Understanding Depression

Insights from Johann Hari’s Lost Connections

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I just finished reading the book Lost Connections by Johann Hari. The subtitle of the book is Uncovering the real causes of depression – and the unexpected solutions. I believe that we all will encounter depression at some point in our life, whether it be direct or indirect. 

I know that reading a book about depression may not be at the top of many of your reading lists, but I found myself reading this book out of necessity, and found many insights into the “why” of depression and “how” to overcome it. That being said, I wanted to share some of the insights from the book so that you may find yourself informed or empowered to face depression if it is present in your life.

I will outline some of the structure of the book along with some highlights. Ultimately, if this article has impacted you, I highly recommend reading this book. It is full of real-life stories and statistics that will help anyone struggling with or struggling to understand depression.

The Nine Causes of Depression

  1. Disconnection from Meaningful work
    – Lack of passion, lack of motivation or purpose
    – We do not understand the “why” of what we do
  2. Disconnection from other people
    – “Becoming acutely lonely, the experiment found, was as stressful as experiencing a physical attack.”
    – Lonely people were also three times more likely to get sick than connected people.
    – “The stunning thing was that loneliness is not merely the result of depression…indeed it leads to depression.”
  3. Disconnection from meaningful values
    – Intrinsic values vs. extrinsic values
    – Intrinsic values are deep inside and provide unadulterated enjoyment of personal activities that satisfy an innate desire
    – Extrinsic, or junk, values are momentary satisfiers that carry the weight of comparison
  4. Disconnection caused by trauma
    – He examines the connection between obesity and childhood trauma
    – “When people have these kinds of problems, it’s time to stop asking what’s wrong with them,” he said, “and time to start asking what happened to them.”
  5. Disconnection from status and respect
    – Inequality seems to be driving up depression
  6. Disconnection from the natural world
    – Cases show that being exposed to nature reduces the likelihood and amount of depression.
    – A disconnection from nature and movement leads to an unhealthy life.
  7. Disconnection from a hopeful and secure future
    – “It was, he concluded, the loss of the future that was driving the suicide rates up. A sense of a positive future projects you. If life is bad today, you can think – this hurts, but it won’t hurt forever. But when it is taken away, it can feel like your pain will never go away.
  8. & 9. The role of genes and brain changes
    – “Your brain is constantly changing to meet your needs. It does this mainly in two ways: by pruning the synapses you don’t use, and by growing the synapses you do use.”
    – Certain people, through their genes, have an increased risk of depression, but only in a certain environment.

As I mentioned earlier, I read this book from a place of depression, though I did not know at the time what to call it. I needed someone to help me put my feelings into words, and I needed to know that I was not alone. Though this book helped me frame my understanding and create a gameplan for combatting depression, it is not the answer.

If you are reading this because you feel a sadness that you cannot explain, a lack of joy from usually joyful experiences, or find yourself feeling alone; I urge you to reach out to another person and make a connection. The human connection is non-negotiable, and it is necessary for life. It is the people in my life who love me that have had the greatest impact on my well being.

I hope that this article has brought you to hope, and if you haven’t heard it lately, know that you are loved. 

3 thoughts on “Understanding Depression

  1. Pingback: Hope Begins with a Choice | The Story We Write

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