You hit the button to switch to full screen. And you sit back for "just one more." This is the moment when you choose to keep watching TV instead of going to sleep at your bedtime, procrastinating on a goal behavior because it seems optional. What are the consequences? Right away, the short-term effect is: Yesss! This feels so good. You experience immediate relief and enjoyment. Roger Sterling cracks you up. You have forgotten tomorrow will ever come. Once the second episode is over, you are so exhausted that you fall right asleep at 12:15 a.m., an hour later than planned. What are the consequences in the morning? You are woken up by the alarm and hit snooze twice, so you are immediately rushed when you get out of bed. You can't leisurely drink coffee as a reward for waking up. Already stressed to get out the door on time, another trigger happens when you realize you also need to scrape fresh snow off your car. You're very annoyed, very HN, and feeling pressured. You think, It's just one of those days! and arrive at the office in a terrible mood. Stay connected through social support. When you're depressed or in the midst of recovery, it can be very difficult to summon the energy to be connected to others. Depression is an introverted experience with social isolation being a most serious symptom. I encourage children and adults I work with to understand how social isolation is their worst enemy.

I have also worked long and hard at reminding myself that too much seclusion is dangerous for me, too. I tell myself that the sense of dread I feel when I have social plans often fades as soon as I connect to others. There are other times that I have to force myself out of bed and out the door over and over again. I find that making plans helps me stay more connected to others than does saying "no" when ideas are suggested. I think the energy it takes to call or disappoint another works to combat my depressive tendencies. I also try to schedule social experiences that I enjoy--and keep a bag of resources (books, magazines, crossword puzzles) when I'm in a place that I'm not keen on. I make sure to have healthy people in my life by avoiding toxic ones and minimize my exposure to relatives and friends that I cannot avoid. Steer yourself toward people instead of maneuvering away from them. They will nourish you, even though it may take time for you to realize their value. Should you have difficulty finding social connections consider volunteering, joining a support group, or interfacing with like-minded people through social media websites and blogs. Ask friends and family members to look in on you--and to encourage you to socialize when you drag your feet. Create a nurturing space. Depression can often feel like an experience of depletion. You're worn down, hollowed out--devoid of enthusiasm or vitality. Your senses are faint, perhaps dulled to the point of not taking in anything at all. In this state, you're likely to be unaware of your environment--but research says that creating a nurturing space can help you revitalize your mind, body, and soul. First and foremost, let there be light. Open the shades, part the curtains, or draw the blinds to let the sun in. During my depressive episodes, I made a habit of sleeping at night with the shades up so the morning sunshine would swathe me and the room in natural light. It also prevented me from lingering in bed and in darkness for too long.

Continue reawakening your senses with inviting fragrance. There is strong scientific evidence that scents alter gene activity, blood chemistry, and the brain's limbic system in ways that reduce stress levels, improve sleep, fight pain, and boost immunity.13 In particular, the fragrances of lemon and lavender were shown to improve melancholy and depression by increasing norepinephrine release.14 Consider using essential oils, candles, soaps, or incense as aromatherapy. If you're fragrance sensitive, you can dilute essential oils or use dried fruits or flowers for a less-intensive experience. I have an assortment of candles, essential oils, and soaps that I use for relaxation and for invigoration. Lavender, lilac, vanilla, and mango are scents that work for me. Don't let research bog you down with what's "best" for your symptoms. Follow your nose, find what aromas work for you, and let that be all the proof you need. Even just looking at nature can improve your mood. In a classic study at Texas A&M University, 120 subjects were shown a stressful video, then shown a video of one of six natural or urban settings. Those who watched the natural settings showed faster and more complete recovery from stress, as measured in biometrics such as blood pressure and muscle tension. Physical activity is great for your health, of course, helping to reduce obesity and boost your physical wellness. But researchers drawing on national survey data of individuals as well as data on access to sports and fitness facilities have also found that participating in physical activity leads to a higher reported quality of life. The researchers found that regardless of participants' personal background, those who were more actively involved in sports and physical activity reported higher levels of life satisfaction in general. In fact, participating in physical activity was found to increase happiness at three times the level that one's feeling of happiness decreases upon becoming unemployed. Not only do sports association members report being happier than nonsporty people--they also report being happier than those who participate in recreation activities found outside of the realm of sports. Beyond increased health, the happiness value of sports is found in the intimate social relationships formed between players, coaches, and even opponents. Joining a sports team has another advantage: It creates a long-term habit of physical activity. A study compared the benefits of "routine" leisure activities (such as regular meet-ups with friends, or team sports) versus "project-based" ones (such as a volunteer project or one-time competitions). Drawing on responses from 365 college students, the researchers found that routine leisure brings happiness and meaning to life. Make consistent physical leisure-time activity part of your life, as opposed to just doing one-off outings.

