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Sometimes, though, we need an even more explicit way to signal our request for interruption-free time, particularly when we're working from home. Using the same principles to block unwanted external triggers, my wife bought a hard-to-miss headpiece on Amazon for just a few dollars. She calls it the "concentration crown," and the built-in LEDs light up her head to send an impossible-to-ignore message. When she wears it, she's clearly letting our daughter (and me) know not to interrupt her unless it's an emergency. It works like a charm. Research has shown an improvement in depression symptoms when patients collaborated with their providers, were educated about the illness, shared decision making about medications, and used cognitive behavioral strategies to promote self-management. These strategies included keeping track of depression symptoms, monitoring yourself for early Warning Signs, socializing, engaging in pleasant activities, and developing a written self-care plan for situations that could lead to a worsening or recurrence of depression. Another study showed the importance of these factors in helping people with mood disorders stick with taking their antidepressant medications, which contributes to better depression outcomes. Accept your depression or bipolar disorder as an illness, an illness that affects your body and your mind. It is not a weakness or character flaw, or something that you have complete control over. It is an illness that can be treated and managed in a way that minimizes the effect of the illness on the quality of your life. Sometimes family or friends have a different opinion about your mood disorder or try to help by offering suggestions that are unfortunately misinformed. Do not listen to these differing viewpoints. The treatment plan developed by your providers, with your input and approval, is designed to help you. Take all medications as prescribed, and notify your doctor if you take any over-the-counter or nonprescription drugs. Keep taking your medications even after your symptoms have started to improve, and do not change the dose. Avoid alcohol and street drugs, which will only worsen your symptoms. It is also important to actively participate in your therapy sessions, do your prescribed homework exercises, and do not skip appointments. Fluctuations are changes in your symptoms over time. You will have fluctuations up and down at different times during this illness.

Use the Mood Chart on page 46 to identify them. From looking at this chart and working with your therapist, learn to understand the fluctuations in your symptoms and the patterns that you have. When you are experiencing an episode of depression, remembering that things will change for the better is hard. Try to remind yourself of this during those dark times. Aim to minimize the depth, intensity, and duration of your symptoms by working with your therapist and using the suggestions in this book. As we've seen, pseudoscientific thinking can lead to poor public policy decisions, inappropriate lawsuits, and wasteful spending: Things we all want to avoid. However, some may ask, What's the harm in holding a few pseudoscientific beliefs? If you believe in facilitated communication, psychic ability, fringe alternative therapies, or talking with the dead, you're not hurting anyone, and they can, at times, provide you with a great deal of comfort. The problem is, they often have insidious negative effects that we're not even aware of. Consider the case of facilitated communication. Parents certainly find solace in thinking they can communicate with their autistic child. However, they are being misled because it's the facilitator, and not their child, who is interacting with them. In addition, considerable money is spent to have a facilitator sit with a child at school, when it turns out the facilitator is actually the one taking and passing exams. The negative effects are even more dramatic--children have accused their parents of sexual abuse during facilitated communication.46 Of course, the facilitator was making the claim, but if you believe in facilitated communication, you would likely believe that the claim was true. In fact, people have been imprisoned because of child molestation charges obtained from facilitated communication. Our desire to believe can ruin lives. What harm is there to believing in things like astrology, psychic readings, and fringe alternative therapies? Most psychics on television charge about $4 per minute, or a whopping $240 an hour. That's about twice the fee of a professional psychiatrist! Some people have spent thousands on phone bills because of psychic hot lines.

