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Recently, I have started writing a column "Healthy Mind" to the Brazilian magazine Acontece. The articles are in Portuguese, but below the English translation of my first article.

Our mind sometimes seems to have its own life… our thoughts go from one place to another, from one idea to another as if we do not have control of what is going on in our mind. When our mind goes from one worry to another, we become anxious. When our mind goes from one negative thought to another we could develop depression.

Unfortunately, depression does not choose social class, age, gender, economic or social status. Famous people also suffer from depression. Recently, we could attest this with Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade’s deaths. When we read the news, we are shocked and we ask ourselves “how is this possible? This person had everything and was not happy?”

Nowadays the field of psychology understands better the mechanisms of depression. Biological, psychological and social factors contribute to depression. In general, a traumatic event such as the loss of a loved one can trigger a depression episode, and others will come if the person thinks s/he has no control of the stress in her/his life.

If we consider the psychological aspects of depression, negative thoughts have an important role in depression. Our mood is often the consequence of our thoughts. When our minds go from one negative thought to another, our mood reflects this “mental negativism”. Thus, in some sense, it is not an event that determines our emotions, but our interpretation of this event.

To illustrate, imagine you are walking down a street, and someone you know does not greet you. You could think: “John did not see me, he is not wearing his glasses or he is distracted.” You could also think: “John did not say hi to me. What did I do wrong? Maybe he is angry at me”. In the second interpretation, our mind creates a negative interpretation to an event that could have a casual explanation. When our mind interprets a situation negatively, this has negative consequences to our emotions and our behaviors.

Depression has treatment. If you suffer from depression or know someone that does, try to find a qualified mental health professional to help you. Sometimes depression treatment requires medication. Sometimes just therapy with a mental health professional is sufficient. All of us have a tendency at different degrees to “ruminate” negative thoughts, and “forget” positive thoughts. This tendency is amplified in people that suffer from depression. Thus, it is important to “cultivate” positive thoughts. For a healthy mind, healthy thoughts.

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