When the second timer goes off, pause for a moment and ask yourself, "Which situation tasted better?" This is a great way to get a taste of your own medicine (pun intended). By only partially attending to your present experience, you only give yourself a partial opportunity to emotionally benefit from it. Your active mind keeps you away from in-the-moment pleasures. To counter this tendency, you could keep a notebook on you, have sticky notes on your desk, or use a notes app on your phone. When you have a distracting thought, urge, or idea, write it down. Then intentionally return your attention to your current activity. Plan a time to look at that thought, urge, or idea later when you can give it your full attention. You Might Need to Decrease the Intensity of Your Current Emotion: Let's say you're feeling really intense HN or LN. You get yourself to show up for your planned activity, but you're over-the-top consumed by how intense your negative emotion is and don't stand a chance of enjoying the activity at all. If this happens to you, it might be helpful to review the section on coping with high-intensity triggers in Principle 3. You may need to carve a little time out to first address your emotional discomfort, even if it involves deep breathing in a bathroom stall, having a quick conversation with someone who cheers you up, journaling, or doing some fast cardio like jumping jacks. The goal is to take the edge off the intensity of your current emotion so you have a better chance at focusing on, and perhaps getting some enjoyment from, your surroundings. As you take another look at Principle 3, pay close attention to strategies that might be unobtrusive and therefore realistically helpful when you're in public. Your Emotion Could Be a Message About the Activity and Not You: Your negative emotional experience might be communicating some very useful information. Let's say you are with a boyfriend or girlfriend, taking an evening stroll on a warm summer night, and you think you should be feeling intimacy. But you keep feeling HN, HN, HN. Sure, it could be your depressed mind getting in the way. It's also quite possible that your emotions are communicating information about your needs that aren't getting met, despite the potentially romantic context. If your mood starts to improve in other contexts--like when you're alone or at work--and it stays low when you're with this person, then this might be an important message. In that case, all the present-focused exercises in the world won't fix the actual problems in your relationship that are quite validly causing you to feel badly.

This point is important because I want you to remember that emotions communicate useful information, and a lack of enjoyment could be signaling something very important about your situation and your needs. You are now a pro at assessing the impact of your momentary choices on your emotional experience, which relates to the first point in the definition of well-being. This next section will help you consider the other two points, specifically by focusing on the impact that each choice point makes on your views of yourself, of others around you, and your life more broadly, as well as how it helps you accomplish your goals. This comprehensive evaluation can help you navigate inevitable internal barriers to showing up to planned activities, which surface in statements like these: "What's the point?," "It's not worth it," "I'm too tired," and "I'll do it later." Sound familiar? Over time, if an activity continues to hit the mark on one or more of the following areas, you have received a major clue that it probably warrants showing up and doing--despite internal, momentary dread. For example, when are you going to feel like calling your insurance company because the Explanation of Benefits doesn't look right? Unless you have a plan in place to get it done, the spirit is 99 percent not going to move you to call. You'll keep feeling better in the moment, with a plan to do it later, but it won't get done. Instead, motivate yourself with a reward for doing it like watching the latest episode of your favorite TV show afterward. Also keep in mind that when you're in a depression, anticipating most future events can feel like the equivalent of facing a discussion about the Explanation of Benefits. This might be disconcerting to you if you're equally blase about showing up for social occasions, picking up your hobby again, cooking nutritious meals, and so on. It's important to understand that when you are HN or LN, your brain is oriented to perceive the world in ways that keep you in those states. This means that the best way to move into HP or LP is to shake up your emotional experience by doing something totally different. If you wait passively to feel better, you will likely continue to keep feeling bad. If you instead pick up the phone and call the insurance company, get out of the house, or show up for planned activities--despite low expectations--then you give yourself the possibility of a different outcome. You might enjoy the activity more than you thought you would, feel good about yourself for tackling a goal even if the task felt terrible, feel closer to another person and more connected to the world, or feel less stressed because you got something on your to-do list done. Finally, remember that change happens in fits and starts. As long as you are tracking with honesty and regularity, you will gather incredibly useful information--even if what you actually choose to do is off script. You especially want to track the things you did if they're not what you planned. The patterns you'll notice about yourself--like "I tend to avoid when..." or "I break my plans when..."--bring priceless awareness.

Yes, awareness is the first step of behavior change. Consider discussing and troubleshooting with a trusted friend or a mental health practitioner. Keep reminding yourself: change builds from awareness. So just being aware of the times when you get stuck means you are already on your way to making the change you want to see. On the advice of a colleague, I picked up the book Undercurrents: A Life beneath the Surface by Martha Manning.10 A psychologist herself, Manning described a yearlong decline into a crippling depression and how electroconvulsive therapy brought her back to life. What spoke to me most of all was that Manning was a wife, a mother, and a clinician--just like me. A few years later, I found my way to Kay Redfield Jamison's 1997 memoir An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness.11 Jamison's life story of living with manic depression (now known as "bipolar disorder") was haunting, brave, and beautifully written. She spoke candidly about her personal struggles and professional experiences as a psychologist living with a mood disorder. Another psychologist who has a mood disorder. I'm not so alone, I thought. Then I came across Prozac Diary, a 1999 memoir written by Lauren Slater about her journey with mental illness.12 Slater's life-changing turn with the help of taking Prozac was something with which I could relate. It was the medication that changed my life. Her struggles and triumphs resonated within me. And the chord that struck was not a melancholy one. It was a major chord--brim-ming with a hardy root and jubilant tone. In fact, the crescendo that arose from reading all these literary works by women who were also psychologists helped me see that there was a way for me to transition from illness to health. There was a way to live as a person with depression and work as a clinician with depression and be unafraid to speak of it aloud to others, with others, and for others. They were pioneers, these women, and I wanted to join the journey. And so I continued by reading books from nonpsychologists who experienced mood disorders. One of the most moving accounts of depression for me came from American author William Styron, whose descent into a "dank joylessness" is vividly worded in his 1990 memoir Darkness Visible.

