I recently watched an excellent TED Talk given by Johann Hari about the causes of depression and anxiety.
Depression and anxiety have been on the rise in the Western world for a long time, and Hari makes the case that it’s because of the way we live.
He points out that less than 20% of depression and anxiety is biologically based, and the rest is caused by unmet psychological needs. We all need to feel a sense of belonging, that life has meaning and purpose, that people see and value us, and that we have a future that makes sense.
For eons humans evolved to live in tribes. That was our superpower over the other animals. We excelled at banding together and cooperating to survive.
However, we no longer need a tribe to get by, and we are the first humans in history to disband our tribes. Many of us now live alone, and a lot of us don’t even have anyone that we feel close to.
Hari gives an example of a group of people who were depressed and were asked to work on a common project. Together they decided to learn about gardening and create a garden behind their doctor’s office. Being part of a group and connecting with something larger than themselves relieved their depression.
As Hari says, depression and anxiety are not a malfunction of your brain. They’re a signal that is trying to tell you something. Rather than using drugs to silence the messenger, we need to listen to the signals.
Hari perfectly described a problem that I hadn’t fully understood, and provided a taste of what a solution could look like. This also explains why the COVID lockdowns have led to an increase in depression and anxiety for many of us. We’ve been more isolated from each other, with fewer opportunities to connect.
In my experience, it’s not all that easy to find groups that bring meaningful connection, so I ask you . . .
Where have you found your tribe? I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts. You can share them with us in the comments section below.
With love and appreciation,
Painting at top: “In the Dark,” 24 x 24 inches, repurposed acrylic latex paint on canvas