Updated: Jul 14, 2018
“Our worst bad habit is our thinking.”
Elisha Goldstein’s book, Uncovering Happiness – Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion (Atria Books, 2015, 262 pages), is an excellent research based as well as clinically proven self-help book. Although Goldstein’s title seems to limit his book’s focus to overcoming depression, I believe it has a much broader reach.
Folks with attention deficits, anxiety, learning challenges, as well as the typical person meandering through life could reap significant benefit from reading Goldstein’s book.
He highlights three current tenets of psychology, spirituality, and personal growth that can influence happiness.
Neuroplasticity: the brain’s capacity to grow and change throughout life.
Mindfulness: the mental state of focusing on the present moment, enhanced by the practice of meditation.
Cognitive Therapy: a method of changing our brains and subsequently changing our negative thinking.
In Uncovering Happiness, Dr. Goldstein describes five natural anti-depressants (I would also say five natural methods to lessen anxiety) and how we can use them to promote happiness. His own words explain them best.
Mindfulness “trains our brains to break free from rumination, turn down the volume on fear, and become less reactive to startling and even painful experiences of life, including negative thoughts and difficult emotions.”
Self-compassion “is acknowledging the pain and then supporting ourselves as we feel the pain… we can train our brains to respond automatically to difficult emotions with a 180-degree shift of self-compassion.”
Purpose: …”people feel happy when they experience purpose, meaning, and growth.”
Play: “Play is an ancient, voluntary, inherently pleasurable, apparently purposeless activity and process that is undertaken for its own sake, and that strengthens our muscles and our social skills, fertilizes brain activity, tempers and deepens our emotions, takes us out of time and enables a state of balance and poise.”
Mastery “is a state of being rather than a process of growing and learning how to get continuously better at something. This mindset is what creates the most dramatic changes in the brain. Achieving self-compassion is a performance goal. Being able to practice self-compassion is a learning goal.”
Goldstein goes on to explain how we can engage each anti-depressant with specific strategies, behaviors and thought processes that can help us incorporate each area into our lives while revealing greater happiness. Most of the work entails thought alone – or as he says “mindset.”
Simply being aware of the natural anti-depressants listed above can stimulate us to create and possibly intuit our own strategies.
Meditation is the only natural anti-depressant that takes time. But it’s not as scary or undoable as it may feel. It’s the “break” or “pause” it provides that is important. Two minutes of meditation can change our brains.
If you are interested in exploring what is currently thought as ways to promote wellbeing and happiness, take a look at Uncovering Happiness. It is highly readable and the easily doable strategies for each natural antidepressant can be smoothly incorporated into your daily lives.
“As long as you are human, your abilities are not fixed. You can learn to get better and better at all the steps in cultivating a more resilient brain and uncovering happiness.” Elisha Goldstein
For more information on meditation for yourself and children, feel free to take a look at 2 Minutes to Calm, How Meditation Changes Your Brain, and Goldie Hawn and Dan Siegel Discuss Mindsight and Happiness.