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Conquering Depression 101

How to Tame the Gremlins and Create an Awesome Life

Have you or someone you loved ever experienced depression? If so, it’s time to tame the gremlins and create a sustainably awesome life. Here are my Top 10 Big Ideas on how to CONQUER depression–forged from my own experience.

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Rethinking Depression

How to Shed Mental Health Labels and Create Personal Meaning

This is a great book. In Rethinking Depression, Eric Maisel presents an incredibly persuasive case for how medicalized we’ve made the normal human emotions of sadness, anxiety and other unfun feelings (and how dangerous that is) while giving us an existential handbook on how to deal with life’s challenges by creating an authentic life packed with meaning. In this Note, we check out the fact that unhappiness happens while learning how to create our “existential ideal” as we make meaning in our lives! (And, therefore, a *lot* more happiness.)

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The Upward Spiral

Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time

Alex Korb is a neuroscientist in the department of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles. (Go Bruins!) He’s also a great writer. As per the sub-title, the book is all about “Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time.” It’s REALLY good. Inspiring. Scientifically grounded. Simple. Practical. <- A winning formula for a great book! Big Ideas we explore include the power of exercising your brain (which is the #1 tip, btw), setting goals (and making decisions), developing positive habits (via repetition, repetition, repetition), biofeedback (and how to take advantage of it), and the power of others (rely on it!).


The Joy of Movement

How exercise helps us find happiness, hope, connection, and courage

I’m a big fan of Kelly McGonigal and her ability to help us apply scientific wisdom to our lives. We’ve covered two of her earlier books: The Willpower Instinct and The Upside of Stress. So... When I got this book, knew I’d enjoy it. But, I didn’t anticipate JUST how much I’d love it. We have some great Notes on Movement (Spark, Spartan Up and No Sweat among my favorites), but Kelly’s book will be our new go-to for the science of WHY exercise/movement is so essential to our well-being. It’s PHENOMENAL. Reading about the SCIENCE behind stories of transformation (and how, as per the sub-title of her book: “Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage”) also made me that much more clear on the power of what we’re doing with all of our work and the importance of focusing so much on Energy (especially with our Mastery and Coach programs). Big Ideas we explore include: Hope Molecules (and how to create them), persistence highs (and how to create them), collective effervescence (and why it's so awesome), how we endure (hint: TOGETHER!), and OMMS!!! (Obstacles (literally!) Make Me Stronger!).


Making Hope Happen

Create the Future You Want for Yourself and Others

Did you know there's a science of hope? Yep. And Shane Lopez is the world's leading researchig studying the science of hope. This book is an inspiring look at the nuts and bolts of cultivating hope. Big Ideas we explore include differentiating hope from fantastizing and dwelling, the three keys to hope (goals + agency + pathways) , futurecasting, sirens, when/where plans and why hope is so important for leadership.

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Positive Psychology and the Body

The Somatopsychic Side to Flourishing

"Positive Psychology and the Body." Unfortunately, those two subjects are rarely connected--which is why I was so excited to get this book when I saw the title. It's actually a *textbook* not a normal book. It provides an overview of research on a range of subjects including: “Positive Psychophysiology,” “Positive Neuroscience,” “Positive Sexuality” and “Positive Nutrition.” Big Ideas we explore include a quick look at Martin Seligman's PERMA approach to eudaimonic (vis-a-vis hedonic) happiness, your nervous system (flip the switch!), longevity and positive emotion (some astonishing stats), diet and wellbeing/depression (sugar begone!), and physical activity (science says: it does a body good!).


Eat Move Sleep

How Small Choices Lead to Big Changes

Eat Move Sleep. The simple, powerful keys to optimal health and well-being. We talk about these fundamentals ALL the time and this is my new favorite book on health. Big Ideas we explore include 10,008 hours and 36 minutes (the magic # of elite performance), candy for cancer cells, the power of measuring whatever it is you want to improve, how to buy willpower at the store, and a vaccine for the common cold.

