Unhelpful Thinking Styles

The information here is consolidated from half a dozen documents from various sources that I have found over the years as I’ve learned about depression and how to battle it.

People experiencing depression or anxiety (or both) often have automatic ways of thinking which can exacerbate the emotional state. Because these thinking styles are automatic they can be difficult to change, but simply identifying when they occur is a good step on the road to changing our default thinking mode.

All or nothing thinking

Viewing things in absolute, black-or-white terms, without recognising any middle ground.

  • success or failure
  • perfect or worthless
  • either I do it right or not at all

Blaming

Focusing on who is to blame for a problem rather than what can be done to solve it.

Mental filter

This is a sort of tunnel vision in which you focus on only one part of a situation and ignore the rest. Usually it involves focusing on only the negatives and ignoring the positives.

Jumping to conclusions

It would be nice to think that whenever you have a hunch about something is is correct, but the reality is that often we are wrong in our hunches. If we rely on this type of thinking it can lead to problems. There are two key types of jumping to conclusions:

  • Mind reading: Imagining you know what others are thinking, feeling or intending to do. This is a very common way of thinking.
  • Fortune telling: Predicting the future. Making negative predictions about how something will turn out.

Emotional reasoning

Assuming that because you feel a certain way then what you think must be true. Have you ever felt anxious about something and thought to yourself, “I know this isn’t going to work out well” yet everything turned out just fine? This is emotional reasoning. “I feel, therefore it is” is not valid logic.

  • I feel embarrassed so I must be an idiot.
  • I feel anxious, something bad is going to happen.

Labelling

Assigning global, negative labels to yourself or other people. By defining yourself or other people by one specific behaviour, usually one you consider negative, you are ignoring all the other positive aspects of yourself or others.

  • I’m such an idiot.
  • I’m completely useless.
  • They’re so inconsiderate.

Over-generalising

Drawing sweeping conclusions based on a single incident. Seeing a pattern based upon a single event, or being overly broad in the conclusions you draw.

  • Everything is always rubbish.
  • Nothing good ever happens.
  • Things never turn out well for me.

Catastrophising

Blowing things out of proportion. Viewing a situation as terrible, awful, horrible. Taking what might be a slight problem and viewing the most extreme negative version of it.

  • What if… !!!
  • Oh no …

Downplaying positives

Minimising or dismissing your positive qualities, achievements or behaviours by telling yourself they are unimportant or do not count. This may include exaggerating the positive qualities of other people while downplaying your own attributes.

  • That doesn’t count, I was just lucky.
  • They didn’t really mean it, they were just being polite.

Shoulds and musts

Focusing on how things or people ‘should or ‘must’ be. Treating your own standards or preferences as rules that everyone must live by. It is not always unhelpful to think, “I should get my work done on time”, but if the ‘shoulds’ or ‘musts’ become unreasonably demanding it leads to guilt and disappointment.

Personalisation

Blaming yourself or taking responsibility for something that wasn’t completely your fault. Telling yourself that events relate to you when they may not.

  • This is my fault.

Intolerance of uncertainty

Struggling to accept things being uncertain or unknown.

  • What if something bad happens?

Why Aussies Hate Church

The actual name of the infographic I’m discussing today is the ‘Australian Communities Report’, but I suspect I found it through a link with the more provocative title of Why Aussies Hate Church and I kind of like that.

I have no idea where I downloaded this infographic from, but it is available here at the McCrindle Research website, along with a bunch of other interesting infographic resources.

Why it is of interest

I’m quite interested in this because Australia is culturally similar to New Zealand and so social attitudes are likely to be comparable between the two nations and I’ve not stumbled across much demographic research into the religious beliefs of Kiwis.

Overview

I’m cautious of taking infographics at face value because the don’t indicate how the data were collected, what analyses were used and in this one there is nothing stating what error margins may underly the numbers presented. But all I want is a general indication of social values so none of that is particularly important.

This is a 4 page document and very busy so I will go through it section by section and see what we can discover.

Australians and religion

Half of Australians do not identify with any religion. This includes two main groups; those who have no religion at all, and those who say they are spiritual but have no main religion. ‘Spirituality’ is described as self awareness and a deeper connection, whereas ‘religion’ is summarised by attendance, tasks and obligation.

