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Why do scientists say ‘Its a chemical soup’ so often? Do they think we can’t understand complexity?

Despite that I like the idea in this article that we can get more control over how we feel. Thats pretty important news. A group member brought print-outs of this article along for us to have a look at

New Research Shows That Humans Have More Control Over Their Happiness Than Previously Thought

There is a video of the ABC Show here.


Jan. 11, 2008

What exactly is happening inside the brains of people experiencing joy and happiness?

“It’s a very complicated chemical soup,” explained Dr. Richard Davidson, who has made a life’s work out of studying “happy brains.” His lab at the University of Wisconsin is devoted to understanding how much of our joy level is set at birth, and how much we can control.

Bill WeirWith a skull cap containing 128 sensors, Davidson’s team can watch a subject’s brain respond to a series of photographs, some pleasant, some distressing.

“We can challenge the brain by presenting these emotional images and look to see how you respond to them,” Davidson said.

ABC News’ Bill Weir underwent the test, and by studying the activity in his left prefrontal cortex, Davidson discovered that Weir’s brain was “more positive than not.”

“Now, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have episodes of negative emotion,” he explained. “But those negative emotions don’t linger.”

People with happy brains have their parents to thank, to a certain extent, not only for happy genes, but also for loving childhoods. Studies have shown that angry or critical parents can actually alter a child’s happiness level until it’s set around age 16. But can adults adjust their own feelings of happiness?

Happiness Interventions

Until recently, most research psychologists were more interested in what made people depressed than what made them happy, and pharmaceutical companies have played a crucial role in promoting happiness by developing very successful anti-depressants. But evolving research in a field known as positive psychology is getting people to ask themselves how they can become happier, not through drugs, but by making changes in how they act and think.

“Antidepressants don’t make people happier, they just decrease negative emotions,” says University of California-Riverside psychology professor Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky. In her new book, “The How of Happiness,” Lyubomirksy argues that as much as 40 percent of our happiness “is left for the intentional activities that we can choose to engage in — the things that we do and think every day of our lives.”

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

Read the whole article here

Chris Hooker is a school counsellor who heads the Student Support Faculty in a Christchurch high school. In the Press (April 4, 2008) he says:

Moves to find alternatives to drugs to treat depression are welcome, but they must not be limited to a select group of medical professionals.

It is great to see that medical researchers, the Government, district health boards and GP groups are looking towards alternatives to drug treatments for depression. I must admit to a slightly cynical initial response …, something like, “If they had asked us (school counseuors) we could have told them that 25 years ago”. But that’s not helpftd and it is good to see this development in approaches to treating depression.

Young people are comparatively well served in the holistic approach to treating depression, and there are some very successfull models in use already, which may well be adapted to treating adults. School counsellors do a huge amount of work in helping young people deal with depression, from the mdd to the severe and dangerous.

They do this in many ways. One is by counselling, and, contrary to much popular belief, school counsellors are not just well-intentioned teachers with little formal training. They are trained professionals, often qualified at postgraduate level. Other methods can include education about depression and how to deal with it, for parents, teachers and those affected.

School counsellors maintain close relationships with DHB child and adolescent mental health services, GPs, Child Youth and Family, police youth aid officers and the superb police child abuse team, a wide variety of NGOs (non-governmental organisations) church agencies and community agencies and frequently refer students to these organisations.

The adult version of the school counsellor may well be the free therapy service being trialed in many primary health organisations (PHOS) – an exciting development. The second very successful youth model is the Youth Health Centre in Hereford Street, This is a “one-stop shop” health centre, with counsellors, youth workers, and nurses backed up by a dedicated GP team, all in a youth-friendly environment. There is a strong mental health component to the work done by the centre and a deliberate holistic approach to mental health care, as evidenced by the range of staff skills. The youth-friendly nature of the service attracts many young people who are reluctant to engage witi-i mainstream services. The adult version could be a similar central city one-stop shop, providing health services with a strong focus on holistic mental health care, especially for the more marginalised members of the community.

There is also an amazing range of NGOS, church-based groups and community groups, typically relying on a great deal of volunteer labour and operating on a shoestring, but because they are in the community, user-friendly and accessible, they do sterling work. If the Government and its agencies, and GP groups, want to work towards a wider range of treatment options for depression, they must spend a lot of time consulting with the people who are already on the ground doing the work, and took at better resourcing those groups rather than reinventing the wheel in a restricted medical model.

