It can also be a crutch so I warn you to approach online gaming with the requisite care to ensure you don't get addicted and that you maintain a decent distance from the barrage of stimuli. In short, don't get lost in this world. It's not good for you. Forums - Forums are a great way to discuss topics that have great meaning to you or that you have a lot of opinions about. A site like big-boards.com contains thousands of forum threads on almost any topic you can imagine. Go there and you'll find hundreds of opportunities to join in conversations about your hobbies, ask questions about new endeavours, or simply get to know people you may be interested in. Social Networking - Social networking used to be a niche opportunity to meet people. Now, it's the largest single activity on the Internet and it represents a chance to get out there and meet pretty much anyone you could imagine. There are groups on Facebook, lists on Twitter, and images and videos on Flickr or YouTube. Again, be careful with social networking. It's incredibly addictive, and if you're not careful it can draw you in with both the social and gaming aspects of online interaction. My rule for social networking is always "if you can meet in the real world, do." Use Facebook to stay in touch with people across the country or overseas, but don't have a conversation with someone who is three miles away - get out and have coffee or something. This stuff is tricky - playing around online opens up all sorts of black holes in conversation. All the stuff I told you about body language, cue reading, and voice tone? Yeah, that's all out the window now because it's impossible to determine from text. Even with webcams, the technology is a bit sketchy still to allow for perfect interaction. So, I still recommend in-person meeting whenever possible, but if you're in a rural area, or you simply need a way to ease into meeting people, this will get you there. Meeting Internet Friends Offline So, what happens when you have a new friend on Facebook and they want to meet up with you somewhere along the way? Do you just set a time and meet them without a second guess? In some cases that can work well enough, but with the way things work these days, I tend to urge caution.

The low-intensity triggering moments are the ones you know too well. Should I turn off the TV? Can I get myself to drive to the gym? Do I have the energy to cook a healthy dinner? Should I read this potentially worrisome email now? Do I answer the phone or hit "Ignore?" Do I really want to crack open that beer? When you feel the urge to escape or avoid the behaviors you are working to incorporate into your life, the single best thing you can do to hit pause and choose how to act--in that very moment--is to breathe. I know it sounds so simple, but that's at the core of its power. Deep breathing induces a relaxation response in you. It can help you refocus and recenter. Breathing creates more space between what you want to do and what you choose to do. No matter how much you are itching to act on that urge, can you allow yourself to pause for five in-and-out breaths? Here are some straightforward instructions for breathing deeply and intentionally to create the pause that you need to act more in line with your goals. Try it as you read--yes, now! The more you practice when you don't need it, the more you'll remember to use it when you do need it. You can also download a worksheet version of this exercise from the publisher's website at http://www.newharbinger.com/39430. Preparation: Get in a comfortable position. If you're sitting, place your feet firmly on the ground. Relax your eyes, either closing them or adopting a gentle gaze. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your abdomen--the area around and below your belly button.

Belly Breathing: Inhale so that your belly rises and fills. Exhale so that your belly falls and empties, reaching the full extent of your exhalation. The hand on your abdomen will rise and fall, but the hand on your chest will remain still and even. This will mean that you are deeply breathing from the diaphragm rather than taking shallow breaths from the chest. Pace: Breathe slowly. Keep your exhale as slow as, and perhaps slower than, your inhale. It may help to keep count of your breaths. I like to count to five on the inhale and count to six on the exhale--you can find a count that works for you. Try it with me now. Practice: Breathe in, slowly, feel the belly rising. Breathe out, slowly, feel the belly falling. Two. Breathe in, slowly, belly rise. Breathe out, slowly, belly fall. Three. Breathe in, slowly, belly rise. Breathe out, slowly, belly fall. Four. Breathing in, belly rising. Breathing out, belly falling.

