I've come off my medication twice, gradually discontinuing dosages with the help of my doctor, only to discover that my depression recurred. If your health professionals or therapists have never heard of discontinuation syndrome, shake a finger at them, and then drag them to the nearest computer. Other avenues that you can use to obtain prescription medication are available. Prescription medications come in two categories: brand-name (an original medication that is patented by a pharmaceutical company and given a trade or brand-name) and generic (a medication that is a biochemical equivalent to a brand-name one and may be produced by any manufacturer). If you have no health insurance coverage, you may be eligible to get brand-name medication for free directly from pharmaceutical companies. Often called "patient assistance programs" or "prescription assistance programs," these online resources require you to simply fill out an application form for review. You can have your prescribing healthcare professional call on your behalf as well. In an age of anxiety and uncertainty, we're all searching for ways to feel better. One in six Americans is on some kind of antidepressant. Beer, wine, and liquor sales have been on a steady incline for years ($25.2 billion in U.S. sales for 2016). Viewings of baby goat videos are up dramatically (data to come). Even those who are doing relatively well have become aware that material success does not necessarily translate into a more durable sense of well-being. So it's no surprise that everyone is looking to add more happiness to their lives. We want to know how to stop feeling stressed and to smile more. Or how to bring more fun into our date nights. Or what kinds of plants will improve our mood (hint: Stay away from pointy leaves). With such demand to get happier, there's been perhaps an even greater supply to meet it; from feel-good inspirational quotes to in-depth scientific studies, happiness has become big business. But the abundance of information out there can leave the average person overwhelmed. You are busy and likely just looking for some simple tips to add more fun to your day--without all the scientific jargon or unrealistic advice about the best yoga positions to save your marriage.

If you're feeling stressed or unsatisfied, you're likely looking for sensible, actionable, and ultimately fun tips to help you get happy. And that's what this book aims to deliver. As you read, some of the tips might sound familiar (maybe since you're already a generally happy person) but others will, I hope, catch you by surprise or get you to see your habits or daily life in a new light. Word of warning: I'm not a scientist or an academic, and this book is hardly a comprehensive guide to the mountain of happiness research that is out there. But it does provide some accessible insights that will help you live your life with a little more cheer and a few more laughs throughout the day. I dove into the vast amount of data available and interviewed psychologists, researchers, and happiness experts to find some of the most surprising, useful, and interesting research about happiness and how we can get more of it in our lives. Happiness Hacks aims to keep things light and in layperson's terms, but if you do want to dig more deeply into any of the science discussed, see the extensive endnotes with all the details on the numerous studies and researchers referenced. But before we get started, we should probably answer the question: What Exactly Is Happiness? Your life is a story. Like all stories, yours involves a hero (you), a journey (the battles you've fought), and a prize (lifelong wellness). In fact, that progression is found in every great story ever told, from ancient myths sung by firelight, to fairy tales, to modern blockbuster films. Embedded in all these stories is a blueprint for human progress. In other words, struggling is not failure; it's part of being human. It's how we change and grow stronger. As Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist and author of The Hero with a Thousand Faces, once wrote, "It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure." That's great news. It means you need not look back on depression with regret but rather with hope that you've survived the ordeal in order to be stronger and better than ever. Now that you've fought your way to the treasure of wellness on your own journey, it's important to dig in your heels and tap into the heroic determination to never, ever give it back. The future is yours. Defend it.

