Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David D. Burns, MD

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, by David D. Burns, MD

The good news is that anxiety, guilt, pessimism, procrastination, low self-esteem, and other “black holes” of depression can be cured without drugs. In Feeling Good, eminent psychiatrist, David D. Burns, M.D., outlines the remarkable, scientifically proven techniques that will immediately lift your spirits and help you develop a positive outlook on life. Now, in this updated edition, Dr. Burns adds an All-New Consumer′s Guide To Anti-depressant Drugs as well as a new introduction to help answer your questions about the many options available for treating depression.

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Tis the Season to be Grateful, Next Month We’re Supposed to be Jolly

Saying GraceWhat’s the difference? If you’re jolly, aren’t you grateful? According to Dr. Robert Emmons, the author of THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude can Make you Happier, while there are many things that we can be happy about, the uniqueness of gratitude is that we realize that we have received a gift that we don’t deserve. It’s “the acknowledgement of goodness in one’s life” and secondly “recognizing that the source(s) of this goodness lie at least partially outside the self.” We can only be grateful to others, not to ourselves, so it brings a sense of humility along with the gift (4-8).

Offering grace at the family table, Bart Simpson prayed,

“Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.”

Donald Trump stated,

“All of the women on The Apprentice have flirted with me-consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected” (148).

Gratitude is knowing, at a deep level is an appreciation that what we have received was “freely bestowed out of compassion, generosity, or love” (7). The International Encyclopedia of Ethics defines it as “the heart’s internal indicator when the tally of gifts outweighs the exchanges” (6).

Emmons’s research found that when people took the time to write in a gratitude journal, not only did they feel more appreciative about things that they normally overlooked, but they reported–exercising more, sleeping better, experiencing few physical symptoms and feeling more optimistic about their lives. They were more likely to make progress toward their personal goals and to have offered emotional support to others.

Other important healing benefits are that-

Gratitude counters our natural adaption to pleasant events.

Gratitude mitigates toxic emotions and states like envy, resentment, and regret.

Gratitude strengthens social ties.

Gratitude increases one’s sense of personal worth.

Gratitude has a direct link to cardiovascular functioning.

In his intro to the workshop that I attended at Loma Linda Medical School, Emmons described it like this-

“You feel a deep sense of peace and internal balance-you are at harmony with yourself, with others and with your larger environment. You experience increased buoyancy vitality and flow. Your senses are enlivened—every aspect of your perceptual experience seems richer, more texture. Surprisingly, you fell invigorated at time when you would usually have felt tired and drained. Things that usually would have irked you just don’t “get to you” as much. Your body feels regenerated-your mind, at last, clear. . . At least for a period of time, decisions become obvious as priorities clarify and inner conflict dissolves. Intuitive insight suddenly provides convenient solution to problems. . Your creativity flows freely. In this state of inner harmony and deep fulfillment, you experience a sense of greater connectedness—to other people, to a larger whole, perhaps to God, or to a higher aspect of yourself. (From Gratitude as a Way of Life: Insights from the Science of Well-Being, Emmons, 2005)

Heading into the challenges of the holiday season, let’s remember to give ourselves a “gratitude intervention.” Positive results were observed with subjects who only journaled once a day, but here’s the perspective of GK Chesterton-

“You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play. . . and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, and swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing, and grace before I dip the pen in ink.”

The Science of Gratitude

Gratitude HeartResearch shows that people who learn to focus on gratitude not only are “flat-out happier”, but are-

More energetic

Are more determined

Get more sleep

Feel better about their lives

Are more likely to help others

Exercise more, and even–have fewer illnesses.

Heading into winter, during these challenging times, wouldn’t you like to learn how to give yourself a gratitude intervention?

2 Opportunities in Denver-a brief overview over lunch or a 2 hour workshop-

Thursday, November 11, 12-1 Lunch & Learn at the Nourished Health Wellness Center, West City Park, $10 (a healthy lunch prepared by Chef Katie Bauer is available for additional $5)

 

Saturday, November 13, 10am-noon at the People House, Highlands

Preregistration is necessary. Call 720-515-8411 or email Victoria@technologiesoftheself.org

Participants will-

  1. Gain an overview of the research conducted by Robert Emmons, PhD that shows the mental and physical benefits of a thankful attitude.

2. Take a Daily Gratitude Inventory (DGI).

3. Take home a list of 10 evidence-based prescriptions to increase one’s gratitude rating in order to experience more health benefits.

Victoria Bresee will share information from a training she attended with Dr. Emmons, at Loma Linda University, called “Gratitude as a Way of Life: Insights from the Science of Well-Being”. He is the author of Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.

Kierkegaard and the Pursuit of Happiness

There is an excellent article in the New York Times right now discussing the melancholy spirituality of Soren Kierkegaard, and how no one today “believes that a person can be of troubled mind and healthy spirit.”

One of the hardest parts of developing spiritually is letting go of the dreams and illusions that allow us to hide from the misery and despair that often lurks within us at a deeper level.

There is abundant chatter today about “being spiritual” but scarcely anyone believes that a person can be of troubled mind and healthy spirit. Nor can we fathom the idea that the happy wanderer, who is all smiles and has accomplished everything on his or her self-fulfillment list, is, in fact, a case of despair. But while Kierkegaard would have agreed that happiness and melancholy are mutually exclusive, he warns, “Happiness is the greatest hiding place for despair.”

The Dark Night and Clinical Depression

There is an interesting article on Beliefnet’s blog, Beyond Blue: A spiritual journey to mental health, in which Terese J. Borchard attempts to draw a line between the experience of loss and spiritual dryness which John of the Cross described as the Dark Night of the Soul and clinical depression.

This is difficult in many ways, especially given that, as Borchard notes, one can experience both at the same time. Her argument amounts to the fact that a religious person in the dark night is well aware of the trial that they are undergoing and may even be invigorated by the spiritual trial, while someone who is depressed simply seems depressed.

However that may be, even a casual reading of The Dark Night of the Soul, reveals an almost unending list of sufferings–physical, emotional, and spiritual–that seem a lot like depression, and, in terms of the symptoms, are indistinguishable.

My argument would be that Saint John’s path is a way of using deep depression to find God and to refine one’s spirituality. Any depression has the potential to become a Dark Night of the Soul if and when a person ceases to run from depression and accepts it as revealing a truth about the emptiness of self and the difference between the self and God.

From a psychoanalytic point of view, the best work on this is Julia Kristeva’s Black Sun, a work which links and compares mysticism and depression.

Like Borchard and Kristeva, I do believe that medication can be invaluable for the treatment of depression. I simply also would argue that depression can teach us deep truths about the universe.

Happiness and Television

A recent study from the University of Maryland shows an inverse correlation between the amount of time one spends watching television and one’s personal sense of happiness.  In other words, one can detect how miserable a person is by measuring how much television they watch.

On the other hand, there is a positive correlation between church going, socializing, and reading and happiness.  Those who spend more time in these activities are more likely to claim to be happy.

Does this mean that television makes us miserable?

Not so fast.  Perhaps television does make us miserable, but it is equally likely that people use television as a means of escape from an unhappy or alienated life.

My guess is that television is one activity that holds no potential for making us less unhappy.  Retreating into the often repetitive lives of television characters contains none of the potential for growth and discovery that most other activities hold.  By distracting us, television may serve to relieve pain, but it only treats the symptoms, rarely offering us genuine hope for change.

Read a Washington Post article on the study here.