When you're ready take your fifth breath, make this your deepest inhale yet. And then release, slowly, exhaling and feeling your belly fall. Exhale the air all the way out. When you're ready, flutter your eyes open. How was that exercise? What did you notice? My patients often say, "That was relaxing," which is a great starting point. But more specifically, look at what that means. When you say you feel relaxed, what do you notice happening? Some notice that their thoughts slow down or even disappear. Some notice that they feel less tense in the areas where they carry the most stress, maybe in their temples or shoulders. Some notice that they feel sleepy and some notice that they have a little bit more energy. Some notice that it was really hard to slow down their thoughts enough to pay attention, and that they want to take a few more breaths! Now, consider these applications. Another issue that can hinder remission is double depression, the experience of having a major depressive disorder and a dysthymic disorder. Stigma, a mark of disgrace or reproach, is yet another obstacle preventing many with depression from attaining remission. Despite the fact that evidence-based research shows that mental illness is a real medical disorder, stigma is on the rise instead of on the decline. David Satcher, former surgeon general of the United States writes, "Stigma was expected to abate with increased knowledge of mental illness, but just the opposite occurred: Stigma in some ways intensified over the past forty years even though understanding improved. Knowledge of mental illness appears by itself insufficient to dispel stigma."9 It is an undisputed fact that individuals who experience mental-health issues face discrimination that results from misconceptions of their illness. As a result, many won't seek treatment for fear that they will be viewed in a negative way.10 The World Health Organization agrees and says that of the four hundred million people worldwide who are affected by mental illness, only 20 percent reach out for help.

By now, you've learned that depression has its own unique trajectory. But did you know that recovery has a course all its own? Well, it does--and the experience of your recovery will be as personal and distinctive as was your depression. "Recovery" is clinically defined as the absence of symptoms for at least four months following the onset of remission. Recovery consists of periods of improvement and growth as well as setbacks and stumbling blocks. Your personal biography and biology will have a bearing on the ebb and flow of your recovery, so refrain from measuring the arc of your progress with anyone else. Just know that, at times, recovery may be like a smooth-paved super-highway, moving quickly, easily, and effortlessly--or like a simple, single-lane country road, progressing slowly and gently. Recovery could also hit a rough, rutted, and potholed street, leaving you broken down on the side of the road. The important issue here is to use your newly learned skills to solve problems, reframe reality, and create detours if necessary. Being symptom-free from depression is the cornerstone of recovery, but don't forget to note functional improvements that occur in your life in school, work, social relationships, and cognitive functioning. The World Health Organization reminds us that recovery is not just an illness-free state of physical, emotional, and social well-being, but occurs when "an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community." Playfulness--reframing a situation to be more amusing or fun--is something we have an instinct for as children (who hasn't turned couch cushions into an impenetrable fort or a jungle gym into a castle?), even if as adults we can lose our appreciation of play. But it turns out that reactivating it is a great way to bolster happiness. In a study of 255 adults, subjects rated their playfulness (using the five-question Short Measure of Adult Playfulness survey, as well as the thirty-two-adjective Adult Playfulness Scale) and their life satisfaction, and stated how often they engaged in activities they enjoyed. The researchers found a correlation between playfulness and both high levels of life satisfaction and an inclination to take part in enjoyable activities and to live an active lifestyle. Just like playfulness, laughter really can be powerful medicine. Paul McGhee, who has spent two decades researching humor and laughter, has found lots of evidence that humor boosts emotional resilience and helps people cope with stress, even reducing pain and strengthening people's immune systems. Even better--he's found that a sense of humor is something that can be learned and improved with practice. McGhee lays out a program of "7 Humor Habits" that have been found to strengthen a person's funny muscles, including "surround yourself with humor," "laugh more often and more heartily," and "laugh at yourself." He maintains that adding humor to one's life creates a cognitive shift in perspective and provides individuals with a greater sense of control and feeling of empowerment. Researchers at the James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, sought to test these assertions, randomly assigning fifty-five participants to three groups: one that followed McGhee's eight-week humor skills program (complete with a handbook of jokes and funny stories), one that met weekly for social gatherings, and a control group. Far more than the other two groups, those who went through the program of learning to laugh more and find humor in difficult situations showed a significant increase in positive affect, optimism, and perception of control over their surroundings.