Tag Archive: cognitive ability

Beating Depression

Beating Depression, The Smart Way, is easier than you may have been led to believe.

The stress of feeling powerless is insidious—it robs us of motivation. It makes life seem hopeless. The current rate of depression (globally) is 350 million people of all ages[1]. In the US alone, the health care costs for depression for adults were 22.8 billion in 2009.

No one wants to stay depressed, but in that emotional state, it can be hard to think of a thought that feels even slightly better.

I reject the concept of a chemical imbalance causing depression in isolation.

Gradually, our brain chemistry becomes conditioned to react to negative stimuli in a particular, predictable way. One thing’ll go wrong and it’ll automatically switch on its blender and mix us that black cocktail, the ol’ doomsday daiquiri, and before we know it, we’re soused to the gills from the inside out. Once depression has become electrochemically integrated, it can be extremely difficult to philosophically or psychologically override it; by then it’s playing by physical rules, a whole different ball game. Tom Robbins, Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates

Prolonged chronic stress and/or a major stressful event must play a part in almost every case of depression. Depression is more difficult when the physical body has been trained to respond to adverse circumstances in a certain way, but it can be overcome. It is amazing how much progress can be made when one-step is taken at a time. If we begin addressing chronic stress in a healthier way, the epidemic levels of depression will be greatly reduced. If all the cases with unmanaged chronic stress as the root cause are eliminated, we’ll see more clearly any that have other origins, which will speed solutions for them.

Good stress management has the ability to address both prolonged chronic stress and a major stressful event. The way we perceive an event determines how stressful the event is to our minds and bodies. We have far greater control over how we perceive events than most realize. At Happiness 1st Institute, we teach how to develop and use skills that lower stress.

In True Prevention–Optimum Health, I describe how mood affects our body chemistry—it can make exercise and food either more or less beneficial. Stress also decreases the effectiveness of our immune system.[2]

Stressful life events often lead to depression.[3] However, if evaluated at a deeper level we see that not everyone reacts to the same type of circumstances in the same way. Some become depressed, others are energized toward action. It is the individual perception of the situation that determines the level of stress. Learning how to manage stress reduces the strain caused by life’s uncertainties and calamities. Individuals who do not experience the event as highly stressful will not be tossed into depression.

Depression has its direct costs to an individuals, families, employers and health care system as an illness. It also carries many other costs. Cognitive abilities diminish as emotional state decreases. The same employee is not capable of the same level of thinking when depressed as she is when not depressed. The same employee is not capable of the same level of thinking when stressed as he is when he is not stressed. What is being lost because an employee is too stressed to see the perfect solution to your company’s biggest issues? What is not being invented because the person who could imagine the solution is too stressed to think at the required level?

Positive reappraisal has an inverse relationship with depression. In other words, individuals who use positive reappraisal as a coping mechanism are less likely to become depressed than those who do not use this coping style.[4] They also experience less stress from similar events than individuals who do not use this technique. The main goal of the techniques provided in all The Smart Way books is to develop positive reappraisal skills.

Individuals who self-blame, blame others, ruminate, and catastrophize are more likely to experience depression, anger, and anxiety.[5]  Fortunately, these are just habits of thought and can be changed with the right techniques. They are not who you are, they are who you are being at the time–something you have the ability to change.

If you often feel stressed or are depressed or have experienced depression in the past, one of the best things you can do to improve your future is learn positive reappraisal skills. Individuals who develop this skill feel more in control of their lives and have better outcomes.

Pick up one of my books today or enroll in a course at Happiness 1st Institute. You’ll be glad you did.

[1] (Wittayanukorn, Qian and Hansen)

[2] (Dockray and Steptoe)

[3] (Hidaka)

[4] (Martin and Dahlen)

[5] (Martin and Dahlen)

Employee Happiness is not Your Responsibility, But if You Are Smart It Will Be Your Goal

Unless you’re paying attention to the new research, it is likely you still see employee happiness as a personal problem and not really a business issue. The truth is, every goal you have will come faster and easier if you and your employees are happy.

I agree it is not an employer’s job to make employee’s happy. In fact, employers can’t make an employee happy. Happiness is an inside job. If an employee is chronically less than happy, it does not really matter how much an employer tries to make him or her happy, the beneficial results will be temporary at best. At worse, the attempts will be viewed in a negative light.