There are still a lot of people who said they do have a religion and 40% of Aussies identify with a form of Christianity, 18% are protestant or evangelical, and 22% are Catholic or Orthodox. Other religions such as Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and the catchall ‘other’ each represent less than 5% of Australians.

How actively involved are religious people?

Christians have a slight edge at actively practicing their faith, 23% of protestant of evangelical Christians regularly attend a place of worship in comparison to 13% of those claiming other religious beliefs. (I don’t know what happened to the Catholics, they have vanished from this section!)

There are a big chunk of people claiming a belief but not doing much with it, around 60%, whether Christian or other faiths.

Influences on religious views

Current ‘religious status’

The question asked here seems odd to me: “What best describes your current religious status?” My answer would have been, “huh?”

Anyway, they have divided the responses into:

  • Never been religious (24%)
  • Not now religious (29%)
  • Synthesizer (11%) [beliefs don’t fit any one religion]
  • Adopter (4%) [Non-religious prior to choosing current religion]
  • Converter (5%) [Switched from a different religion]
  • Continuer (27%) [Committed to religion raised in]

The heading for this section is ‘Outgrowing Religion’, I guess meaning the not now religious, adopters and converters (38% of people surveyed) have all moved on from the beliefs they were raised with.

Resistant to change

Despite the results immediately above, 51% of Australians are not open at all to changing their religious worldview. You could probably add the 31% who are slightly open to that number, meaning 82% of Australians would be very difficult to convert. However, the many of the people who are not open at all to changing could well be Christians so it’s hard to make a solid conclusion.

What influences views of Christianity

The question was: Who or what has most influenced your perceptions & opinions of Christians & Christianity? (Respondents could select multiple options)

Parents and family have the most influence by far, 67% selected this option. Mass media and social media, networks and relationships, other, and books and articles all had around 20 to 25% responses.

The results of this question are hard to interpret. It stands to reason that for most people their parents will have an influence on their views of Christians, but it is quite possible that people also selected other options and these may have had a significant impact on their views.

Conversations about faith

Do you ever talk about spirituality or religion when you gather with friends? For a lot of people (47%) the answer was “no”. A further 46% ‘occasionally’ talk about religion with their friends. Overall, Australians don’t typically talk about religion or faith. I’d imagine the same applies to New Zealanders, it certainly does in my experience and generally when they do talk about religion it is not positive.

Attitude towards Christianity

The heading for this question is: “Significant ‘warmth’ towards Christianity”. The numbers don’t back this up. A small proportion of respondents (4%) were passionately opposed to Christianity, 37% have some or strong reservations, and 25% had a more positive view. The other 33% considered themselves Christian. So if those who are already Christians are excluded, the general viewpoint is pretty negative towards our faith.

Belief blockers

The next page of the infographic is about aspects of Christianity that repel people from Christianity.

The top 10 issues are:

  1. Church abuse
  2. Hypocrisy
  3. Judging others
  4. Religious views
  5. Suffering
  6. Money
  7. Outdated
  8. Hell & condemnation
  9. Homosexuality
  10. Exclusivity

It seems that the perception of Christians as being blinkered old fashioned hypocrites who like to judge people and think everyone except Christians are going to hell is pretty normal. We also have outdated views on homosexuality and sanction institutional sexual abuse by covering it up. And we wonder why nobody wants to join our happy club!

Beliefs about Jesus

Most non-Christians (69%) either think that Jesus did not really exist or that he was just an ordinary bloke. Though a surprising 35% do think he had divine powers and was actually the Son of God. So despite an overwhelmingly negative view of His followers, there is a significant proportion of people who respect Jesus.

Miracles

Yet when it comes to miracle attributed to Jesus thing get murky. A healthy 53% accept that Jesus died on a cross, but only 31% think he rose from the dead. A skeptical 47% say, “no way” to that idea. The virgin birth yields similar numbers, 50% reckon that is bollocks. Walking on water is obviously even more preposterous, 53% ‘do not at all believe’ in this.

Summary

I’m not surprised by the statistics shown in this infographic, and I do think that they would closely reflect how Kiwi’s view religion, Christianity, Christians and Jesus. Rationally I know plenty of people who have strongly negative opinions about the church and Christians, but I am still  bit gobsmacked at how strongly negative the perception of Christians is. We really have an appalling public image and while the popular media do play up stories about negative happenings in the church, all of those stories have some spark that started the fires.

