First 30 Days Blog

02 aug

Be Specific to Be Happier

Jope2My formative years were happy ones, yet I was still an anxious kid. But, it was this healthy amount of anxiety that also gave me the drive to succeed. I had my eye on whichever prize was relevant at the time (finish college, attend graduate school, stop listening to Lilith Fair artists – talk about depressing). I eventually graduated, got a job and then everything sort of stopped. I spent so many years working at record pace that I just wanted to relax. Except now I had nothing to shoot for and succeed at.

I remember my mother saying, “Not every day can be out-of-this-world exciting,” when I lamented I had the blahs. She was right, but it turns out there may have been more to it.

A recent study out of The University of Liverpool found a link between depression and making generalized personal goals. Although the study looks specifically at people already dealing with depression and subsequent goal-setting, I tend to think this might be a chicken-and-egg scenario. Looking back on my own situation, I didn’t have much on the docket when I began to feel noticeable sadness. Sure, I wanted to get married one day, but that wasn’t in the game plan immediately. Yes, I wanted to travel, but I didn’t have a destination in mind. I hadn’t set specific, actionable goals. I had no timeline for anything. I felt aimless. Hello, depression.

After all, when I did have a carrot dangling in front of me in years past, I generally felt okay. Yet, setting goals never dawned on me.

The research from this study brings up a crucial point: Vague goals are much harder to achieve and leave someone feeling like they failed. Not exactly a great ingredient for helping depression. It goes without saying that anyone with clinical depression has one giant goal: To be happy. Stop and ask yourself how you are going to get there. Setting up short, medium and long-term goals can help. And hey, it’s ok if your short-term goal is “leaving the house today.”

Depression does a number on our thought process and it becomes normal to generalize just about anything (Everyone hates me, I’m not good at my job, etc.). Instead, take any one of those thoughts and work toward changing it. Feel like everyone hates you? Call your best friend. There’s one guaranteed person who will assure you that you’re loveable. There’s your jumping off point, now go from there.

Jennifer Jope is the author of, where she documents her own struggles with depression, including what she learned in a behavioral health program. Her health writing has appeared in Dr. Andrew Weil’s Self Healing Newsletter and

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Posted by Jen Jope on August 2nd, 2013 in Health | 0 comments

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