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happy thoughts

I am not a tabloid reader, nor do I watch thing “news” about celebrities. In my life, I don’t put any emphasis on celebrities at all.

However the news yesterday that Robin Williams died, from apparent suicide, has impacted my heart deeply. I responded right away with a great sadness and now every photo I see of him; I see the pain behind the smiles.

I wanted to honor him, one of my favorite comedic actors, by watching one of his movies last night so I watched Hook. (I couldn’t bear to watch my favorite movies of his, Dead Poets Society, because it hit too close to real life in this moment)

Right away, I was struck by one of the beginning statements about Peter Pan… That he’d forgotten how to fly… that he had forgotten his happy thought.

I posted something on Facebook about that and realized later that my comment might have come off looking like I was minimizing depression to simply not being able to find a happy thought.

That was NOT my actual belief.

Depression is a very deep and heavy disease that is debilitating and powerful. Depression is a chemical change in one’s brain that they don’t have control over. I know that you can’t just “think happy thoughts and fly”. That’s a fairy tale.

But. There is some truth in the fairy tale.

The power of appreciation is something I work with on a daily basis. Appreciation can change the chemical composition in your brain. It is especially good as PREVENTATIVE medicine for things like depression. There have been scientific studies that show a direct reduction in depression with the increase in expressions of appreciation.

Focusing on things to appreciate turns UP the part of your brain that triggers optimism. I see optimism as a very opposite state from depression. People with depression can’t see a positive future, they can’t grasp onto hope and they suffer silently believing that things will never get better.

But appreciation changes things. Appreciation increases the levels of dopamine in your brain, and it also stimulates the release of oxytocin.

Dopamine, also known as the “feel good” chemical is an important part of the reward system in your brain. Dopamine tells your brain, “Let’s do that again!”

Oxytocin is a chemical that prepares your brain for emotional bonding and positive relational connections. (Outsmarting Yourself, Lehman) This is a key ingredient for fighting depression! We need each other! We need to connect with others in order to find joy that overcomes!

But I want to be clear, it’s not the person with depression’s fault that they have depression. And it’s not the fault of the family members either.

You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t know what you don’t know.

But you CAN fight depression. You can intentionally learn the skills your brain needs to change. You can learn to give your brain what it was designed to thrive on.

As a life coach, I consider that to be one of my most important jobs. I want to help you learn to live in appreciation. I want to encourage you as you consider optimism as a new trait for yourself!

I am not a counselor though, I want you to understand that appreciation works great as a preventative for depression, but once someone is already in that depression they may need more than just appreciation exercises to come out of it! I implore you, if you are depressed; seek professional help including medications that might be necessary for you to reverse your depressive state.

Then ADD in some appreciation!

I will be honest … appreciation is a learned skill. You can’t just “decide” to start appreciating life and everything around you. That’s where having a coach can be really helpful for you. Our brains like to synchronize with the people we associate with. You might not have anyone around you that has a brain that is wired on appreciation. Meeting with a life coach on a weekly basis will be a great opportunity to practice appreciation and experience a relational connection that can boost your desire to become optimistic about your life!

Perhaps we really can learn to fly with our happy thoughts. Just remember that happy thoughts are actually appreciation memories!


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