Passion for life could fight the blues

Alarmed by the rising rates of depression worldwide, a Vancouver psychologist is offering a free talk on cultivating a more passionate life. Dr. Patrick Myers believes living exuberantly reduces the risk of depression.

The World Health Organization predicts depression will be the second leading cause of disability, for all ages and sexes, by 2020. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that one in five Canadians will face a psychological disorder in their lifetime. The Mental Health Commission of Canada notes more than 6.7 million people in Canada live with a mental health problem. By comparison, 2.2 million people in Canadian have type 2 diabetes.

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Experts don’t agree on the causes of rising rates of depression, but Myers believes the world is becoming more stressful and that people are taking behavioural shortcuts that can contribute to despair. He’s offering a free talk Feb. 4 and Feb. 22, called How to Cultivate a More Passionate Life, which includes practical tips to help avert depression.

Myers’s talk is one in a series. February marks Psychology Month in B.C. and the B.C. Psychological Association is working to highlight the role psychology plays in our lives and communities with a public education campaign.

Myers talk will include some of the following tips.

  • Gratitude

Myers, who has worked as a psychologist for 15 years, says appreciating what you might otherwise take for granted can improve your outlook.

“One of the most powerful interventions that has come out of the field of positive psychology is the idea of gratitude,” Myers said. “This is the opposite of trying to keep up with the Joneses, always comparing yourself to others. This is, instead, taking a look at yourself and realizing how lucky you are to have what you have.”

For example, when the only parking spot available in a lot is the furthest one from an entrance, Myers recommends focusing on the positive.

“Are you grateful for the fact that you’re healthy enough to be able to walk across that parking lot?” he said.

  • The million-dollar question

If you don’t know what would make you feel more fulfilled, ask yourself what you would do if you won a million dollars, Myers says, and then start working towards making your fantasy a reality.

Would you travel more? Return to school?

Myers had a friend who was passionate about art and decided to take one art class per term so she would retire with a fine arts degree and paint for the rest of her life. Pursuing this dream actually motivated her to make this happen sooner.

Reflection

Myers recommends taking time to reflect on where you’ve been and what you’ve accomplished.

“And take a little bit of time to take a look at where you think you weren’t doing quite as well as you should have and ask yourself, ‘Well I wonder how I could do that a little bit better?’” he said.

Don’t have time to meditate? Start small. Take three deep breaths. Notice the sensations in your body with the first breath, your thoughts with the second and your environment with your third.

“When people start getting into the habit of stopping just a moment to reflect, things start changing and they start seeing opportunities to be able to change their life,” Myers said.

“Instead of paying for six sessions, if you come to some of these presentations, maybe you’ll only have to see me for four sessions,” he said. “Considering the fact that we’re expensive buggers, that’s quite a savings.”

Most of the psychologists he knows charge $150 to $175 an hour.

Other talks include Building a Better Brain, Effective Coping Strategies for our Fast-Paced World, both on Feb. 16, and Imagine Empathy for Parents on Feb. 23.

The psychological association states every Canadian will be directly or indirectly affected by mental illness through a family member, friend or colleague at some point and asserts psychologists can help people find solutions to their challenges.

For more information, see psychologists.bc.ca. The BCPA operates a free referral service online and at 604-730-0522.

crossi@vancourier.com

twitter.com/Cheryl_Rossi

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