Hundreds of millions are spent each year on questionable medical practices, including homeopathy, magnetic therapy, urine therapy, reflexology, iridology, therapeutic touch--the list goes on and on. And worse, many of us have eschewed proven drug remedies in favor of these fringe alternatives, negatively affecting our health and even our lives. Pseudoscientific thinking can also affect us in a variety of more subtle ways. We're more inclined, for example, to develop erroneous stereotypes. Many of us believe that homosexuals are more likely to be pedophiles. Numerous studies of pedophiles refute that belief. In fact, one study found that a child is one hundred times more likely to be molested by the heterosexual partner of a close relative than by a homosexual. Nonetheless, the stereotype persists and represents the pernicious effects of pseudoscientific thinking. Earlier I suggested that your life could be thought of as a chain, which is, of course, a series of connected links. You have been working very hard to identify many of those important links. It's now time to bring all of your hard work together, assess what it means to you, and make a plan to do something about it. Your self-concept, whether fictional or authentic, is a product of this linking. That continuity may be positive or it may be negative, but either way the connection is undeniable. How that chain gets made and evolves into who you become has been the subject of this book. Creating, or re-creating exactly the chain and self-concept you want, is the subject of this chapter and the next. I started this process by getting you to look at your past life, because I believe that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. That being true, the links in the chain of your history predict your future. For most people, that means that if life has been a mess in the past, it will most likely be a mess in the future. That does not have to be true for you. You now have the wherewithal to change your momentum by breaking your chain and starting a new one.

Once you have identified which links from your past control which experiences in your current life, you know where you need to focus your energy. If your history predicts your future and you want a new future, then you begin by creating a new history. At first, perhaps, it's just one day of new history, then one week, then one month, and then one year. Soon you have a whole new history, predicting a whole new future. If you have been a drunk or an overeater every day for years and years, then the best prediction is that you will be a drunk or overeater this year. But as soon as you behave differently for even one day, your life goes on alert: "Hey what's this, a new deal?" A new prediction is made. As each day of new behavior is stacked up, that new prediction gets stronger and stronger and stronger and more and more accurate. The challenge then is to break from the old and come in with the new. The reason we have spent so much time on the old was to ensure that you had the blinders off and knew exactly what specific parts of your past were tied to what specific parts of your present. Now you know. Your own external experiences in life, and your internal reactions to them, have hammered out a self-concept that has defined you throughout your life. Just as surely as a blacksmith hammers out and forges hot metal on an anvil, the shaping of your self-concept has been no different. You have pounded on yourself with your internal perceptions and self-talk and you have been pounded on and been shaped by the behavior and messages of those you have encountered in your life. Your defining moments, critical choices, and pivotal people have been among the hammers that have pounded on the metal of your self-concept. Today, more than at any other time, people face more external sources of influence beyond their families and communities. The primary reason for this is new technology. Individuals are bombarded with so much information right now---through movies, television, books, and the Internet---that it adds to the power of suggestion. You have to sift through so many external opinions these days. I can attest to this: because of the way I operate, I spend a lot of time in deep thought to sort through information because I want to use what is prudent and relevant to my research, interests, and life. I'm constantly sorting through information and making sense of it.

Of course, you easily can get to the point where you experience system overload, have to take a step back, and relieve yourself from the stress and energy that it takes to sift through the endless data. That's why I've mentioned that I'm constantly evaluating and thinking through my expectations. At the end of the day, I fall asleep immediately because I've exercised my mind so much. It's not always a bad thing; the more you work the mind, the more your mind will produce. As I've said, everything in life is a learning experience. The power of suggestion is vital to growth. For instance, children absorb information like sponges. However, as you get older, it is imperative to be selective about who your influencers are. They are of utmost importance because, as the phrase says, "You are who you hang out with." If you hang out with millionaires, you develop a millionaire mentality. If you hang out with gangsters, you gain a gangster mentality. If you want to be a lifelong learner, then you have to hang out with people who have a passion for education. This is because we subconsciously accept cues from others, setting expectations and acting accordingly. If you are more aware of this process, then you can utilize it to your advantage ("The Rule of Expectations: The Impact of Suggestion"). Deciding who or what influences you is extremely important and is arguably one of the most important choices you will make. Likewise, you must appreciate that you influence others through your actions and suggestions. Email is the curse of the modern worker. Some basic math reveals just how big the problem is. The average office-dwelling professional receives a hundred messages per day. At just two minutes per email, that adds up to three hours and twenty minutes per day. If an average workday is nine to five minus an hour for lunch, then email eats up nearly half the day.