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The Emotional Life of Your Brain

How Its Unique Patterns Affect the Way You Think, Feel, and Live - and How You Can Change Them

Richie Davidson is one of the world's leading neuroscientists and was the first guy to check out monks' brains in a lab. He founded the affective + contemplative neuroscience fields and is, quite simply, a neuroscientist rock star. In this Note, we explore some of his best Big Ideas, understanding how our thoughts and behaviors affect the very structure of our brains and the emotions we feel. We'll also look at how to dial it all in.

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You Can Heal Your Life

This book has sold 30 (!!) million copies and Louise (founder of Hay House) Hay is one of the vanguards of the modern self-development era. This book rocks and in the Note, we'll look at some amazing Big Ideas—starting with the need to love and approve of ourselves exactly the way we are and including the power of changing our "should's" to "could's" and cleaning out our mental houses as we celebrate (yes, celebrate!) paying our bills!

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Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice

Do you have a critical inner voice? Join the club! :) This book is, as the title suggests, all about how we can conquer those little gremlins in our head. In the note, we explore Big Ideas on how to distinguish between the “real you” and the critical inner voice, challenge depression and live a good, examined life!

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Why Your Life Sucks

Why Your Life Sucks. That has to win the award for best title ever. Cohen is a very funny man. He’s also super wise and a great story teller and this book is packed with goodness on how we can unsuck our lives. My favorite Big Ideas (that we cover in the Note) include everything from tuning in to radio station “KNOW,” hiring your own thought bouncer and remembering to nourish your spirit.


Why We Sleep

Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

Matthew Walker is one of the world’s leading neuroscientists and sleep experts. He’s a professor at UC Berkeley (and former professor at Harvard) who has spent decades studying why we sleep and how to, as per the sub-title of this book, unlock the power of sleep and dreams. As you know if you’ve been following along, I’m a HUGE advocate of Optimizing our sleep as a fundamental practice in Optimizing our lives. This book has made me EVEN MORE bullish about the power of sleep. The consequences of chronically depriving ourselves of the sleep we need? Well, they’re astonishingly devastating—dramatically increasing the odds of having everything from mood disorders to cancer (and everything else we don’t want). Big Ideas we explore include the fact that you're more likely to get struck by lightning than have the gene that let's you get by on less than the recommended sleep, the universality of sleep (even worms sleep!!), resetting baselines, the iPad effect (did you know how much using one before sleep messes w/your melatonin?), and some tips to Optimize your sleep TONIGHT!!!

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#25 Grateful Flow

The Antidote to Ick Sauce
In our last +1, we chatted about the scientifically-proven power of gratitude: Simply writing down 5 things you’re grateful for can boost

#28 Emotional Stamina

What to Do When You’re Having a Rough Day
What do you do when you’re having a rough day? Maybe it starts the moment you wake up and you just don’t feel like doing your normal
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#34 The Science of Self-Compassion

Three Keys: Self-Kindness + Common Humanity + Mindfulness
As we go ALL IN on Optimizing our lives, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. That’s when the science of Self-Compassion comes in. The science
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#73 Identity → Behaviors → Feelings

Not the Other Way Around
Continuing our theme of feelings following behavior, let’s chat about some wisdom from Eric Greitens. Eric is a fascinating guy. Rhodes
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#127 Lion vs. Jungle

Be Nice to Your Limbic System, Please
Alberto Villoldo tells us that we evolved to deal with one lion roaring at us at a time. That lion’s roar triggers a fight or flight
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#139 Feelings Fade

But Only If You Let Them
David Reynolds tells us that feelings follow behavior. You do something and then you feel great—not the other way around. He also tells us

#279 Teflon vs. Velcro

We’re Wired to Hold On to Negative Stuff
Rick Hanson is a leading neuroscientist and mindfulness teacher who wrote a couple great books: Buddha’s Brain and Hardwired for
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#315 Expecto Patronum!

