10 minutes. I was given a chemical solution.
None of them ever fully worked. I increased the dosages to the maximum each time.
I stayed on the medication for over five years the first time.
I lost my sex drive.
I put on weight.
I felt flat and numb.
But I felt I could not exist without the medication. At least I was alive. That is how I felt.
It felt like my emotional pain increased too much when I tried to come off the tablets.
I went back on medication nearly a year ago. This new antidepressant does not affect libido and is meant to have no side effects when you come off it (no withdrawal symptoms). I tried to go off it a few months ago and started to get panic attacks and so started it again.
I then started to see a therapist who does body somatic therapy based on the work of Dr. Peter Levine on healing people from complex PTSD.
I can feel huge changes within my body and my ways of thinking since I have been exploring this healing modality on a regular basis.
I was told by my doctor to stay on the antidepressant for a minimum of one year before I tried to come off it. So I am going to do that.
What do I make of all this research as put together and researched by Johann Hari?
It all makes complete sense to me.
Stress is usually characterized as an unpleasant and unwelcome feeling that expresses itself both physically and mentally. The effects of stress range from irritability and anxiety to raised blood pressure and heart disease. When you think of stress in these terms, it’s no wonder you spend so much time trying to manage or avoid it altogether.
But what if, instead of stressing over how to rid your life of stress, you focused on ways to use it to your advantage? What would happen if you perceived stress as a helpful companion with benefits to offer rather than as an irritating foe out to make your life harder?
As Dr. Kelly McGonigal describes in her book The Upside of Stress, it is this shift in mindset that allows you to have a healthier, even beneficial relationship with stress. Dr. McGonigal, a health psychologist, once shared the same stance a majority of health professionals have adopted: stress is bad and you need to eliminate it immediately before it affects your health. However, she discovered that perceiving stress through such a negative lens can actually be harmful to your health. On the other hand, when you view stress as a helpful tool and motivator, and learn how to harness it to your advantage, your health is less likely to be negatively affected. In fact, stress may actually be good for you if you learn to embrace it and use it properly.
Benefits of Stress
Often when you think of stress, the first thing to come to mind are its negative symptoms (i.e., panic, headache, tightening in the chest, etc.). But stress actually has an abundance of benefits to offer, such as:
Stress can serve as a great motivator for reaching goals or accomplishing simple tasks. Whether it’s landing a new job promotion, meeting a deadline, or tackling a to-do list, a little stress can push you to take action. If you didn’t feel any stress at all, you might not feel inclined to break out of your comfort zone, which is essential for personal growth.
When you experience small amounts of stress, you are actually building up your resistance to future stressors. According to the American Psychological Association, over time humans are wired to adapt to stressful situations by building personal coping systems.
Boosting Cognitive Function
A 2013 study from the University of California – Berkeley found that acute stress can generate new nerve cells in the brain, improving cognitive and mental performance. According to the authors of the study, a certain amount of stress can promote:
- Optimal levels of focus
- Improved memory
- Enhanced learning of new tasks
Using Stress to Your Advantage
If stress has its benefits, then how do you take advantage of them? How can you make stress work for you rather than against you?
Retrain Your Brain
As previously discussed, how you view stress can determine how it affects you. Retraining the brain to view stress as a helpful tool rather than a roadblock will take time as the latter has likely become deeply ingrained. While it will take some practice, it is possible to change your response when stress rears its head.
Replace the negative thoughts that typically arise at the first sign of stress with more positive ones, such as, I’m experiencing stress and welcome it fully. Then, think of how you could best use it to solve a problem or reach a goal. How can you make the stress work for you?
Tip: Don’t stress over trying to think of a way to best use stress! This strategy will get easier over time. If you’re unable to think of how to take advantage of whatever stressor you’re facing, simply accept that it’s there. Sit with it rather than flee from it.
Reframe Your Perspective
When you attach purpose to a difficult situation, it becomes easier to handle or, at the very least, motivates you to handle it. When you reframe stressors in order to add meaning to your life, you are giving your stress a positive purpose.
Perhaps its purpose is one of the above benefits discussed such as motivating behavior, building resilience, or boosting cognitive performance, or it could be something else entirely. Pairing stress with a purpose will allow you to broaden your perspective as to why it exists and the benefits it provides.