Are all these people completely misinformed, or are we completely missing the mark in our ‘following Jesus’?

Morning Ritual Cheat Sheet

Today’s PDF is a Cheat Sheet for the Power of a Morning Ritual episode of the Accidental Creative podcast which is hosted by Todd Henry.

Rather than restate what is already a brief document (1 page), I will use it as a spark to give my thoughts on ‘morning routines’.

Get up at the same time each day

I generally manage this on work days and am thankful that this is now the case. Having done shift work in the past it is a blessing to be able to get up at the same time each morning.

Having said this, the wake up time completely goes out the window on weekends. Saturday is my sleep-in day and Sunday is church, so a shorter sleep in. I’ve read that ideally we should get up at the same time on weekends as on week days but I’m always knackered by Friday so the sleep-in is essential catch-up for me. Theoretically I should be going to bed early enough to not need a catch-up, but I live in the real world not ideal-land.

Read (30 minutes)

Oh to have this luxury! I do read, but it is for about 10 minutes (if that) while I eat my breakfast. I’d like to have time to read my bible in the mornings but this habit died out for me 16 years ago when our first child was born. My morning reading generally consists of a couple of poems (if I remembered to toss my current poetry book on the dining table before heading to bed the night before) and scanning the news on my phone to check if Trump and Kim have hurled nukes at each other overnight (I do genuinely fear this).

Space

Spend 15 minutes allowing your mind to wander.

This happens in the shower as I’m in a semi-conscious stupor attempting to wake up while wasting copious amounts of hot water.

Write (10 minutes)

My ‘brain dump’ at best consists of jotting down stuff I need to do in my notebook and I also keep a record of what poems I read for breakfast.

Reflect

This occurs at the bus stop if I get there in time. I wonder how to cope with a micro-managing boss, rummage through my bag looking for my bus card, and try to remember if I have enough credit on it.

As you may guess, I don’t have much time for fancy morning rituals, though I am not mocking Todd Henry – I have great respect for him. I just think we are quite different people and I am not really his target audience.

I do have a routine because I’m not awake enough in the mornings to actually think about anything, it needs to happen on autopilot. I’m flummoxed if the muesli has run out and I have to eat something different to usual, how could I manage creative thinking and strategic planning until after my third coffee? (You think I’m joking, don’t you?)

Bible Reading Times

How long does it take to read each book of the Bible? I found the graphic which prompted this post on the blog of Jeff Medders. There are also some fancier versions with the same numbers, an Old Testament one, and a New Testament version. As I was digging around the web researching this post I discovered that the source of the reading times appears to be the Desiring God article Three Tips for Better Bible Reading.

I also found another list with slightly different numbers here (if you click the link it will download the document).

What I have done is to combine the numbers to give a range of time to read each book, which I think is more realistic because we don’t all read at the same speed. Also, I suspect the Desiring God numbers may be a bit optimistic. For some books such as 1 & 2 Samuel, Desiring God only have one number for reading both books so I had to do a bit of an estimate to get the range. In these cases the time for reading both books as claimed by Desiring God is also listed.

I also found a list of the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Grade Level (lower is easier to read) for each book in the ESV (Crossway). The grade level is effectively equivalent to the expected reading level after that many years of school. This is more about how easy or difficult it is to parse each sentence rather than whether the passage is easy to understand. Also note that the algorithm chokes on poetry because it is weighted to assume short sentences are easier to read (hence the book of Job is rated as easy to read!)