How to Deal with the Dementors in Your Life
Continuing our Harry Potter theme, let’s explore how to deal with dementors in your life. Recall that dementors are big, ugly, wraith-like
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#427 Tibetan Word for “Guilty”

<- Doesn’t Exist — Here’s the Closest Thing
Do you know what the Tibetan word for “guilty” is? Trick question! 🤡 There ISN’T a word for “guilty” in Tibetan. According to
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#113 Making Yourself Proud

How Can You Make Yourself Proud Today?
After finishing the last +1, I got up out of my chair and celebrated another little micro-win. I actually did a little fist pump and said:
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#623 Depressed? Two Ways to Respond

Science Says: One Is Better than the Other
In our last +1, we talked about Michael Jordan and Carol Dweck and growth mindsets. I mentioned the fact that when I imagined Jordan crying
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#624 Depressed? Dan Millman Says…

Do Something! (Might As Well Have a Clean House, eh?)
In our last +1, we talked about Carol Dweck’s wisdom on how to deal with depression. (Recall: Growth-mindset people work harder when they
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#642 Nietzsche’s Formula for Happiness

And: Hope and Goals, Science of
As you know, I’m a huge fan of the science of Optimizing. (Ancient wisdom + modern science + practical tools, baby! 🙂) Today I’d like
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#666 Light and Darkness

And the Time Between the Two
In our last +1, we talked about the wonderful parallel wisdom in the first Big Ideas from a couple of our Notes. As you may recall, both
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#667 EXPECT the Occasional Darkness

<- A Key Way to Deal with It
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that although the light will always shine when you flip the switch there will almost certainly be
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#745 Sleep: The Miracle Drug!

Let’s Pop The Metaphorical Pills to Reduce the Real Ones
Why We Sleep is a life-changing kinda book. (You get it yet? Trust me, you’ll thank me!) We’re going to spend a few more days mining a
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#763 The Happiness Diet

vs. The SAD + MAD Diets
In our last +1, we talked about my recent PhilosophersNotes-athon. 25 PN’s in 2.5 days for the win!! One of the Notes I REALLY enjoyed was
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#853 Mudita: The Antidote to Envy

How to Cure Your Soul Ulcer
In our last +1, we chatted about the fact that ancient lovers of wisdom and modern scientists agree: Envy is toxic. As Socrates so
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#855 The Comparison Game

You Will Always Lose It (Here’s Why)
We’re kinda on a roll with the whole envy-squishing theme, so why not one more? In our last +1, we talked about the fact that if we’re
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#903 Got Serotonin?

Hide and Seek: Brain vs. Gut
Serotonin. At this stage, most of us have at least a vague sense that serotonin is one of the primary neurotransmitters that makes us feel
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#946 Thought Alchemy

How to Change One Thought for Another
In our last +1, we talked about my new go-to mantra: “Thank you.” You try it out yet? Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank
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#948 Despair --> Hope

The Best Bridge?
In our last +1, we put on our Optimizing nerd glasses ( 🤓 !!!) and explored the etymological (and psychological) opposites: prosper and
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#1071 The #1 Obstacle to Gratitude

And Its Remedy
In our last +1, we continued our exploration of the science of gratitude by practicing the grateful art of shifting from taking things
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#1166 Eudaimonism vs. Hedonism

Don’t Want to Be Depressed? Science Says…
In our last +1, we talked about the fact that when we go after accumulating more and more “stuff” (whether that’s the latest gadgets
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#1175 Sugar & Depression

Some Crazy (And Crazy-Making!) Stats
Continuing our brief tour through Kate Hefferon’s textbook on Positive Psychology and the Body, let’s flip open to the chapter on
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#1225 Make Decisions

But Only If You Want to Feel Better
In our last +1, we talked about Alex Korb‘s #1 tip to kickstart an Upward Spiral and “Use Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of
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#917 Sleep Curfews

Caffeine + Exercise + Eating + Screens + Work
Continuing our (second!) trip through Sleep Optimizing, let’s talk about some important curfews. Remember our Top 10 Sleep Kryptonites?
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#234 If We Worked Together 1-on-1

I’d Ask You This Question
If you and I worked together 1-on-1, we’d talk about a lot of fun things. You and your heroic potential. Your #1 wildly important goal.
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#671 The Magic Pill of Meditation

Do You Take It? (Science Says…)
In our last +1, we talked about meditation’s instant ROI. Quick recap: Stanford science says that if you have trouble sleeping, you can
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#440 Exercise vs. Zoloft

Feeling Depressed? Pop Your Exercise Pill!
We’ve talked about how exercise is kinda like taking a little bit of Ritalin and a little bit of Prozac, but somehow we’ve gotten this