Beaten down by the economy? Freaked out by growing flash mob violence? Or maybe you're just pissed that Mad Men isn't on this summer (me, too). Seems like everyone has a gripe these days. Hell, even billionaire Warren Buffett made headlines this week when he complained that he doesn't pay enough taxes.
While it may seem like the entire country is in a funk, there's a certain stretch of land that certifiably might be… certifiable. According to a recent Gallup poll, if you live in the Appalachian region, you might be depressed--about one in three residents say they've been diagnosed with depression. What I find interesting are the connections Gallup made between mental health, poor physical health and low personal productivity.
Gallup states: "Respondents who have been diagnosed with depression report a high number of days in the past month when poor health kept them from doing their usual activities… several of the communities on the list of metro areas where diagnosis of depression is most common--including those in the Appalachian region--are also among those with the highest average number of unhealthy days among the 188 U.S. cities surveyed last year."
They're sick of being sick; it's understandable. But contemplating how one ends that cycle of despair is depressing in and of itself. For me, maintaining a healthy weight and low stress level are key. And of course, the endorphins from exercise never hurt. Sometimes, a certain R-rated short-term solution for blowing off steam works best.
Martin E.P. Seligman, author of Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being, offers an attitude adjustment that could help those without a wealth of resources for staying physically fit and productive. Seligman claims that unfortunately, we're programmed to focus on the negative instead of positive: "Those of our ancestors who spent a lot of time basking in the sunshine of good events, when they should have been preparing for disaster, did not survive the Ice Age."
To reverse this harmful habit, he recommends that every night for a week, you take 10 minutes to write three things that went well that day, even if it's as mundane as your husband picking up your favorite ice cream at the store. Next to each event, write why it happened (example: said husband is thoughtful).
"Writing about why the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier. The odds are that you will be less depressed, happier, and addicted to this exercise six months from now," Seligman says. Sounds good to me.
Deb Goldstein is a freelance web editor and writer, having clocked time for MarthaStewart.com, Family.com, and Wonderwall.com, among others. A former New Yorker, she now lives in bucolic Bucks County, Penn. with her husband and young son. She enjoys tantrum-free car rides, inappropriate humor, and a compelling story, whatever form it comes in.
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