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Other addictions play a role in depression as well--some of which are hidden from view, like dependency on prescription painkillers or illicit drugs. Still others fall into the category of "soft addictions," such as overeating, shopping, gambling, television viewing, video game playing, oversleeping, and online connectivity. Depression frequently goes hand in hand with addictions of some kind. Facing them, and starting the recovery process in those areas, is critical to success in healing from depression. Physical pollutants in the body. Few people are aware that common chemicals in our diet, like artificial sweeteners and preservatives, are actually neurotoxins that build up in the body and interfere with our health. In treating depression, it's vital to find and eliminate these hidden sources of stress. For all its benefits in connecting us to friends and loved ones, social media can be toxic to confidence. While it undoubtedly allows us to share happiness and positivity with those around us, it also remains open to abuse by those who want to brag about themselves or to bring others down. Rather than comparing your life and achievements with those of others (which, don't forget, have been artfully presented online), take some steps to reduce the time you spend engaging with them. Try unfollowing people you may barely know or like, or even deleting the most addictive apps from your phone. When you take a break from all the online hubbub, you'll be able to focus on who and what is truly important to you in real life. Receiving genuine compliments can boost your self-esteem - so don't brush them off. Thank the person who has paid you the compliment and take a moment to internalise what has just been said. In the same way, savour any words of praise from family, friends and work colleagues. Save positive emails, cards and messages, and file away your best performance reviews at work. Read these words of praise whenever you need a quick shot of encouragement and confidence. Mindfulness, which has developed from Buddhist teachings, is a technique for living in the here and now, rather than being preoccupied with the past or the future. It can help you reduce your stress levels by allowing you to let go of obsessive thoughts about what's been and gone, or what is yet to happen. A simple technique to increase your mindfulness is to alter your route to work slightly so that you pay more attention to your surroundings, rather than being 'on autopilot'.

Taking time to reflect on your environment can put your worries into perspective, where they might otherwise have preoccupied you and caused you stress. If you can be mindful, you will be able to pay more attention to the positive aspects of your day and gain confidence from seeing them more clearly in the present moment. The desire to do and be better is a positive trait. But continually striving for a perceived version of perfection can stop you from being happy with who you already are and prevent you from seeing all the positive things in your life. A common perfectionist tendency is to compare yourself to others. This may either take the form of direct comparison, such as, 'Sarah is more successful in her job than I am,' or of general comparison along the lines of, 'I wish I could be more like Ben.' Either way, in seeing others as somehow better than you, you are moving your focus away from your own positives. In trying to be like other people, you stop yourself from being the best version of you. Instead, think about the areas of your life you would like to improve, and then work on those. Everybody starts from different points in life, which makes comparison pointless: what matters is that you are making progress on a path you have chosen for yourself. It's possible that even if you set the most relevant, realistic goals, you may not achieve them in the way or within the timeframe you would like. Life may throw something unexpected in your path that stops you from achieving what you want, when you want, but always remember: this is not failure. Feeling like you have failed is bound to knock your confidence. The best thing to do is to draw a mental line under it, learn from what's happened and try again. The right f-word to use here is 'feedback': this is what any experience gives you to help you improve next time. As long as you are still trying, you are working towards your long-term goals - and as long as you are doing that, you will never fail. One of the most effective ways to change our behavior is to change our identity. No, this doesn't require joining a witness protection program or the CIA. Rather, as modern psychology confirms, slight alterations in the way we see ourselves can have a dramatic effect on our future actions. Consider an experiment run by a group of Stanford University psychologists in 2011. A young researcher named Christopher Bryan designed a study to test the effects of priming individuals to think of themselves in slightly different ways.

