Depression in America and What You can Do About it.

Image by Tim Pearce.

By Josh Rueff on Sep 28, 2013

Depression is a disease – it’s the disease of the affluent researchers are now saying.

That’s only part of the problem.

I’ve been hunched over my laptop for hours studying every reliable corner of the Internet (ironically, some of them think that technology and time spent on the Internet is a big part  of it, but I’m still feeling alright :), and every credible researcher, scientist, doctor, and therapist says the same thing about depression.

Depression is the highest in France (21%), with the United States coming in a close second (19.2%).

What is it that makes us so depressed? It’s clearly not that we’re poor – most poor nations are happier than the richest nations. (For instance, this article shows how Mexicans are both poorer and happier than wealthy nation peers.)

It’s not that we’re overworked, at least not in France’s case – they have a 35 hour work-week on average. Anything beyond that is illegal unless they’re paid overtime.

Depression in America has baffled the most credible scientists and therapists for a long time. Some of them think it is our strong individualism that causes alienation and loneliness, and others claim that it’s America’s constant flow of consumerist agenda, convincing people that things are what makes us happy. Still others say it’s a spiritual decline; that humanism and our modern form of science has become our religion – a religion that will never produce happiness.

No one claims to have a definitive answer, but every study points to one cause. They all agree on one culprit – one primary reason people experience depression. We’ll get back to that in a minute.

What do you think causes depression? What is it that makes you depressed?

Do you get depressed when you spend less time with people you love? Maybe you get sad when you feel unappreciated, or if you believe you deserve more recognition for what you do.

Many people in America and other similar countries are highly driven to succeed, and when they don’t feel successful, they become depressed.

Here’s the thing. There’s a lot of different reasons people get depressed.

But every one of those reasons can be solved through a single, simple process. This is true because people get depressed for one reason, and one reason only.

Think about it. Many people become depressed when someone close to them dies – this is natural because they experience an imbalance in their life. That person who has been a vital part of their life is no longer there, leaving a void and an imbalance.

Or what about when work too much and spend too little time with the family and friends? Again, the problem is imbalance.

Every form of depression is caused by what Aristotle claimed to be the opposite of happiness: Imbalance. Aristotle taught that happiness was achieving balance, the point of equilibrium between the extremes of deficiency and excess. A person will be unhappy and eventually depressed if they have deficiency and/or excess in his or her life.

The philosopher Rene Descartes agreed and took it a step further.
He agreed with most ancient philosophers in that he believed that philosophy should provide mankind with wisdom that is sufficient for happiness, and his ultimate contribution to us in the realm of happiness was the philosophy of dualism.
Descartes’ dualism is a state of two parts, namely, body and mind.
His advice to princess Elisabeth give us some insight into facts about happiness that have been lost or ignored throughout the ages.

In this letter he shares his unique perspective on happiness:
“From [my mother] I inherited a dry cough and a pale colour which stayed with me until I was more than twenty, so that all the doctors who saw me up to that time gave it as their verdict that I would die young. But I have always had an inclination to look at things from the most favorable angle and to make my principal happiness depend upon myself alone, and I believe that this inclination caused the indisposition, which was almost part of my nature, gradually to disappear completely.”
In the second part of his discourse he outlines the link between rational thought and happiness, which is a part of his belief of the duality of mind and body; that the mind (ideally) holds power over the body, although the body at times influences the mind.
“The difference between the greatest souls and those that are base and common consists principally in the fact that common souls abandon themselves to their passions and are happy or unhappy only according as the things that happen to them are agreeable or unpleasant; the greatest souls, on the other hand, reason in a way that is so strong and cogent that, although they also have passions, and indeed passions which are often more violent than those of ordinary people, their reason nevertheless always remains mistress, and even makes their afflictions serve them and contribute to the perfect happiness they enjoy in this life.”
About happiness he wrote that it is “perfect contentment of mind and inner satisfaction… which is acquired by the wise without fortune’s favor”, noting that “we cannot ever practice any virtue—that is to say, do what our reason tells us we should do—without receiving satisfaction and pleasure from doing so.”

I should mention at this point that Aristotle taught that virtue was the golden mean; the state of perfect balance and happiness.

And there you have it!

Depression is caused by imbalance, and happiness is a byproduct of virtue and balance.

The reason America and many other first world cultures are depressed is because of the imbalance in their lives – it may be too much work, too little time with loved ones, too much social status pressure, or too little relaxation – whatever the “branch issues” are, the root-issue is imbalance.

Once you figure out what your imbalances are and learn to balance them, you can rid yourself of depression on a permanent basis! This is easier said than done, but it can be done. And now that you know the problem and solution, what can stop you?
Josh