Find some way to make fun activities something you will continue for months or years. Money can't buy love--or happiness, it turns out. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of California, Los Angeles used online surveys to poll more than 4,000 people on the question of whether they would rather have more time or more money--and whether they were happy. While 64 percent of respondents said they would prefer to have more money, it was those who preferred more time who reported being the happiest. Though the researchers acknowledged this may be the case because those with plenty of money may be happier--and also prefer more time since they don't need the money--they emphasized that "what matters is the value people place on each resource and not necessarily the amount of time or money they have (or feel they have)." We're so focused on external "signs" of having it together that we completely overlook what's actually important - having it together internally! When we see anyone who has it together in every way, we're only seeing the outside and trying to mimic what we're seeing. We're failing to understand the outside appearance of having it together is an automatic byproduct of having it together internally. It starts on the inside and works its way out - not the other way around. Having your act together externally only follows when you ACTUALLY have your act together internally. Looking like you have your act together doesn't magically cause you to actually have your act together. The ability to buy the latest, largest, and coolest flat-screen TV to impress people doesn't mean you have your act together. The ability to buy material things to give yourself the appearance of having it together doesn't mean you have your act together. The ability to buy the latest car, biggest truck, or the newest house that you really can't afford doesn't mean you have your act together. Going to a college you can't afford, taking out loans, going into debt, memorizing information you can learn free on the internet, getting a degree no longer worth the paper it's printed on, framing it, hanging it on your wall to impress people, and getting a job that barely affords you to live paycheck to paycheck doesn't mean you have your act together. That's actually becoming a dumb idea. Creating the illusion of having your act together on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat doesn't mean you actually have your act together. We want to "look" like we have it together, but we don't want to invest the time, energy, and effort it takes to actually have it together. So, because of our addiction to believing external appearances tell the truth, thinking and falsely believing we have it completely together has become so deeply ingrained and automatic that even the thought of stopping and questioning our thoughts, emotions, actions, behavior, and life never occurs to us. We think finishing high school, going to college, having a job, a few bucks in our pocket, food in the fridge, a roof over our head, a car to get us from point A to point B, and an iPad for the kids to play on means we have our act together and we've made it! That there are no further levels of personal development to strive for!

We believe we've reached the pinnacle of being an adult and living a successful life but what we don't realize is that it doesn't take a whole lot of brains and effort to get a job, put money in your pocket, pay bills, buy food, get a car, and keep our children alive and entertained. Those are the basics! By default, that's what you're SUPPOSED to be doing! You can be a complete mess of a person with a very low IQ and still be able to pull off the bare minimums. You don't get a medal for the basics. You don't get a trophy for meeting the basic requirements. It doesn't mean you have your act together. We set the bar and our standards so low that we automatically label those who have a better life and their act together more than we do as "lucky". 99% of the time, it's not luck at all! They try harder, work harder, and never quit. They're more determined, make better decisions, take more action, and are more consistent with what they have to do to get what they want, be who they want, and live the life they want. They push harder, complain less, and endure more "pain" and discipline than everyone else with the same time and opportunity is willing to. When it comes to having it together, they simply want it more than everyone else. So, when I say to "be interesting" in conversation, I hope you have a good idea of what I mean. The brain may go blank, but the tips should all be there still, bouncing around in your head, ready to be put to use. Here are some refreshers just in case: Don't Get Drunk - Drunkenness may be funny sometimes but it's rarely interesting, especially if the people you meet are sober. We'll talk more about alcohol soon, but for now, keep your intake as moderated as possible to avoid any embarrassing outbursts. Don't Be Afraid to Share - Tell people about yourself and be proud of what you have to say. Every time I go to a bar, I'll inevitably end up in a conversation with someone that starts with "What do you do for a living?" and it's amazing how many people will gladly label themselves and be done with it. Describe what you do, give them a story and show them why what you do is as interesting as you think it is.