Employees all want to feel happier. The desire to feel better is universal and the reason we do the things we do. We go to work because being employed feels better than not having income. If we’re lucky, we may go to work because we love our job but even then, doing something you love feels better than not doing it. If we don’t do something we might want to do, maybe have a piece of chocolate cake, we don’t do it because we believe we will feel better not having it than the benefit from having it. But if we’re in a low mood we may opt for the cake because the desire to feel better now is more important than a goal we will be more equipped to handle when we feel better. If we perceive we would feel guilty if we did not visit our parents on Sunday, we will visit our parents on Sunday even when we would prefer to do something else. The personal benefit of not feeling guilty feels better than the pleasure from the preferred activity.

Employee mood affects the decisions they make. Research has shown that employees who are in good moods demonstrate better corporate citizenship than employees in low moods.

So, if you can’t make them happy, what can you do?

You can take advantage of the natural desire to feel better and give them skills they can use to better manage their emotions. Stress reducing, happiness increasing skills provide their own intrinsic motivation because the result of using them is feeling emotionally better.

The benefits of providing skills to increase employee happiness serve a great many corporate goals including increased engagement, increased cognitive ability (lower mood = lower cognitive ability), improved health (immune function is directly affected by low mood), turnover (many people do not realize they take themselves with them and leave seeking greener pastures when they are the reason for their own dissatisfaction), complications of pregnancy (long-term low mood is strongly linked to preterm birth and has adverse planning impacts on employers when employees have to take leave sooner than planned AND when the employee then has to deal with the often long-term health impacts on their baby from preterm birth), higher divorce (while not an employer issue—it usually has an adverse impact on focus and attendance), pregnancy outcomes from a depressed parent result in higher incidents of asthma, sleep and behavior problems, and depression in the child before age 16–all of which can adversely impact work performance, employees may turn to alcohol and drugs to self-medicate for persistent low moods, obesity and diabetes (low mood disrupts digestive function and increases risk of both), the cause of obesity has been modified in the medical field from calories in – calories out = BMI to include stress/mood as a variable that affects BMI, and finally employee relationships and interactions with one another are directly affected (and contagious to some degree) by mood.

From all perspectives, teaching employees skills that increase their resilience, emotional state, and emotional intelligence are beneficial to the employer.

Why skill-based techniques instead of just providing a wonderful environment like Zappos?

A nice environment contributes toward mood, it does not cause it. Someone whose focus is habitually negative will not become positive just because the environment is wonderful. If you’ve ever been on a cruise, you may have noticed that even with one’s every need not only taken care of but catered to, some people remained unhappy and even miserable. Both unhappiness and misery are habits of thought more than anything else. Researchers have found many people living subsistence conditions who were happy—happier than others who were living in luxury.

If you’ve not been on a cruise, read through the reviews on Cruise Critic. You’ll see that some people had a great time when others found all sorts of reasons to maintain their habitual low mood.

Skills that help employees change habits of thought that keep them in lower moods than they could be enjoying provide immediate positive feedback, which increases motivation to use them. Even a brief increase in mood can benefit employers. The increased mood expands the cognitive abilities, which could result in the employee solving a work related problem that had he’d been working on for months—in a matter of minutes. Insights, intuition, and epiphanies increase as mood increases.

Even though immediate rewards are possible, the long term rewards are even better. Using the skills provides immediate positive feedback in the form of improved mood so employees continue using them causing mood to continue improving over time, increasing the chronic emotional state. Like any skill, as expertise develops, the outcome continues to improve with practice.

Stress reducing and happiness increasing skills are superior to dose dependent stress reduction strategies. The reason the dose dependent strategies are dose dependent is they are treating symptoms, not the root cause. The skill based techniques taught by Happiness 1st Institute address the root of the problem, which cures the problem at the root.


Happiness and Stress are two ends of the same Continuum

Happiness and Stress Continuum

Chronic stress can lead to debilitating diseases and shorten your life by a considerable number of years. In one large longitudinal study that followed the participants for life, the negatively focused participants had 18 fewer healthy years. They not only died about 10 years earlier, they also spent about 8 years being sick when the positively focused participants were able to enjoy 18 healthier years. In the positively focused group the debilitating end of life diseases came at much older ages and much closer to the time of death.

Sometimes people don’t want to live longer because they don’t want to linger in unhealthy bodies. If you tend to be negatively focused, stressed, and unhappy your chances of living more unhealthy years is much greater.

Every bit of that is a choice you make. Focusing on the negative is a habit of thought that can be changed. Stress is not a matter of the situation, but of how we respond to the situation. There are skills that can increase your resilience, emotional intelligence and decrease (literally) the amount of stress you feel without changing the circumstances.