  • Genesis: 3 hrs 30 min – 4 hrs 35 min.
    (50 chapters, 32,046 words) Reading level 6.3
  • Exodus: 3 hours – 3 hrs 37 min.
    (40 chapters, 25,957 words) Reading level 7.3
  • Leviticus: 2 hours – 2 hrs 35 min.
    (27 chapters, 18,852 words) Reading level 8.7
  • Numbers: 3 hours – 3 hrs 35 min.
    (36 chapters, 25,048 words) Reading level 8.5
  • Deuteronomy: 2 hrs 30 min – 3 hrs 8 min.
    (34 chapters, 23,008 words) Reading level 8.7
  • Joshua: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 8 min.
    (24 chapters, 15,671 words) Reading level 9.4
  • Judges: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 5 min.
    (21 chapters, 15,385 words) Reading level 7.4
  • Ruth: 15 – 20 minutes.
    (4 chapters, 2,039 words) Reading level 6.3
  • 1 Samuel: 2 hrs 15 min – 2 hrs 45 min.
    (31 chapters, 20,837 words) Reading level 6.4
  • 2 Samuel: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 18 min.
    (24 chapters, 17,170 words) Reading level 6.7
  • 1 & 2 Samuel: 4 hours
  • 1 Kings: 2 hrs 8 min – 2 hrs 47 min.
    (22 chapters, 20,361 words) Reading level 7.8
  • 2 Kings: 2 hrs 8 min – 2 hrs 40 min.
    (25 chapters, 18,784 words) Reading level 7.8
  • 1 & 2 Kings: 4.25 hours
  • 1 Chronicles: 2 hrs 15 min – 2 hrs 56 min
    (29 chapters, 16,664 words) Reading level 8.7
  • 2 Chronicles: 2 hrs 15 min – 3 hrs 2 min
    (36 chapters, 21,349 words) Reading level 9.3
  • 1 & 2 Chronicles: 4.5 hours
  • Ezra: 40 – 58 minutes
    (10 chapters, 5,605 words) Reading level 9.8
  • Nehemiah: 1 hour – 1 hr 20 min
    (13 chapters, 8,507 words) Reading level 8.9
  • Esther: 30 – 40 minutes
    (10 chapters, 4,932 words) Reading level 9.8
  • Job: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 49 min
    (42 chapters, 12,674 words) Reading level 4.2
  • Psalms: 5 hours – 7 hrs 38 min
    (150 chapters, 30,147 words) Reading level 3.9
  • Proverbs: 1 hr 45 min – 2 hrs 45 min
    (31 chapters, 9,921 words) Reading level 5.3
  • Ecclesiastes: 30 – 48 minutes
    (12 chapters, 4,537 words) Reading level 6.0
  • Song of Songs: 20 – 32 minutes
    (8 chapters, 2,020 words) Reading level 4.9
  • Isaiah: 3 hrs 45 min – 5 hrs 47 min
    (66 chapters, 25,608 words) Reading level 5.5
  • Jeremiah: 4 hours – 5 hrs 36 min
    (52 chapters, 33,002 words) Reading level 7.5
  • Lamentations: 20 – 36 minutes
    (5 chapters, 2,324 words) Reading level 4.0
  • Ezekiel: 3 hrs 45 min – 4 hrs 25 min
    (48 chapters, 29,918 words) Reading level 7.1
  • Daniel: 1 hr 15 min – 1 hr 20 min
    (12 chapters, 9,001 words) Reading level 8.5
  • Hosea: 30 – 51 minutes
    (14 chapters, 3,615 words) Reading level 4.9
  • Joel: 12 – 22 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,447 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Amos: 25 – 43 minutes
    (9 chapters, 3,027 words) Reading level 5.3
  • Obadiah: 4 – 7 minutes
    (1 chapter, 440 words) Reading level 6.1
  • Jonah: 8 – 11 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1082 words) Reading level 6.2
  • Micah: 20 – 33 minutes
    (7 chapters, 2,118 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Nahum: 8 – 14 minutes
    (3 chapters, 855 words) Reading level 3.8
  • Habakkuk: 9 – 16 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,011 words) Reading level 4.3
  • Zephaniah: 10 –17 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,141 words) Reading level 5.2
  • Haggai: 7 – 9 minutes
    (2 chapters, 926 words) Reading level 5.9
  • Zechariah: 40 – 47 minutes
    (14 chapters, 4,855 words) Reading level 6.9
  • Malachi: 11 – 15 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,320 words) Reading level 6.3
  • Matthew: 2 hrs 30 min – 2 hrs 55 min
    (28 chapters, 18,346 words) Reading level 6.6
  • Mark: 1 hr 30 min – 1 hr 55 min
    (16 chapters, 11,304 words) Reading level 6.1
  • Luke: 2 hrs 30 min – 3 hrs 10 min
    (24 chapters, 19,482 words) Reading level 6.5
  • John: 2 hours – 2 hrs 20 min
    (21 chapters, 15,635 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Acts: 2 hrs 15 min – 2 hrs 55 min
    (28 chapters, 18,450 words) Reading level 8.3
  • Romans: 1 hour – 1 hr 18 min
    (16 chapters, 7,111 words) Reading level 7.1
  • 1 Corinthians: 1 hour – 1 hr 10 min
    (16 chapters, 6,830 words) Reading level 6.3
  • 2 Corinthians: 38 – 40 minutes
    (13 chapters, 4,477 words) Reading level 7.6
  • Galatians: 20 – 25 minutes
    (6 chapters, 2.230 words) Reading level 7.8
  • Ephesians: 20 – 25 minutes
    (6 chapters, 2,422 words) Reading level 11.7
  • Philippians: 14 – 18 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,629 words) Reading level 9.0
  • Colossians: 13 – 18 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,582 words) Reading level 9.0
  • 1 Thessalonians: 12 – 15 minutes
    (5 chapters, 1,481 words) Reading level 8.5
  • 2 Thessalonians: 7 – 10 minutes
    (3 chapters, 823 words) Reading level 8.8
  • 1 Timothy: 16 – 20 minutes
    (6 chapters, 1,591 words) Reading level 9.7
  • 2 Timothy: 11 – 15 minutes
    (4 chapters, 1,238 words) Reading level 9.1
  • Titus: 7 – 10 minutes
    (3 chapters, 659 words) Reading level 9.7
  • Philemon: 3 – 5 minutes
    (1 chapter, 335 words) Reading level 8.8
  • Hebrews: 45 – 60 minutes
    (13 chapters, 4,95 words) Reading level 9.5
  • James: 16 – 20 minutes
    (5 chapters, 1,742 words) Reading level 6.4
  • 1 Peter: 16 – 22 minutes
    (5 chapters, 1,684 words) Reading level 8.8
  • 2 Peter: 10 – 12 minutes
    (3 chapters, 1,099 words) Reading level 10.2
  • 1 John: 16 – 20 minutes
    (5 chapters, 2,141 words) Reading level 6.1
  • 2 John: 2 – 3 minutes
    (1 chapter, 245 words) Reading level 7.2
  • 3 John: 2 – 3 minutes
    (1 chapter, 219 words) Reading level 5.6
  • Jude: 4 – 6 minutes
    (1 chapter, 461 words) Reading level 8.5
  • Revelation: 1 hr 15 min – 1 hr 40 min
    (22 chapters, 9,851 words) Reading level 8.4

