I recently finished Lost Connections, by Johann Hari, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. It discusses the nine scientifically observed causes of depression and anxiety and, from those studies, prescribes ways that one might change their life to alleviate depression and anxiety. Seven of those factors are products of our society and the way we live our lives, and the last two and least impactful are our individual brain chemistry and genetics.
Though his reporting on the findings that our individual brain chemistry and genetics actually have little to no impact on depression and anxiety are quite controversial, even his most influential critics do not dispute the data that backs Hari’s position. I highly recommend it to everyone, if even just to read a great piece of research that challenges our default way of thinking about depression and anxiety, which touches the lives of everyone, whether it be through personal experience or through the experiences of a loved one.
The first seven causes of depression Hari identifies are:
- Disconnection from meaningful work
- Disconnection from other people
- Disconnection from meaningful values
- Disconnection from trauma
- Disconnection from status and respect
- Disconnection from the natural world
- Disconnection from a hopeful and secure future
In particular, the studies about how lonely we are as a culture were heart breaking. I am very grateful to have a number of friends in my life who I can count on, and that I also have always felt comfortable enough to reach out to others when I needed support. I was not aware that I am an outlier.
I also consider myself very lucky to have meaningful work that infuses my week with a sense of purpose that speaks to my values. My job is also unionized and, though it is not well-paid, especially for an attorney, my future is secure, which allows me to plan and set goals.
An area that I know I could improve upon is my connection with nature, especially now that my garden has been put to bed for winter. I am hoping to get my butt out of the city in the coming weeks (after Norman has the all clear from the vet to join the general population so I can trust a cat sitter) and into nature! We are going to go apple picking this October, and I am hoping to extend that trip to include some hikes and maybe a chance to paddle around one of New York’s many lakes. Anyone have any suggestions?
When I cannot get out of NYC, I connect with nature through food. It is easy to cut ourselves off from the natural world by thinking of our food as something separate from nature. When baby carrots look nothing like the beautiful roots that are pulled from the ground, it is easy to see why that is. I would like to challenge everyone, myself included, to meditate on or acknowledge the various life cycles of the food we eat before it reaches our grocery stores. Give it a try. It is a tiny mental adjustment that will infuse otherwise monotonous meals with meaning and connection.
Sending everyone out there good energy today. We all could use a little more connection in our lives.
Here’s a completely unrelated picture of the peach caprese salad I had for lunch the other day. The recipe is easy:
- Fresh mozzarella
- Baby basil leafs
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Cracked pepper
Arrange peaches, cheese, and basil on a plate, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper!