When those needs are at odds with your being your authentic self, you must prevail. By avoiding the feed, I'm much more likely to use social media mindfully while still allowing time to connect with others proactively. Just as companies like Facebook and LinkedIn implement behavioral design to keep us scrolling, YouTube deploys similar psychological hacks to keep us watching with its powerful external triggers. As you watch a video, YouTube's algorithm hums away at predicting what you'll likely want to watch next, based on the topic of the video you're currently watching and your video history. YouTube serves up thumbnail images of recommended videos along the right side of the web page, usually next to advertisements for sponsored videos targeted at you. Similar to a news feed, these thumbnails also appear as soon as you land on YouTube's homepage, sending you on a hunt for more digital treasure. Such external triggers are there to keep you watching video after video. Of course, there's nothing inherently wrong with spending time on YouTube. I have time reserved in my timeboxed calendar to indulge in YouTube videos, and I love it! But rather than mindlessly viewing the next recommended video or clicking on yet another enticing suggestion, I use some hacks of my own to make sure I only watch videos I'd planned to see. You can hack back YouTube by removing distracting video thumbnails and ads. Overcoming the countless external triggers on social media, from news feeds to suggested videos, represents a significant step in our quest to become indistractable. Regardless of the exact tool we choose, the key is to regain control over our experiences rather than allowing the social networks to control our time and attention. Feeds, like the ones we scroll through on social media, are designed to keep you engaged. Feeds are full of external triggers that can drive us to distraction. What these creative professionals understand is that focus not only requires keeping distraction out; it also necessitates keeping ourselves in. After we've learned to master internal triggers, make time for traction, and hack back external triggers, the last step to becoming indistractable involves preventing ourselves from sliding into distraction. To do so, we must learn a powerful technique called a "precommitment," which involves removing a future choice in order to overcome our impulsivity. Although researchers are still studying why it is so effective, precommitment is, in fact, an age-old tactic. Perhaps the most iconic precommitment in history appears in the ancient telling of the Odyssey.

In the story, Ulysses must sail his ship and crew past the land of the Sirens, who sing a bewitching song known to draw sailors to their shores. When sailors approach, they wreck their ships on the Sirens' rocky coast and perish. Knowing the danger ahead, Ulysses hatches a clever plan to avoid this fate. He orders his men to fill their ears with beeswax so they cannot hear the Sirens' call. Everyone follows Ulysses's orders, with the exception of Ulysses, who wants to hear the beautiful song for himself. But Ulysses knows that he will be tempted to either steer his ship toward the rocks or jump into the sea to reach the Sirens. To safeguard himself and his men, he instructs his crew to tie him to the mast of the ship and instructs them not to set him free nor change course until the ship is in the clear, no matter what he says or does. The crew follows Ulysses's commands, and as the ship passes the Sirens' shores, he is driven temporarily insane by their song. In an angry rage, he calls for his men to let him go, but since they cannot hear the Sirens nor their captain, they navigate past the danger safely. In Homer's Odyssey, Ulysses resists the Sirens' song by making a precommitment and successfully avoiding the distraction. A "Ulysses pact" is defined as "a freely made decision that is designed and intended to bind oneself in the future," and is a type of precommitment we still use today. For example, we precommit to advanced health-care directives to let our doctors and family members know our intentions should we lose our ability to make sound judgments. We precommit to our financial security by depositing money in retirement accounts with steep penalties for early withdrawal to ensure we don't spend funds we'll need later in life. We covet the fidelity that is promised in a lifelong relationship bound by the contract of marriage. Such precommitments are powerful because they cement our intentions when we're clearheaded and make us less likely to act against our best interests later. Just as we make precommitments in other areas of our lives, we can utilize them in our counteroffensive against distraction. None of this comes easily, but with continued effort and practice you will be able to manage your depression and increase your chance of staying well. A very wise clinical psychologist reminded me of this one day when I was feeling particularly low and hopeless about my situation, overwhelmed with negative thoughts, which he believed were untrue and distorted. My depressed brain believed these thoughts were true and would last forever, something that is common in depression. It was easier to believe these thoughts than to do the work of challenging them, particularly when so depressed.

His point was that these thoughts were the depression talking, and that they would not last forever. He said that it was not fair to me to believe something that was not true, something that was based on the disease, even though my brain was trying to tell me otherwise. He asked me to be patient and wait until the negative, distorted thoughts passed. This was not easy to do, but with our work together and time, they eventually did. I try to remind myself of this each time the negative thoughts become intrusive. The time you are feeling the worst is not the time to give up! Again, this advice came from an extraordinarily wise and clever psychiatrist at a dark and hopeless time in my life. I was ready to call it quits, and he was just not going to let that happen. He wrote this statement on a paper prescription pad and signed it. I still keep the paper in my wallet. His point was that we should not make major life decisions, such as giving up, when we are very down and depressed, at our lowest point. When you are feeling the worst, you are not in a position to make the best decisions for yourself and may do something that you will later regret. At the time you don't realize it and may think that you are capable of making a reasonable decision--your depressed brain is telling you to go ahead with it. His plea was to wait until I was feeling better to make any major life decisions. He was clever, because of course, when you are feeling better, you do not want to give up! So, in this way he got me to keep going and not give up. Feelings are not fact. Interpretation is not fact. Judgment is not fact. STOP.

Look at the facts. Then modify your assessment/interpretation of the situation. This was a reminder from my therapist when I struggled with believing my distorted thoughts were facts. He reminded me that in depression, negative events are magnified and may dominate your thinking. When you are depressed, you are more likely to believe biased or distorted thoughts are true. Remember: thoughts and feelings are not facts. "Feelings" are created by your thoughts and your interpretations of an event, not by the actual event. Do not confuse feelings and thoughts with facts. Stop and look at the situation in front of you, at the objective facts of the situation. Then make your own assessment based on these facts and not based on any distorted thoughts or feelings. Doing this will bring you to a more realistic view of the situation and cause you less distress. With depression, feeling "good" is alien and may feel uncomfortable at first. You are not used to it and may feel anxious. The brain sees it as different and "not right," so the tendency is to go back. Don't. You have to push yourself. Here, a therapist was preparing me for the idea of making progress in therapy. The statement points out that when you are immersed in a mind state like depression for a long time, the brain gets used to it and sees any change from depression as "different." So, when you start to feel good, that new "feel good" state may feel "bad" or uncomfortable to you. You might feel anxious, irritable, and out of sorts. You might feel like retreating back to your old depressed self, which is familiar.

Do not allow that to happen. You have to push yourself to get used to the new idea of feeling "good," or at least "better," and eventually you will adjust to it. After all, that is your ultimate goal. Practice consciously endorsing yourself. To illustrate the importance of an experiment's controls, let's design a study to investigate whether a new drug is effective in treating a certain illness. We could simply give the drug to a group of people and see if they get better. But we already know that people sometimes get better on their own because the body has a tremendous capacity to heal itself. And, diseases have a natural variability, so even people with major illnesses can feel better at times. If people improve after taking the new drug, we might be tempted to claim that the drug cured the disease, but that's not necessarily the case. This research design doesn't rule out the other competing explanations. So let's add a second group to the study, people who do not receive the drug treatment. Getting better in this group could only be the result of the body's ability to heal itself or the natural variability of the disease. If about the same number of people get better with and without the treatment, we can conclude that the drug did not contribute to the healing. But what if significantly more people got better in the group who received the drug? Can we conclude that the drug worked? I'm afraid not. We still have plausible alternative explanations. Remember the placebo effect--if people believe they are receiving a treatment that works, even if it's nothing more than a sugar pill, they are more likely to get better than if they receive no pill at all. We can eliminate this problem by replacing the no treatment group with a placebo group (i.e., people who receive a sugar pill or some other treatment with no medicinal benefits). Further, we have to be sure that the people don't know whether they're receiving the actual drug or the placebo.