Poison or Coke?

I’m looking at a paper written by some of my colleagues at the NZ National Poison Centre a few years back. This is an important topic for everyone to be aware of: Poisoning following exposure to chemicals stored in mislabelled or unlabelled containers: a recipe for potential disaster, by Yvette C Millard, Robin J Slaughter, Lucy M Shieffelbien, Leo J Schep; New Zealand Medical Journal 26th September 2014, Volume 127 Number 1403.

The problem

Every year people are accidentally poisoned due to hazardous substances being stored in the wrong containers or not being labelled properly. Often the substance is drunk from a bottle that is usually used for drink, such as soft drink, water, sports drink or milk bottles.

Who is at risk?

All age groups are at risk of poisoning in this way, but it is a particularly common way for adults to swallow nasty liquids by mistake. A common scenario is when the driver of a vehicle reaches for a drink bottle and inadvertently picks up a similar bottle containing oil, petrol or even antifreeze. Children are vulnerable because they associate the style of a food container with something they can eat or drink so are unaware of what it really contains.

How serious is this?

The consequences of this type of mistake can be fatal. There have been cases of people drinking paraquat by mistake because it had been kept in a drink bottle and this is almost inevitably fatal. Fortunately, most of the cases covered in by this study were unpleasant but not especially toxic.

Types of chemicals involved

Dishwashing liquid is very commonly stored in the wrong bottles. Petrol, diesel, two-stroke mix are also common culprits. Antifreeze, brake fluids, bleach, mineral turpentine, herbicides, methylated spirits, paint thinners, household cleaners all make the list. None of these are pleasant if you were expecting a refreshing drink of water or Gatorade.