Sometimes you feel stressed and can easily identify the cause; other times you’re unsure where it stems from. Pinpointing the root cause of your stress puts you in a position to work with it rather than against it. When you feel the symptoms of stress, either physically or psychologically, but don’t know what’s brought it on, you may feel as though you aren’t in control of what’s happening. However, identifying its origins and approaching it within a more positive framework puts you back in the driver’s seat.
Stress is a part of everyday life, and as much as you might try to will it away, it will inevitably creep up again. By making stress your ally, you can learn to use it to your advantage and perhaps even learn something new in the process. So next time you’re feeling stressed, accept it as part of the journey and embrace it whole-heartedly. You might be surprised by the result.
‘This happens because the means or mechanisms by which public attention is attracted and sustained is almost irrelevant to the modern MassMedia.. This internal inconsistency arises simply because the specific content of media is subordinated to the guiding necessity to attract and sustain public attention in a competitive media environment.’
Nietzsche: ‘What does not kill us will make us stronger’.
What is mind? No matter!
What is matter? Never mind!
Professor Ashok Sharma feels that science fails to understand consciousness as an independent entity. He says, “Science cannot integrate a non-physical entity, like consciousness, into its conceptual framework, and views human personality as a non-conscious physical system.” Consciousness, according to Prof Sharma, is a non-physical entity, which is essentially different from the four basic entities of space, time, energy and matter of the conventional science. Consciousness does not have any physical attribute or property or action.
“There is an urgent need to reinterpret the Vedic texts in modern terms – a task which is now possible with the availability of computers and the recent developments in the fields of cognitive sciences, artificial intelligence and theories of knowledge representation”, says Prof Sharma
Prior to the age of reason, mysticism and revelation served as the primary source of knowledge and wisdom in the western world. With the advent of the Enlightenment, however, a schism would emerge between the comprehension of physical realities through religious thinking and the drive to understand the material universe through empirical reasoning. Though the tension between these contrasting approaches has taken on many different forms since then, it has essentially continued to this day.
One of the barriers to reconciling these dichotomous positions has been the relative lack of reliable scientific data to explain the nature of the “self” and the phenomenon of consciousness. Where, for instance, does the “self” originate? Does our consciousness have an objective reality, or is it purely an epiphenomenon of our neurobiological processes? And is it indeed plausible to speak of an atemporal, nonlocalized mind that exists independently of the physical body?
While Buddhism has a rich contemplative tradition for the first-person exploration of states of consciousness, it never developed the sciences of the brain and behavior that we have in the modern West. So the integration of the first-person methodologies of Buddhism with the third-person methodologies of the cognitive sciences may lead to a richer understanding of consciousness than either Buddhist or Western civilization has discovered on its own.
‘It is easy to view consciousness as a kind of magic, either in the name of religion and souls, or by how alien it at first appears to science. But many fields, such as the study of life many years ago, have their popular magical states eroded by careful scientific study. I will be robustly arguing here that consciousness is in the midst of a similar revolution.’
Consciousness is in many ways the most important question remaining for science, says Daniel Bor. he continues, ‘Whether I’m revelling in a glowing pleasure or even if I’m enduring a sharp sadness, I always sense that behind everything there is the privilege and passion of experience. Our consciousness is the essence of who we perceive ourselves to be. It is the citadel for our senses, the melting pot of thoughts, the welcoming home for every emotion that pricks or placates us. For us, consciousness simply is the currency of life. Although some philosophers and scientists suspect that consciousness is a pointless side effect of thought, I believe the opposite, that our consciousness might indeed be responsible for our greatest intellectual achievements, both in the arts and sciences. Whether our creativity and insight originates in our unconscious mind or not (I believe that the role of the unconscious has been over-estimated here), at the very least, our consciousness is the conduit to inspect these gems of inspiration, and the driving force for turning them into reality.
‘I happen to believe that it is only a matter of time before we generate real consciousness in computer form, and if we assume that a mouse, say, is conscious, then I think so will computers be within 10 or so years. Human consciousness may take far longer to artificially manufacture, but this is merely an engineering issue, rather than something that is in principle impossible in any being that isn’t a human with its biological brain. Most of us, I think, share this intuition at times.’
The only instrument humanity has ever had for directly observing the mind is the mind itself, so that must be the instrument to be refined.
