In the video, he suggests that the people in the audience turn on their phones and spend two minutes writing a text to someone they love, because you never know what tomorrow will bring.
I've had two friends who died instantly of heart attacks (neither had a history of heart disease), a good friend's son who drowned, and a nephew whose life was transformed in an instant when he was hit by a drunk driver, so I know what he means. Oh yeah, my house also burned down once.
If you've lived for a while, you probably have your own examples.
Might be a good time to fire up your phone, too.
ps: Himmelman talks about the inner critic (his is called Marv) who sends you messages of fear. I have an audio track that can help you tame your inner critic. If you want me to send to you as an mp3, email me at email@example.com little present, no charge.
I'm always interested in studies that can help sedentary types like most of us writers remain in good health, and this time there are two encouraging results, one about exercise, one about chocolate.
THE REJECTION WORKOUT
One study found that even one minute of vigorous exercise has measurable positive effects. That's not to say you need to exercise for only a minute a day, but it does suggest that you need not be a slave to the treadmill...and that a solid couple of minutes of fast pacing and enthusiastic swearing when a rejection comes in is a good thing.
Hmm, maybe I should make a DVD: The Rejection Workout. HELLO CHOCOLATE, MY OLD FRIEND
A new study suggests that Including a small amount of chocolate each day could help prevent diabetes and insulin resistance. This is in addition to previous findings that eating up to 100 g of chocolate every day is linked to lowered heart disease, and that eating a moderate amount of chocolate each week may be associated with a lower risk of stroke in men.
If you're annoyed by the references to small or moderate amounts, you can fall back on another study that showed high levels of chocolate consumption might be associated with a one-third reduction in the risk of developing heart disease. Yes, that one's my favorite, too.
It's true that they're all referring to dark chocolate, with 70% or more cocoa content. This doesn't taste as good as regular chocolate but if that's the only kind you eat, you first get used to the taste and then you enjoy it.
XLITOL, NOT EVIL, SWEET AND GOOD)
By the way, you can also buy raw cocoa powder to integrate into smoothies. Not very sweet, but good for you. For sweet flavor, I recommend Xlitol. It sounds like it should be the name of the evil ruler of planet in a cheap sci-fi movie, but it's actually good stuff.
According to Wikipedia: "Unlike other natural or synthetic sweeteners, xylitol is actively beneficial for dental health by reducing caries (cavities) to a third in regular use and helpful to remineralization...A study in rats found that xylitol had reduced or eliminated side effects compared to other artificial sweeteners, and lower caloric value and cariogenicity than sucrose."
THE IDEAL WORKOUT FOR WRITERS
There we have it, the ideal workout for writers: run to your grocery store to get some dark chocolate and eat it when you get back. Then start writing.
It’s Depression Week, not a week for everybody to get depressed but rather to make people more aware of the illness. I have personal experience with it, so I thought I’d share my thoughts.
It’s not an illness that manifests the same way for each person, nor even for the same person at different times. And it’s not identical to feeling a bit sad.
At a low level, it saps your strength and confidence so you’re operating at maybe 70% of your capacity. It can sneak up on you and it can take a long time before you realize what’s happening.
At a medium level, you’re operating at 50% or so. Things pile up, you slow down or stop making contacts with friends, box sets of TV series have a sudden appeal.
At a high level, it can be a kind of paralysis, making getting out of bed or doing the simplest things seem like a huge undertaking.
It’s usually only if you’re at the high level that other people notice.
Medication can be helpful, but there is still a lot of controversy about the drugs’ effectiveness and side effects. In my experience, they can take a bit of the edge off but they’re far from a cure. Counselling, especially cognitive behaviour therapy, can be useful. Exercise has been shown to help, although it can be hard of motivate yourself to do it when you’re in the midst of depression.
What NOT to say
There are some things NOT to say to a depressed person, no matter how well-intentioned these comments may be:
1: ”You really have nothing to be depressed about.”
Depression doesn’t have to be about any specific incident or situation, so this is like saying, “You have nothing to have measles about.”
2: “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
Possibly, but there may be several shades of darker coming from where that person is at the time.
3: “Lots of people are in worse situations than you.”
Let me just poke you in the eye and remind you that some people have been poked in BOTH eyes, and we’ll see how much better that makes you feel.
4: “You should get out more, have more fun!”