It is illegal to store poisons in food containers

New Zealand food safety regulations explicitly prohibit storing chemicals or “any substance that could cause poisoning” in food containers, whether labelled or not. Yet still people do it. What I noticed in my time at the Poisons Centre is that this practise is surprisingly common in male-dominated workplaces (the list of chemicals involved backs this up). Maybe people think nobody is going to drink from a bottle on the shelf in the workshop anyway, or perhaps there is too much of a, “she’ll be right” attitude?

I do know that it shook all of us who were at work the day a call came through from a young man who had accidentally swallowed a mouthful of what turned out to be paraquat that was stored in a Coke bottle. We all knew his chances of surviving were not good.

ALWAYS KEEP POISONS IN THEIR ORIGINAL CONTAINERS!!

(No apologies for shouting.)

Becoming a Better Faith Blogger

The PDF for today is one I downloaded as a freebie for subscribing to Ed Cyzewski’s blog a few years back. I’ve followed his blog on and off since around 2012. This same ebook is available on Amazon and NoiseTrade. The ebook is short, 47 pages of content. It is divided into sections so I will use those as headings in this summary.

In explaining why he has written an ebook focused on faith blogging, Ed states:

The goals for Christian blogs can become quite murky at times since we aspire to physically live out our faith. Thinking and writing about it simply won’t do for serious followers of Jesus.

I think of this from another angle: Because I’m seeking to live out my faith, my goals for blogging are strongly influenced by what I believe. This probably amounts to the same thing but is easier to get my head around.

Go Deep

In this section Ed extols the virtues of being succinct and to the point, then also recommends writers at least occasionally take the time to go deep on a particular topic.

Invite Guests

Don’t be afraid that inviting others to contribute yo your blog will make you look like less of an expert, it will probably make you look better.

I do wonder how this can be applied to a personal blog like mine? A basic premise of my approach is that this blog is mostly about stuff I am interested in rather than being a ‘niche’ blog. Though, asking people who I’m curious to learn more about would be an obvious way to include the contributions of others. This is worth some consideration.

The Essentials

Becoming a better faith blogger begins with zeroing in on the essentials for a blog post

Ed points out how easy it is to ramble on about our faith, obscuring the message by telling too much detail in the stories we share.

Make your point. Tell your story. Keep. It. Moving.

Read and Link

By reading other blogs and noticing what they do well, we begin to improve our own writing. Follow other bloggers in your area of interest, know what is being discussed about a topic, be informed.

I also note that Ed specifically recommends reading high quality blogs. Just as the people we hang out with influence our thinking, what we are reading will influence both the content and quality of our writing.

We read other blogs in order to share our unique perspectives with existing conversations or to start new conversations that aren’t happening already.

Be Yourself

Don’t try to pursue some abstract ideal of what a ‘good’ blogger should be. Write in a style and voice that is your own. This means finding a sweet spot between stiff formality and brash oversharing. A blog is not an academic journal, but neither is it drunken commiseration with your best mate.

… real life experiences, if shared with discretion, can be truly powerful.

A good question to ask in the context of being yourself is:

What does this look like to me?

An Unbound Niche

This section is a bit hard to sum up so I will just quote this one paragraph:

While we can’t always write for everyone, we can write for a niche in such a way that our work has its own integrity and power so that our niche is open and unbounded by insider jargon or divisive language.

Paint a scene

This is clearly an art, one which I have not mastered. The idea is to carefully paint a scene for the reader that draws them in and pulls them along. The big challenge is to engage readers in such a way as to make them care about what you are saying.

What Are You For?

Be a writer who builds up rather than tearing down. Twitter holds plenty of examples of folks tearing others down, don’t go there. This is a section that I think definitely applies to Christian bloggers – I’m baffled by the way supposedly Christian people write about other Christians in scathing and nasty ways. Disagreeing does not need to be nasty.

What Ed seems to be saying on this topic is to write about what you are wanting to build up and just leave behind the stuff you might be against. This enables you to write positively instead of standing in opposition to something you don’t like.

Self-Deprecating Humour

Ed recommends using humorous stories about ourselves to let others see us at our most cringe-worthy, embarrassed and vulnerable. People are able to relate to these sorts of stories.

I’m not even sure how to attempt this. Perhaps this shows it is something I need to try for myself and practise?