‘Characters like Data in Star Trek, or the replicants in the film Bladerunner, are utterly believable as robots with human-like consciousness. And both these characters help us explore the difficult future ethical decisions we may face surrounding beings we manufacture, who may match us in awareness, intelligence and possibly also the capacity to suffer
Will science be able to come up with some consciousness meter that works not only on other animals, but even other robots as well?’
‘Strangely, although many of us have no problem believing that Data is conscious, we carry conflicting beliefs that our own awareness is quite different to the biological computer in our own heads, even though many neuroscientists (including me) cold-heartedly claim that consciousness is entirely supported by our brains, and will disappear when we die…’
‘Francis Crick, one of the giants of 20th century science, with an untamed curiosity, and a first-rate intellect to accompany this, dissented from this meek view. He decided after a long, sparkling career in genetics, which included the discovery of the structure of DNA, to spend the last period of his life to cracking the science of consciousness. Although he sadly didn’t live to see a clear solution to the problem, he made some critical progress. More important than this, though, he helped make consciousness an acceptable field for science to study.
So how does science get a foothold on such a difficult topic as consciousness? Actually, it’s not really as difficult as all that. Most of science breaks down to exploring some process by manipulating it as much as possible and observing the effects. Consciousness is no different.’
“Mind has fixed compartments. Fixedness is the nature of mind and fluidity is the nature of life. Mind is a choice. Life is not logic.” Osho.
‘If you wish to see the truth
then hold no opinion for or against.
The struggle of what one likes and what one dislikes
is the disease of the mind.’ Sosan
The eyes may be wide open during sleep. They do not see anything, because the mind is not there!
“”There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.”~ Douglas Everett
The first thing to do, to utilize time wisely, is to PRIORITIZE! List out all the things you have to do… everything that est dans votre esprit (is in your mind.) It would be wise to include meditation, worship etc. also as critical even though it may not seem to be.
There’s something called Pareto principle of the 80/20 rule. It just says, 80% of all results come from 20% of all efforts that you put in! So when you identify which 20% is most important, and perform it, you’re already quite successful! So focus vos efforts accordingly!
Always remember, the time is “now”! Device a methodology in your mind; suddenly, the whole thing will look a lot simpler and you can go about doing it!
Remember, fitness, meditation, healthy food may not seem like critical tasks, however including them as part of votre quotidien (your everyday) will make world of difference to how you feel. You will see a new you very soon, just shake yourself up and make up your mind to lead a tension-free organized lifestyle. You will soon find yourself spreading smiles wherever you go!
- Big messes start with little piles — Completely finish your circles. Put things away as you finish using them. Aside from keeping you out of clutter and giving you a big clean up at the end of a project, you’ll know where things are the next time you need to use them.
- Start tomorrow tonight! — Get in the habit of preparing for the next day at the end ofyour day. Write out a “to do” list for tomorrow’s tasks. Leave keys, wallet (or purse), and your To Do List all in the same place. For optimum time management,you can even lay out tomorrow’s clothing before you go to bed.
- Round to-its — The easiest way to get “a round to-it” is to schedule a task. If the lawn needs mowing, put it on your to do list. Research has shown we are most likely to commit to a task if we plan ahead when and where exactly.
- First things first – Prioritize your tasks and then schedule each one at the appropriate time. For instance, you may have to wait until after work to mow the lawn. Although it may be your “top priority” for the day, it needn’t be at the top of your list!
- The pause that refreshes – Do make breaks a scheduled part of your day. A small break at the end of a large task or series of small tasks refreshes you and helps you to wind down and focus on “what’s next?”
(The word and (positive) experience of) ‘Silence.‘
Andrew Marr discusses creativity with science writer Jonah Lehrer, experimental sound artist Scanner, nano-scientist Rachel O’Reilly and author Joanna Kavenna.
‘His second insight is that the ability to be creative, to think new thoughts, is crucially dependent on one’s relationships with other people and society as a whole. This is because the individual brain, “is always situated in a context and a culture” which may either discourage or support a person’s creativity.
- Taking a break from struggling is helpful, in part, because it allows the brain to produce more alpha waves, which are associated with spontaneous insights. So crucial are these waves that, “it’s possible to predict that a person will solve an insight puzzle up to eight seconds before the insight” reaches that person’s conscious mind.
