Preventing Depression: How Positive Psychology Can Help With Prevention

Mental illness has long since arrived in the middle of our society. Effective preventive measures are all the more important. Many experts rely on positive psychology for this. One of these is the psychotherapist Andrea Horn. In an interview, he reveals what positive psychology can really achieve and what a mixtape has to do with happiness.

We live in tumultuous times. Many people wonder how they can cope with the crises of these days without jeopardizing their mental health. Together with your colleague Saskia Rudolph, you support people with positive psychology at What is it about?

The essence of positive psychology is that all of us are asked to take care of ourselves and empower ourselves, rather than always asking ourselves what to do when I’m feeling down. So it’s not about curing mental illness. Rather, the focus is on how you can shape your life in a self-determined and happy way.

So is positive psychology a topic that only healthy people should study?

My basic attitude is: positive psychology is good for everyone. There are also some diseases that can be positively influenced with the help of psychological interventions. These include autoimmune diseases and all chronic stress-related diseases. But diabetes or cardiovascular disease can also be positively influenced by a conscious confrontation with oneself.

Positive psychology can therefore have a positive influence on physical illnesses. But what if I have mental health problems?

I think in that case you have to be careful not to put yourself under pressure. It happens, for example, when you think: to be happy, all I have to do is try harder. This is a very wrong message, but sadly it is being broadcast over and over again. Either way, it makes sense to deal with your mental illness. But if I’m stuck in a depression, I don’t have to face the goals for the next ten years. In this case, it’s more about small steps towards improvement.

The mixtape of our lives

Apart from mental illnesses and crises: what do we need to live happily?

To clarify, I like to usea metaphor: imagine life as a tape recorder. Each of us gets our own mixtape early in our life. There are things on side A that we cannot control. These are, for example, our genes, socialization and our parental home. That’s 50 percent that we can’t change, but they shape us anyway.

What if we don’t like this tape?

It would be a shame to throw it away because we only have this. But we can turn the tape.There are also some things on the B-side that are already preset: the blows of fate as well as the good and bad experiences that happen to us. But: There are also some songs we can record ourselves, about 40 percent.

And how exactly do we record the tape of our lives?

In order to import our playlist, we need a recorder with different buttons. There is the “Play” button. It represents everything that inspires, guides and motivates us. The “Pause” button represents what promises us relaxation and regeneration, that is, the quiet moments in life that we like to neglect. These are also extremely important. There is also the “rewind” button, which allows us to see what has shaped us throughout our lives and what we are grateful for and proud of. Then there is the “record” button, which allows us to preserve all the people, moments and feelings that are important to us. And there is the “Fast Forward” button. It is about our goals, dreams and values ​​in life. Perhaps you have already guessed: for a happy life we ​​need all the keys.

A nice picture of the different areas of influence on our well-being. But what can we do about it in practice?

With the photo you can always wonder in everyday life which button you are stuck on. For example, am I moving forward fast and living exclusively in the future, or do I also look to the here and now and take matters into my own hands? Or is it time to hit the pause button again?

Because it is worth reflecting on yourself

So, as is often the case, it’s about self-reflection …

Exactly.Self-reflection is the essence and purpose of everything. We must learn to look at ourselves and question ourselves. We should find out what our strengths are and what we really want from life. The first step here is: give yourself some time. Ten minutes a week is enough to address specific questions. The problem with reading the guides is often that you only touch the questions. It is therefore important to really take the selected questions to heart and, ideally, write down the answer.

Honest self-reflection is now almost the supreme discipline of personal development. How can I get started with this?

Books and movies can help with self-reflection. By gaining insight into other thought worlds, we automatically question ourselves accordingly. We often notice parallels or differences in topics that we may not have thought about at all. The same also happens in direct exchange with other people.

So do I absolutely need healthy self-reflection to be happy?

Not necessarily.There are many people who think little for themselves and continue to live life very well. Anyone who has simply noticed a lot of resources and a positive basic attitude on the A side naturally has a significantly lower risk of mental illness. But there is also the possibility that this will change due to a stroke of fate. I think it definitely helps with self-reflection. Because then you realize faster when something is wrong and you can intervene sooner.

The difference between positive psychology and optimism

Aside from self-reflection, what helps you actively take care of your mental health?

Especially right now with the war, the climate crisis and the Corona, it’s extremely important to see what you can really affect yourself. We can’t really control most crises, but to some extent we can control our lives. It is called self-efficacy and it is a real balm for our soul. The opposite would be the loss of control. And that’s what can make you sick in the long run.

And what about an optimistic attitude towards life and all its adversities?

Positive psychology is often confused with positive thinking. The goal is not that we walk through the world glowing with joy every day. It is simply not possible. So the first step is to accept that there is a lot of hustle and bustle and that it does something about it emotionally. Our emotional world is like a color palette: there are very cheerful and bright colors, but also a very dark palette. Positive psychology does not say that we paint every day with the brightest colors, but that we recognize this diversity. As a result, sooner or later we reach a certain quality of life.

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