Truth be told, the movie adaptation of Styron's Sophie's Choice left me so hollowed out and emotionally depleted, that I resisted reading his memoir for fear that it would weaken me further. What I found in his pages, however, was quite different. The textures of his experiences offered me consolation. Again, I wasn't alone. I read the memoirs of actress Patty Duke, A Brilliant Madness: Living with Manic Depressive Illness,14 and journalist Jane Pauley, A Life Out of the Blue.15 Then there was the biography of American President Abraham Lincoln by author Joshua Wolf Shenk, who describes Lincoln's descent into depression, his struggle to live with it, and the spiritual awakenings that led to his presiden-tial greatness.16 Brooke Shields' journey through postpartum depression was the first celebrity book I'd read about the subject. As she promoted Down Came the Rain, the subject of postpartum depression was everywhere in the media. Not only did Shields' memoir open up a dialogue about the disorder, her disclosure that she waited too long and endured too much highlighted the need for swift diagnosis and treatment to the general public. Soon after, more high-profile individuals began emerging with their own personal postpartum narratives. Singers Amy Grant and Marie Osmond--and actors Courtney Cox, Angie Harmon, Amanda Peet, Geena Lee Nolin, and Lisa Rinna--have spoken candidly about postpartum struggles. Recently, while I was waiting at the checkout, I thumbed through a story about actors and the postpartum experiences of Gwyneth Paltrow and Bryce Dallas Howard. I remember thinking to myself, This is so great--more celebrities talking about depression. Just then, a woman behind me began reading the article over my shoulder. "My cousin had postpartum," the cashier said. "We called it baby blues back when I had kids," another woman chimed in. "Don'tcha think you ladies make too much of all this?" an older man blurted out as he readied a series of paper bags. I walked away as the women playfully scolded him, and thought to myself, What a great teachable moment! As time went by, I began taking note whenever I read something in a magazine or saw someone on television talking about depression. The narratives of ordinary people living with unipolar or bipolar depression and surviving suicidal tendencies were poignant and moving. So, too, were stories from high-profile individuals of their struggles and triumphs. Sensing this trend, I began tracking interviews, magazine articles, books, and news stories from actors, musi-cians, athletes, writers, journalists, and political leaders whose lives were touched by depression.

Going green is not just good for the planet--it has also been found to put those who do it into a better mood. The Happiness Research Institute of the Danish Ministry of the Environment found a link between behaviors that benefit the environment and individual happiness. Those who instituted household practices such as using recycling bins, composting, or installing water-saving faucets or energy-saving appliances reported an uptick in their level of happiness. Data on fourteen European countries showed that people who recycle are happier on average than those who do not (by about 0.2 on a three-point scale). One report found that living more sustainably--for example, riding a bike to work instead of driving a car, or waiting to start a load of laundry until the machine is full--promotes a more fulfilling and happier life. A study of residents of fourteen Chinese cities showed that those who work to reduce waste and save energy score higher on life satisfaction than those who are mildly engaged or unengaged in sustainable behaviors. The researchers suggest that this occurs because of evolutionary factors: We experience feelings of pleasure whenever we engage in activities that increase the likelihood of species survival. These behaviors can also lead to greater feelings of personal accomplishment and feeling more connected to our communities as a whole. Or maybe we're just glad not to have so much junk around the house. Pick up a recycling bin, start composting, or do something else to help out Mother Nature. Your friends are the people you call to waste an afternoon, catch a movie, or grab a few too many drinks on a random weeknight. They are also the ones who see you at your extremes, among the first people you tell about a big accomplishment or who help you deal with frustration or loss. When you decide to try something risky--a major career move, a new dance move--your social network is the safety net that catches you if things go sideways (though they also have permission to tease you when they do). It's no wonder these people have such an impact on your emotional well-being. Researchers have found that having a happy friend can boost your own probability of happiness by 15.3 percent, and by even more if they live near you. Studies indicate that those with good friends are resilient to negative events and even live longer. Your group of friends--its size, its makeup, and how you interact with one another--shapes your happiness in ways large and small. So what are the secrets to creating a happy social circle and infusing your friendships with fun? This chapter suggests some answers, drawing on what researchers have learned about developing emotional intelligence, making new friends, and cultivating lasting, happy friendships. The greatest number of meaningful relationships a person can maintain is about 150.