- Going for a walk or talking with friends at a café can also free one’s mind to wander and lead to unexpectedly useful associations. A person who is in a more relaxed mood may become more intuitive as his or her thoughts break free from their habitual patterns. (The down-side, however, as Daniel Kahneman explains in his brilliant, Thinking, Fast and Slow, is that, when in a good mood, a person also has a tendency to be “less vigilant and prone to logical errors.”)
- Imagine helps to demystify creativity, to show how we can break through old patterns of thinking, and how much society can help — or hinder — us in achieving our creative potentials.
Moréas’ Symbolist Manifesto
as translated by C. Liszt
I am interested in how literature can influence, inspire and effect art, and as such want to concentrate on reading more and painting more! I am going to start with symbolist poetry influences. I came across a website that translates the Symbolist movements manifesto, here
French Symbolism was a complex and influential literary movement that flourished during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. Although the term Symbolism was first applied by Jean Moréas in 1885, the stylistic, thematic, and philosophic tenets of this poetic movement were established earlier in the works of Charles Baudelaire, Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stéphane Mallarmé. In overview, the works of the Symbolists were characterized by a concern with moods and transient sensations rather than lucid statements and descriptions, a desire to apprehend the existence of a transcendental realm of being where one could commune with the innate but inscrutable essences of life, a hermetic subjectivity, and an interest in the morbid or esoteric. Like the Decadents, their contemporaries in late nineteenth-century French literature,
the Symbolist poets rejected conventional religious, social, and moral values, embracing instead a world-negating escapism, the lure of exoticism, and an aggressive individualism. They also reacted strongly against the traditional techniques, rigid forms, and descriptive propensities of their poetic forebears, the Parnassians, and repudiated the then dominant fictional mode of the Naturalists, writers who sought to represent human life in terms of physical and biological forces and rendered their works in uncomplicated, journalistic prose. Instead, the Symbolist poets were primarily concerned with the expression of inward experience, and their approach often resulted in works that were intentionally obscure and highly personal.
Although it can be said to have originated decades earlier, the Symbolist movement emerged formally in the mid-1880s as a reaction to adverse criticism that had been directed at poets associated with the Decadent movement. Responding to critical attacks aimed at the “decadent” style of writers who had drawn their inspiration primarily from the works of Baudelaire, Moréas published an essay in the journal Le XIXe siècle in 1885 defending the search for a new language, one that progressed beyond the previous conventions of French versification to convey a poetic reality independent of rhetoric and surface descriptions. In this essay, Moréas coined the term “symbolism” in its modern sense, believing it a more accurate and less derogatory word than “Decadence” to describe his work and that of his contemporaries. In a continuation of the debate over the validity of the movement, Moréas published “Manifeste littéraire de l’école Symboliste” a year later in Le Figaro, in which he proclaimed Symbolism the dominant school of French poetry. The same year, Moréas joined with Gustave Kahn and Paul Adam to found Le Symboliste, a short-lived periodical devoted to the cause of Symbolist literature. Perhaps the best-known journal of the movement was the Mercure de France, which was co-founded by Remy de Gourmont, one of the most prominent critics to support the Symbolists. Defining the principles of Symbolist art, Gourmont asserted that Symbolism meant “individualism in literature, liberty in art,” and the “abandonment of existing forms.”