That’s a bit like telling a person with a broken leg, “You should run more.”
5: “This, too, shall pass.”
Yep, and then the better times, too, shall pass. However, one of the few advantages of having survived a number of episodes of depression is the awareness that it will pass—the first time it hits you, you assume you’re going to feel like that forever, which is what leads to many suicides.
6: You should try St. John’s Wort/ get acupuncture / have Reiki treatments / take long baths --it really helped my cousin/ uncle/ sister/ brother.
Actually, there’s nothing wrong with suggesting treatments because some of these things do seem to help some people. The problem is that sometimes this is said in a tone that suggests you’re dealing with an easily solved little condition.
What TO say:
I think the only thing that is helpful to say is that you care about the person and you’re there for them if they would like to talk or take refuge if things get too difficult for them to handle.
The problem is that in the darkest phases of depression it’s not that you think there’s nobody willing to help, it’s that you believe nobody can help. Even so, knowing there are people in your life who stand by you even when you’re not functioning fully can be comforting.
If a depressed person chooses to talk about their feelings, understanding and empathy is helpful. Trying to rebut their feelings with logic isn’t. And sometimes a hug is better than a lot of words.
If you are suffering
If you are suffering from depression, do reach out to your doctor and consider getting counselling even if you feel there’s no point. That’s one of the symptoms of deep depression, and leaving it untreated is no different from trying to ignore a broken arm. At worst, you have nothing to lose; at best, you'll find that people care and there are methods that help you get back to feeling better and participating fully in life.
In a TED talk, organizational psychologist Adam Grant mentions that there are two types of doubt. One is positive, one is negative.
Self-doubt tends to be paralyzing. If you continually question whether you are up to a task, the odds are that you’ll get stuck and give up, perhaps continually moving on to different projects instead of seeing any through.
However, “idea doubt” can be useful because it leads you to think about all the possible things that could go wrong and develop backup plans and alternatives.
Self-doubt works against you
We sabotage ourselves when we get the two kinds of doubt mixed up. For example, if you write a first draft of something and decide it’s really bad, you can come to either of these conclusions:
“I’m a crappy writer.”
“This is a crappy first draft.”
The draft itself only provides evidence for the second conclusion. But what if this is the fifth or tenth first draft that you’ve written, and they’ve all be bad, and you’ve given up on all of them? You still have a choice of beliefs:
“I’m a crappy writer.” This kind of conclusion often spirals down into depression and existential angst.
“I’m crappy writer of first drafts.” By putting a fence around your crappiness, this conclusion is not so damaging—in fact, it implies a solution.
Again, the evidence supports the second conclusion, and there’s something you can do about it: find an appropriate book, writing group, course, or writing coach so that you get help in identifying what you’re not doing well enough, and find out how to do it better.
The best friend solution for self-doubt
I’m no stranger to self-doubt but when I start to jump to conclusions I try to remember to use the best friend solution: describe the situation as though it pertained to your best friend.
We know that men and women typically respond a bit differently to hearing a problem. Women tend to empathize, men tend to give advice.
Embrace both your feminine side and your masculine side. First, if you’re beating yourself up, be kinder to yourself—just as you would be with your best friend.
Then come up with the constructive advice you’d give them. This harnesses the fact that we are always better at giving other people advice than knowing what to do ourselves.
If you write down that advice and follow it as though it came from an expert (it did), often that gives you the confidence to move forward and engage in the constructive kind of doubt that focuses on the task, not on your basic right to exist.
A study published in the journal PNAS (Aucouturier et al., 2015) suggests that slightly changing the tone of your voice may make you feel happier...or does it?
In the study, researchers let the subjects hear their voices in real time and asked them how happy they were. In some cases they didn't manipulate the voices, in some cases they made them sadder, in others they made them sound happier. Then they asked the subjects to rate their level of happiness in that moment.
The results suggest that people listen to their own voices to tell how they feel.
Does it follow that if you make yourself sound happier by changing your voice, you actually will feel happier?
Maybe. The study shows this effect when you don't know your voice is being changed. It could be that when knowing you're doing it on purpose could negate the effect. However, especially since other studies have shown the benefits of purposely changing your posture, it's worth a try.
It's also consistent with what I call the Alter Ego Strategy, which can help you be more productive. Here's a short video about how to use that method--and, yes, next time I'll move the camera farther back :)