Fight for it like the heroes you admire most in your favorite stories. Everyone has bad days and a case of the blues now and then. You might feel down because of a setback at work, trouble with your teenager, or an extended period of overwork that finally catches up with you and drags you down. But if you have experienced depressive symptoms and feelings continually for more than a few weeks, you very likely are enduring depression. Still, there is a wide continuum of depression severity, from relatively mild on one end to extremely serious on the other end. How do you know where you fall on the mild-to-serious scale? With many clients, we use what we call the yellow list and the red list. The yellow list describes symptoms that signal caution and need to be monitored. The red list is composed of identified symptoms of clinical depression. These indicators are like the stoplights at traffic intersections--they need to be carefully observed and acted upon. Yellow signals may not cause you to slam on the brakes, but they convey a message to slow down and pay attention. Red indicators should prompt immediate and intentional action. As foundational as these actions are, they are not exhaustive. There is a wide array of treatment options you can explore in your pursuit of wholeness and healing. In my whole-person approach to dealing with depression, I encourage people to try anything that is safe and sane. The treatments described below are options you may want to consider. This is a technique in which very thin needles are inserted through the skin to stimulate strategic points on the body. According to traditional medicine in China, where acupuncture originated, there are some two thousand acupuncture points on the body that can be stimulated to balance the flow of energy throughout the body. Western medicine more typically regards acupuncture as a way to strategically stimulate nerves and muscles, which increases blood flow and activates the body to produce endorphins and opioids, which are natural painkillers. Acupuncture has been used to relieve dental pain, headaches, neck and back pain, knee pain, high and low blood pressure, and morning sickness.

Increasingly, it is being used to relieve symptoms of depression as well. Of course, this leads directly to my next point - you shouldn't tell everyone everything about a story. If you tell a story about your dog, a microwave and a shoe, there are probably a LOT of details in there that just don't matter. Even if you tell the story in an interesting, funny, engaging matter, there should still be a switch in your mind somewhere that you know when to flip to shut down the stuff that just isn't that interesting. How do you do that? By framing every part of your story in terms of how you feel about it or react to it. This is a simple strategy used be advertising executives for decades to help prospective buyers connect to a story on a visceral level. Someone might hear your story, understand the points and still not care very much because it doesn't affect them. However, if you tell the same story by describing how you felt about each part of the story, they can connect to you in the present and engage with the story through natural empathy. It works in almost every conversation. Some people don't connect very well with others, and that will make the process harder in some cases, but it's relatively rare in social situations. I know this concept is a bit complicated, so let me show you what I mean. The Kitchen: Just as your bed is a cue for sleep, your kitchen is a cue for eating. If you fill your kitchen with foods that are relatively healthy for you and your family, the kitchen will become associated with healthy eating. Try to eat only in the dining areas and not in other rooms throughout your house. Your couch can be associated with relaxing or family bonding, but try not to associate it with eating. The risk is that you fall prey to a cue to eat when it's not mealtime or you're not hungry. And see if you can avoid working at the kitchen table, as you may feel inclined to snack as you do it. Hunger: Ask yourself, "Am I really hungry?" If you are craving something and it's not your planned time to eat, let fifteen minutes pass. No matter how hungry you think you are, see if you can wait fifteen minutes.

Then evaluate it: "Am I still legitimately hungry?" If so, go for an easy-to-grab food that will nourish rather than deplete you. Pay Attention to Eating: Savor flavorful and tasty food! Turn off the TV. Quit multitasking. Take a break from a stressful conversation. Think about it: you're not eating constantly, so it's a joy and a luxury when you do, and it can function as a reward. Strawberries, avocado, homemade nut butter...what delicacies. Become a hedonist by paying attention to the richness of the flavors in foods that give you energy. Sitting down at the kitchen table or in the dining room helps you do this, because it reduces distractions and cues you to be in the moment with your meal. Introduce Variety: Focus on foods to add rather than foods to eliminate. What type of variety do you want to introduce? Test out new foods. I just discovered kohlrabi, which is a wonderful type of cabbage. Also, you might not believe it, but roasted parsnips are really tasty. Find a healthy food blog that inspires you. I owe a huge load of thanks to the blog "Chocolate Covered Katie," which offers healthy deserts and easy meals that rely on some of my favorite ingredients: rolled oats, nut butters, and bananas. Another way to obtain free brand-name medication is to contact the pharmaceutical company directly. For example, if you are taking Depakote, a medication for bipolar disorder manufactured by Ab-bott Laboratories, you can contact their patient assistance program to make a request. If you are not eligible for free medication and are paying for brand-name prescriptions, there are some avenues that can help defray costs. I don't know why this is still a well-guarded secret, but the cat's out of the bag now.