Summary

Ed uses examples of Christian bloggers to show what he means with each go the topics covered. All the links to these blogs are working in the version currently available via Noisetrade, except for the link to ‘Then I Like Being Naïve’ by Preston Yancey. Oddly the links to Ed’s newsletter sign up and his old blog at inamirrordimly, including the ‘women in ministry series’ which he mentions are broken.

Despite the examples of Christian bloggers, the ebook does not go into much detail about much that is specific to faith blogging, something I was looking for.

Serotonin and Depression

This post is an attempt at summarising and explaining a paper called 5-HT and depression: is the glass half full? Authored by Trevor Sharp and Philip J. Cowen which was published in Current Opinion in Pharmacology, 2011 volume 11 pages 45–51.

The theory that abnormally low levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin (also called 5-hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) can cause depression is now 50 years old.

The theory arose when it was noticed that depressed patients had low serotonin levels in cerebrospinal fluid, and also that the first effective antidepressant drugs had the effect of increasing the amount of serotonin in the gap between neurons (the synaptic cleft). Since then the old tricyclic antidepressants have been replaced with medications that more accurately target serotonin, the ‘selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors’ (SSRIs) which have fewer adverse effects and tend to be more effective at relieving depression symptoms.

Despite the progress since 1967, up to half of the patients prescribed antidepressants do not get enough relief from their symptoms, and pharmacologists still don’t clearly understand how changes in serotonin translate to altered mood.

That 5-HT (serotonin) is associated with mood and depression has been shown by pharmacological studies and also positron emission tomography (PET) studies looking at the distribution of 5-HT receptors in the brains of depressed patients. Other studies have shown that artificially restricting dietary intake of the amino L-tryptophan can cause a return of depression symptoms in patients with a history of depression. This is significant because L-tryptophan is the precursor (chemical building block) of 5-HT. Similar L-tryptophan depletion in people who have a high family incidence of depression but themselves have not had depression caused a less severe lowering of mood.

Genetic components

Depression does run in families, with a moderate to high heritability (heritability is a measure of how likely a trait is inherited, low means less likely and high indicates it is more likely to be inherited in a population).

One particular gene, slc6a4, which codes for the 5-HT transporter protein, has been well studied. Levels of the 5-HT transporter can vary by up to sevenfold within the general population. Individuals with low levels of this 5-HT transporter have increased risk of depression when associated with stressful life events. The region of this gene where it is regulated (i.e., ‘the volume control’) is rich in methylation sites which can result in semi-permanent changes to gene expression as a result of environmental influences (such as a stressed or depressed mother during pregnancy, stressful events, childhood trauma).

Neuronal Repair

Current thinking is that increased synaptic 5-HT activates a downstream gene programme that leads to enhanced neuronal plasticity which has failed because of the adverse effects of stress and other environmental and genetic factors.

In effect, some sort of stress derails the ongoing repair and maintenance of brain ‘circuitry’ which can be overcome by bumping up serotonin levels in neurons.

This idea of serotonin enabling improved neuronal plasticity in depressed patients dovetails nicely with ideas of how psychological treatments (such as counselling, CBT, DBT) function to help treat depression. Psychotherapists help a patient to reframe situations and learn more positive ways to view situations. With increased serotonin levels enabling neural repair and realignment of neural pathways, learning is facilitated and so the therapy and drug treatment work together.

serotonin effects

100 Day Project

As I dug through my notes in Evernote yesterday I found one about the 100 Day Project. The basic idea is to commit to creating something new everyday for 100 days. The website recommends choosing an object (or objects) you already have as the material for your project and then an action to do with that object.

What Is the 100-Day Project? It’s a celebration of process that encourages everyone to participate in 100 days of making. The great surrender is the process; showing up day after day is the goal. For the 100-Day Project, it’s not about fetishizing finished products—it’s about the process.

I was mulling this idea over while considering what to delete from my vast collection of unread pdfs (see yesterday’s post). Then I realised I can combine my goal of writing 365 blog posts in 2018 with all these pdf articles by using an article a day as a writing prompt. This gives me incentive to read all this stuff and also daily inspiration to write about.

Many of the articles I’ve saved are quite technical but there is lighter stuff in amongst it so you will get some variety. This will also give you some insight into my eclectic interests. I’m excited about this project as it will be fun to read these articles and to do something useful with them.