First, Work on Your Brain

I love to read and think about personal development.

For many years, I’ve been looking for my passion, my life mission. I’ve been learning social skills in the pursuit of having enough friends. I’ve been trying to figure out how to be more focused at work. I’ve been trying to overcome bad habits. I’ve been trying to figure out the secret of attraction in order to meet the right mate. I’ve been trying to keep a gratitude journal, an ideas journal, and daily goal and todo lists. And on and on.

Recently, I decided to confront the fact I’ve been avoiding for decades:
I struggle with depression.

People talk about Keystone Habits, those things you do that form the lynchpin of the rest of your healthy life. For some people the important thing is exercising, or meditating… without that, the rest of their life falls apart.

Mental health is similar. It does no good to try and figure out what you’re passionate about if you are incapable, in your current mental state, of having passion. It’s pointless to try and work on systems for todo lists and procrastination if you are fundamentally distracted.

In the months since I’ve started to see a psychologist, the most important thing I’ve noticed is that it’s easier to focus on achieving my goals when I feel good.

I’m more interested in my job.
I’m friendlier to people, who then seem more interested in being my friend.
I’m not trying to fill a wound in my soul, so women are naturally more attracted to me.
I no longer feel existentially lonely, making it more likely that I’ll be productive when alone, rather than feeling depressed.
I’m not focused on feeling better; rather, I’m focused on getting done what I want to get done.
It’s easier to sit still and concentrate on a problem.

Here’s what I’m doing to try and manage my depression:
I see a psychologist, who hooks me up to a neurofeedback machine weekly. The sessions are meant to be limited and permanent – so in theory I won’t need to do this forever.
I learned Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (with the help of my shrink):

  • David D. Burns – Feeling Good
    • The heart of this one is the 10 mental thought fallacies. Memorize them.
  • Jeffrey M. Schwartz – You Are Not Your Brain

    • Your brain is sending you signals. Your mind doesn’t have to pay attention to those.

I exercise 6 days a week.
I avoid processed sugar (chocolate chip cookies from Costco are my weakness, but Dr Pepper kills me too)

I haven’t cured myself. I have bad days. But trying to attack productivity problems while depressed is like taking supplements for weight loss when you eat fast food three times a day.

I’m not here to make asymptotic improvement. It took me 35 year, but I’ve finally figured out I need to figure out my brain. If this resonates with you, stop putting it off.


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