I dispute the reported comments that the “gold standard” is treatment by a clinical psychologist. Of course this is true for many people, but for others the first steps in a therapeutic intervention ma come from their school counsellor, the trainee counsellor at the church agency or their youth group leader. Similarly, I am concerned that the medical world appears to have “discovered” cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Yes, it is good, but so are solution focused therapy, narrative therapy and other models. How about “complementary approaches to medication, rather than “alternatives”.

If the next step in the treatment of depression is limited to funding psychologists or a small traditional range of medical professionals registered under the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act, to carry out a specified type of therapy (eg. CBT) in their offices, then the boat will have been well and truly missed.

Workshop for Women

The Women’s Centre group called Depression or Expression has been highly recommended by our DSN group members. The group operates on the belief we suppress a lot of our feelings and that we need to learn safe and effective ways of expressing them. The group’s facilitator’s, Nilgun Kulpe and Mareile Stoppel, aim to create a supportive group environment, encourage creative expression, safe sharing with others and a start to the healing process.

The courses are held at Aranui High School and cost $20/$35.

For more details contact the Women’s Centre, Level 2, 134 Manchester Street. PO Box 13476, Christchurch 8141. Phone: (03) 379 7047

Step Ahead provides social, educational, recreational and prevocational rehabilitation through activity based programmes. Their aim is to enable people to live well in their community. Step Ahead contributes to a reality where anyone with a mental illness has access to the essentials for a life worth living. They run programmes in Stanmore Road, West, Rangiora, Amberley, Darfield and Ashburton.

Next Weeks Programme at Stanmore from their Whats on page is below:

Monday 10 March

10:00 Coffee Morning & 50c Morning Tea – Sausage Rolls  (Helen)
10:30 Womens Group Picnic at Ashley Gorge – Bring lunch, togs, sunhat etc ($1.00)
1:00 Walking Group

Tuesday 11 March

10:00 Art with Selwyn ($2.00)
5:00 Movies at Readings ($5.00)

Wednesday 12 March

9:15 Gym at Crichton Cobbers – Meet at Step Ahead ($2.00)
10:30 Rainbow Group
12:30 Lunch ($1.00)
1:00 Games Afternoon
1:00 Stack firewood at Step Ahead – Volunteers needed
1:15 Dietitian

Thursday 13 March

10:00 Walking Group
10:30 Meals on Wheels
10:30 All Day Stonecarving with Amberley ($4.00) – Bring your lunch
1:30 Swim/Relax at Centennial ($3.00)
1:30 Tennis

Friday 14 March

9:00 Tramp
9:30 Peer Support Training – Leave Step Ahead at 9.15am or meet at Holy Trinity Church Hall
10:15 Ten Pin Bowls ($4.50)
1:00 Sewing

Thanks and goodbye to Rick Shaw who has left DSN after all these years. You will be missed greatly by clients past and present and we wish you the best from everyone at DSN. Thanks to those who attended Rick’s farewell at te Ara O Te Ora on Thursday 13th March. It was a great opportunity for people get up and say to Rick how much he has helped them in their recovery journey.


Good luck Rick

  • If you find yourself going through hell, keep going. Winston Churchill
  • I start to think there really is no cure for depression, that happiness is an ongoing battle, and I wonder if it isn’t one I’ll have to fight for as long as I live. I wonder if it’s worth it. Elizabeth Wurtzel
  • This is my depressed stance. When you’re depressed, it makes a lot of difference how you stand. The worst thing you can do is straighten up and hold your head high because then you’ll start to feel better. If you’re going to get any joy out of being depressed, you’ve got to stand like this. Charlie Brown
  • Depression is the inability to construct a future. Rollo May
  • Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising everytime we fall. Confucius
  • The term Clinical depression gets its way into many dialogues nowadays. One has the sense that a calamity has transpired in the supernatural background. Leonard Cohen
  • Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm. Steven Wright
  • I cry a lot. My emotions are very close to my surface. I don’t want to hold anything in so it it festers and turns into pus – a pustule of emotion that explodes into a festering cesspool of depression. Nicolas Cage
  • You largely constructed your depression. It wasn’t given to you. Therefore, you can deconstruct it. Albert Ellis
  • Depression is nourished by a lifetime of ungrieved and unforgiven hurts Penelope Sweet
April 2008
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