The great news is that when you decrease stress, happiness shows up. In recent years there has been a great deal of research on the benefits of happiness. Guess what? They are the same as the benefits from reducing stress. Why? Because stress and happiness are two ends of the same stick, they are on the same continuum.

High stress decreases your brain function. You’re literally not as smart when you’re stressed as you are when you’re not stressed.

In other words, you’re smarter when you’re happy.

High stress diminishes your immune function.

In other words, when you’re happy your immune system is working well.

Your digestive function, endocrine system, and more have the same relationship with stress and happiness. When stressed they don’t work as well, and when happy they are at their optimum.

Even the decisions you make about risky behavior, exercise, food, and sleep are better when you’re happy and worse when you’re stressed.

Many undesirable behaviors are simply attempts to reduce stress by someone who does not know a healthier way.

TRUE Prevention–Optimum Health: Remember Galileo gives you techniques to reduce stress and increase happiness. We also have online and in person classes to teach these techniques to groups.

Give yourself or your employees the gift of greater well-being.

Are You Passionate About the Well-being of Your Family?

Are you passionate about the well-being of your family?

If you are you will want to know about the research results that are slowly (too slowly in my opinion based on their importance) making their way out of the scientific research facilities and into the knowledge bank of both scientists and non-scientists in other fields.

The new research points the way to improved health, well-being, relationships, emotional intelligence, creativity, cognitive ability, decision-making, resilience, immune system function, depression. as well as reductions in racism, substance abuse, crime, teen pregnancy, and other social concerns.

One thing that can improve your relationships, your health, and your success?

One would think this information would be shouted from the rooftops.

The science is very solid. The proof is in.

Why isn’t it being talked about on every channel?  I don’t know.

Science, I have learned, typically progresses slowly in adopting new ideas and beliefs.

Although they don’t tend to chop off their heads for radical new ideas these days the fear instilled about moving too far away from the norm is not far from that which a potential separation from ones head would invoke. New research in one field often takes years to reach professionals in other fields. There is a saying “Science progresses one funeral at a time.” — Max Planck

Many people are under the misconception that current scientific theories come to prominence in science because the new discoveries changed the minds of the old guard through proofs and experimentation. Closer to the truth is that, proof and experimentation changed the minds of younger scientists, and only when old guards die off, the new theories rise to take their place and make prominent the new theory. This is true even when the old beliefs are proven clearly false. Much of the progress we see (for example, advances in medical advances), comes not from science but from business building on science.

When actions can affect human well-being or change the world, that pace is entirely too slow. The information that has come to light can literally improve health and well-being significantly,  reduce crime, reduce racism, reduce substance abuse, reduce teen pregnancy and, it is my belief that it is the path to peace.

When evidence from different scientific disciplines is combined the science is solid and compelling.

Positive emotions, optimism, and happiness provide these benefits and much more.

The absence of negative emotions is not the same as the presence of positive emotions.

Science has even shown that pessimists can become more optimistic and our own level of positive emotions is within our control.

All it takes is a little knowledge and a few skills to manage your emotions to a place where you can benefit from increased positive emotions, optimism, and happiness.

New research from Harvard even shows us why the benefits of positivity are so great. Our bodies were not designed to tolerate negative emotions for long periods of time. We were designed to respond to negative emotions the way we respond to other sensory input, by making changes to make things more comfortable for us. We do not leave our hands on a burning stove and ignore the pain. Neither should we ignore negative emotions. We are supposed to feel good most of the time. The research is available at www.emotionalsentience.com.

In addition to the typical flight and fight responses we all know about there is something called a “Right Response” (RR) described in this scientific paper that is most appropriate to most situations humans encounter in their day-to-day lives. Learning how to use RRs provides a level of self-mastery over ones emotions that is followed by thriving.

Positivity has a better impact on longevity than whether an individual smokes or not. How passionate are you about making sure your children do not take up this habit?  If you put that much passion into helping them develop skill at RRs you will benefit them far more and they are more likely to make good decisions including the decision not to take up that habit.

Classes that teach Right Responses are available. See our website for details.

© Jeanine Joy, 2012-2014

President, Happiness 1st Institute

All of our course offerings provide health and well-being benefits

All of our course offerings provide health and well-being benefits

The benefits of increased positive emotions, optimism and happiness extend to all areas of life.

Scientists in many fields have been working, primarily in the past 20 years, on discovering the benefits of happiness. The results have been conclusive and surprising.

Positive emotions, optimism and happiness have positive impacts on health, well-being, relationships, emotional intelligence, creativity, cognitive ability, decision-making, resilience, substance abuse, crime, teen pregnancy, immune system function, and of course, depression.