Happiness Takes Work

Another brief entry from Lyubomirsky’s happiness series. The title may seem all too obvious to anyone struggling with depression. But don’t confuse “takes work” with “just snap out of it” or similar well meaning, but useless, encouragement. Lyubomirsky’s work asserts that these are habits that we develop to maintain and bolster our happiness. We don’t just diet for two weeks. We don’t go to psychotherapy for a month. We patiently and diligently apply ourselves to these tasks, knowing that over time they yield significant benefits.

Some of the approaches are not indicated for those struggling with depression. (Expressing gratitude can be especially challenging and lead to a spiral of self-criticism for lack of gratitude, for instance.) But the notion, according to her research, that 40 percent of one’s happiness is mediated by one’s own actions is a powerful idea — and contradicts the sea of hopelessness that depression pulls for.

It should be obvious that these practices are not a cure for depression. Depression and happiness are not on the same scale. (One writer compared sadness to the common cold, depression to cancer.) But increasing our general level of happiness, can help inoculate us from some of the triggers that lead to depressive episodes.

[edit: I updated the link, which was incorrect.]

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kaleachapmanpsyd

Clinical Psychologist practicing in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

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