First, he asked two groups of registered voters to complete questions related to an upcoming election. One group's survey questions included the verb "to vote"--for example, "How important is it to you to vote?" The second group answered similar questions that included the noun "voter"--such as "How important is it to you to be a voter?" The difference in wording may seem minor, but the results were extraordinary. To measure the effect of the small wording change, the researchers then asked participants of their intentions to vote and cross-referenced public voting records to confirm whether they had actually followed through. The results were "among the largest experimental effects ever observed on objectively measured voter turnout," Bryan and his coauthors wrote in a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They found that those shown the survey about being a "voter" were much more likely to vote than those who were asked how likely they were "to vote." The results were so surprising that the researchers replicated the experiment during another election to confirm their validity. The results were the same: the "voter" group dramatically outperformed the "to vote" group. Bryan concluded, "People may be more likely to vote when voting is represented as an expression of self--as symbolic of a person's fundamental character--rather than as simply a behavior." Our self-image has a sizable impact on our behavior and has implications well beyond the voting booth. Identity is another cognitive shortcut that helps our brains make otherwise difficult choices in advance, thereby streamlining decision-making. Our perception of who we are changes what we do. With all that science has offered human civilization over the years, you'd think we would embrace scientific research and findings. In countless ways, science has made our lives immeasurably easier, and has contributed to even extending our life span. However, many people distrust science. Often, people believe that their own intuitive theories of how the world works are quite accurate, and so they question the value and findings of science, especially when it conflicts with their intuition. But our intuitive understanding of things is often wrong. Consider, for example, the research of Michael McCloskey on "intuitive physics." Suppose you were twirling a ball tied to the end of a string and the string suddenly snapped. What trajectory would the ball take? When McCloskey asked this question of college students, about one third thought the ball would fly off in a curved arc. But, in fact, it would fly in a straight line. The students' intuition was off the mark.16 Or consider this: if objects that are moving forward are dropped, such as bombs dropped from a plane, where will they land? About half of the people queried thought the object would fall straight down, indicating a basic misunderstanding of how an object's forward motion determines its trajectory.17 Now, you may say that these questions are unfair because you'd need a physics course to answer them correctly.

But we see falling objects every day, and so we have ample opportunity to observe these phenomena as they naturally occur. Despite considerable personal experience with moving and falling objects, our intuitive theories of motion can be quite inaccurate. McCloskey's findings have a parallel in the social sciences. People often hold intuitive beliefs about human behavior that they think are as good as anything that science has to offer. Essentially, they view the science of psychology as simply a matter of common sense. However, many of our intuitive beliefs about human behavior are wrong. As we saw earlier, many people think that religious people are more altruistic than less religious people, that opposites attract, that happy employees are more productive employees, and so on. But when these commonsense notions are carefully studied, they are proven wrong time and time again. It's no wonder we think we're excellent judges of human behavior. We have an explanation for nearly everything that happens! For example, many people rely on short, generally accepted, sayings to explain human behavior. These pithy little proverbs also serve to guide our decisions and actions. Unfortunately, for just about every proverb, you can be sure to find another that contradicts it. It's better to be safe than sorry, isn't it? But, on the other hand, nothing ventured nothing gained. Two heads are better than one, but, of course, too many cooks spoil the broth. While a penny saved is a penny earned, it is also true that you can't take it with you. Don't forget to look before you leap, but remember, he who hesitates is lost. Sure, opposites attract, but everyone knows that birds of a feather flock together. It may be true that where there's smoke there's fire, but of course, you can't tell a book by its cover.

While we all know that absence makes the heart grow fonder, we also think out of sight, out of mind. If we try, we can find some commonsense saying to explain virtually any behavior, after the fact. As a result, these aphorisms are unfalsifiable, and so they are worthless in explaining behavior or providing sound advice to guide our own behavior. What's the bottom line? We need scientific inquiry to understand our world. Some people claim that we can't trust the findings of science because scientists keep changing their minds. First, we're told, "Eggs are bad. Too much cholesterol." Then we hear, "Eggs are good. They're an important source of protein." Well, what's the story? Are eggs good or bad? Why can't scientists make up their minds? This view, however, demonstrates a basic misunderstanding of how science operates. As we've seen, science is a cumulative process, and the results of a single study tell us very little. We shouldn't form strong beliefs on the basis of one, or even a small number of studies. When evaluating scientific results, or any other evidence for that matter, we should look at the consensus view of qualified experts. Initial studies may contradict one another, and a number of studies may be needed before a consensus view emerges, but we shouldn't consider initial contradictory findings as a big problem. As Keith Stanovich observed, it's better to view the process like a projector, slowly being brought into focus. The initial blur we see on the screen could be just about anything. As the picture becomes sharper, however, a number of alternative ideas about what the picture is can be ruled out and the contents of the picture become clearer. So it is with the research process.