Long before the 1886 publication of the Symbolist manifesto by Moréas and the subsequent critical codifications of the movement, however, the aesthetics and ideology of Symbolism were embodied in the poetic works of its principal proponents: Baudelaire, Verlaine, Rimbaud, and Mallarmé. Baudelaire’s verse collection Les Fleurs du mal (1857; The Flowers of Evil) represents a catalogue of qualities that would appear in the writings of the later Symbolist writers: individualism to the point of misanthropy, perverse eroticism, fascination with the exotic, extreme cynicism, occult reverence for the power of language, and nostalgia for a spiritual homeland that exists beyond the visible world. In particular, Baudelaire’s poem “Correspondences,” first published in Les Fleurs du mal, articulates two important principles of Symbolist poetry: first, that esoteric parallels exist between material and spiritual worlds; second, that human sense perceptions, such as those of sight or hearing, may correspond to one another in a phenomenon known as synesthesia. The contribution of Verlaine to the development of Symbolism derives from the intense lyricism of his verse, which inspired an emphasis in late nineteenth-century poetry on the musical possibilities of language, and also prompted a poetic concern with mood rather than meaning. In the poetry of Rimbaud, the visionary nature of Symbolism is conspicuously revealed as the poet assumes the role of seer and advocates the derangement of his senses and abandonment of reason for the illuminations of mysticism. In such works as Le Bateau ivre (1871; The Drunken Boat) and Les Illuminations (1886; Illuminations), which were composed before the author had reached the age of twenty, Rimbaud offers a hallucinatory mode of perception and an intensely original style of poetic expression. Similarly noted for his stylistic innovations in service of a transcendent vision was Mallarmé, who became the central figure in the Symbolist movement both for his role as a mentor to younger poets and for his poetry, which many critics regard as the epitome of Symbolist art. With such poems as “Hérodiade” (1869) and “L’Après-midi d’un faun” (1876; “The Afternoon of a Faun”) Mallarmé not only provided supreme examples of Symbolist themes and techniques but also engaged in literary experimentation to a degree that anticipated the new direction of modernist literature.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the Symbolists had virtually disappeared from the French literary scene. The deaths of the movement’s leading figures, including Mallarmé in 1898, prompted a steep decline. Although the moment of the Symbolist poets was a short-lived one in French literary history, its effect on the subsequent course of world literature has been lasting and profound; Symbolist poetic influence predominated for decades throughout the world, particularly in Russia, Germany, Eastern Europe, and Japan. Furthermore, a number of the leading French writers of the modernist period, most prominently Paul Valéry and Paul Claudel, continued to follow many of the principles of Symbolism in their work. Succeeded by various avant-garde movements of the twentieth century, Symbolism is often recognized as the source of the modern artistic temper as characterized by formal experimentation and alienation from society. Finalizing scholarly assessments of Symbolist poetics, however, has remained as elusive as some of most deeply enigmatic works composed by Baudelaire or Mallarmé.
Synesthesia (also spelled synæsthesia or synaesthesia, plural synesthesiæ or synæsthesiæ), from the ancient Greek σύν (syn), “together,” and αἴσθησις (aisthēsis), “sensation,” is a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report such experiences are known as synesthetes. Recently, difficulties have been recognized in finding an adequate definition of synesthesia, as many different phenomena have been covered by this term and in many cases the term synesthesia (“union of senses”) seems to be a misnomer. A more accurate term for the phenomenon may be ideasthesia.
In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → color synesthesia or color-graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbersare perceived as inherently colored, while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities. In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, and/or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be “farther away” than 1990), or may have a (three-dimensional) view of a year as a map (clockwise or counterclockwise). Yet another recently identified type, visual motion → sound synesthesia, involves hearing sounds in response to visual motion and flicker. Over 60 types of synesthesia have been reported, but only a fraction have been evaluated by scientific research. Even within one type, synesthetic perceptions vary in intensity and people vary in awareness of their synesthetic perceptions.
While cross-sensory metaphors (e.g., “loud shirt,” “bitter wind” or “prickly laugh”) are sometimes described as “synesthetic”, true neurological synesthesia is involuntary. It is estimated that synesthesia could possibly be as prevalent as 1 in 23 persons across its range of variants. Synesthesia runs strongly in families, but the precise mode of inheritance has yet to be ascertained. Synesthesia is also sometimes reported by individuals under the influence of psychedelic drugs, after a stroke, during a temporal lobe epilepsy seizure, or as a result of blindness or deafness. Synesthesia that arises from such non-genetic events is referred to as “adventitious synesthesia” to distinguish it from the more common congenital forms of synesthesia. Adventitious synesthesia involving drugs or stroke (but not blindness or deafness) apparently only involves sensory linkings such as sound → vision or touch → hearing; there are few, if any, reported cases involving culture-based, learned sets such as graphemes, lexemes, days of the week, or months of the year.
Although synesthesia was the topic of intensive scientific investigation in the late 19th century and early 20th century, it was largely abandoned by scientific research in the mid-20th century, and has only recently been rediscovered by modern researchers. Psychological research has demonstrated that synesthetic experiences can have measurable behavioral consequences, while functional neuroimaging studies have identified differences in patterns of brain activation. Many people with synesthesia use their experiences to aid in their creative process, and many non-synesthetes have attempted to create works of art that may capture what it is like to experience synesthesia. Psychologists and neuroscientists study synesthesia not only for its inherent interest, but also for the insights it may give into cognitive and perceptual processes that occur in synesthetes and non-synesthetes alike.