Depression: How You Label Determines How You Feel

This post was not planned.

But… I have lost two close friends from both high school and college to suicide, and Heath Ledger’s unexpected death, which shows all the signs of suicide, saddened me on a profound level. It just shouldn’t happen.

To paraphrase Dan Sullivan: the problem isn’t the problem. It’s how you think about the problem that’s the problem.

Here are three concepts that I and others have found useful for preventing the inevitable ups and downs from becoming self-destructive thinking and behavior:

1. Depression is just one phase of a natural biorhythm and thus both transient and needed…

Energy and interest are cyclical. Nothing can peak or sustain red-zone RPMs forever. Normal people exhibit alternating periods of high-output and low-output, the latter being recovery periods during which depleted neurotransmitters stores regenerate, fatigued neural networks recover, etc..

The symptoms of depression often just reflect a system undergoing routine maintenance.

Fixating on the symptoms as “depression” becomes self-fulfilling and can lead to a downward spiral. Don’t jump to conclusions. Having recurring down cycles is natural. Thinking about them as unnatural, and the poor — sometimes devastating — decisions that follow, is what does the damage.

2. How you label determines how you feel.

Don’t use the term “depression,” which is loaded with negative and clinical connotations, without considering other labels that might be more appropriate. “Loneliness” or “isolation” are two common substitutes which are not just more precise but more actionable (the term “depression” doesn’t suggest a solution).

In their fascinating study “Would you be happier if you were richer?”, published in Science, Princeton professors Alan Krueger and Daniel Kahneman, winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for his work in behavioral economics, found that perhaps the best indicator of happiness was frequency of eating with friends and family.

If you have to chose one activity to produce an emotional upswing, start breaking bread more often with those who make you smile.

3. Gratitude training can be used pre- or mid-depressive symptoms to moderate the extremes and speed the transition.

It’s frighteningly easy to develop pessimistic blinders and lose sight of the incredible blessings and achievements in our lives. This is common when a single identity — for example, job title and function — leads you to measure self-worth using one or two metrics (like income or promotions, usually in comparison to others) dependent on some variables outside of your control.

Recalibrate your perspective, and prevent over-investment of ego in one area of life, with scheduled gratitude training that takes a holistic inventory of the positive people and achievements in your life.


None of this is intended as medical advice. If you need help, there are people waiting for your call, both friends and professionals:

1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

Hotlines in your state can be found on this page

Sorry for the somber topic, but lifestyle ain’t much without life.

Statistically, out of the millions of people who visit this blog, a fair number will consider or attempt suicide. I want to know that I at least made an effort to prevent such terrible loss.

Be safe and be optimistic. There is a lot to be grateful for… and just as much to look forward to.

Pura vida.

[P.S. This is a serious post for me. I can take a good verbal jab, but not on this one. Please no poor humor or nonsense in the comments, or I will permanently blacklist you from this blog with no exceptions.]

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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322 Replies to “Depression: How You Label Determines How You Feel”

  1. Tim-

    Thanks for helping frame depression as a natural and temporary situation and for giving smart solutions.

    I am hoping to get your take on Conrad Roy. Someone he trusted pushed him further down the spiral. It’s hard to fathom how someone could promote suicide as a solution.


  2. Saying “be optimistic” to someone with major clinical depression is like telling a guy with a broken leg to “rise and walk.” If you have the kind of depression that can be improved by rational tactics or thinking happy thoughts, you have the kind that I’d like to have…instead of the debilitating, soul sucking variety that requires I stay on meds. I’ve tried everything else, but there is just some slow aspect of my nervous system that requires speed/stimulation to approach normalcy. Optimism has little or nothing to do with this kind. I sincerely hope most people have the kind that can improve with rational means.

    1. I truly don’t think Tim’s message here is a simplistic “be optimistic.” I think it’s about reframing things, not letting oneself get trapped by labels. I spent years on anti-depressants with the self-inflicted label of “depressed,” so maybe I have some idea of where you are, and I can relate to “the debilitating, soul-sucking variety” of depression. I never found that single, simple, permanent answer that I had hoped for, but I have found various tools along the way. For me, one of those was proper nutrition. So many of us have starving brains that may respond to good nourishment (lots of natural fats and cholesterol, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and sufficient protein to form the neurotransmitters; sometimes what’s missing is the ability to digest and absorb the proper nutrients; this can be fixed). Pharmacology may seem to help, and it’s tempting to think it provides answers, but it cannot give your body what it fundamentally, physically needs. As I learned in a nutrition course I recently completed, “every structure and function of the human body comes from nutrients.” If those are missing, it’s truly an uphill battle to “fix” things. And, habits of thought do matter. I’m currently slogging through some painful issues, but I am grateful to no longer be on meds. This post reminds me how far I’ve come. Your mileage will undoubtedly vary from mine; I hope you find your breakthrough.

  3. I have shizoeffective disorder. I was in the hospital fr a fail sucide attempt. That day I was done with life. I was tired of being sick and just wanted to end it. My therapist in the hospital said something that has stuck with me. You may feel bad now but tomorrow could end up being the best day of your life. Do you want to miss it? I thought about it and I had to admit that if the possibility was there then no I didn’t want to miss it. You have to fight with all you have but now my life is amazing. Every time I feel down I think tomorrow anything could happen. And I go on.

  4. I’ve followed you now Tim for nearly 4 1/2 months; reading, listening, watching, intensively. Which is usually how i immerse myself with anyone on my list of “who to study”. Until now i’ve been drawn to you and your material for your ability to approach new interesting topics at every turn with such a keen sense of both curiosity and a hunger for knowledge and growth. This post, i must say, is your most beautifully articulated work that i’ve come across. It shows a compassionate humanness that serves to remind us all how fragile our minds can be if not guarded from toxic and what can become deadly environments of destructive feelings.

    Thank you for adressing this still stigmatized topic. As personal development professionals, we have a responsibility to our clients to demonstrate our abilities to tackle the “tough cases”. You’ve done so, with raw honesty.

    Bravo. It shall surely have an impact on those who need it most. And i, for one, can always use more tools for those challenging situations. Love and Live Large.

  5. Your posts about topics like these, and podcasts like the one with Tara Brach, are amazing and have had an amazing effect in my life. I wouldn’t have heard of Radical Acceptance without you, and it has been critical in overcoming large issues that I’ve experienced with moving to a new city where I know no one and had to face my first real heartbreak. Keep up the good work, it really is amazing Tim. Thank you.

  6. Dear Tim,

    While this is a somber subject I am glad that you can be open about it. Hopefully by doing so , and giving some optional perspectives it will help someone who needs it. I would like to close with a question. Why do you think that in a time when we have so much, so many people seem so unhappy? What can be done about it?

  7. As always, appreciate your honesty and all the positive you are doing for this world. Keep rockin’ it. Thanks for what you do and for showing all sides of life.

  8. Thanks for this. I woke up extra early this morning (4 a.m.) for the second day in a row, unable to get back to sleep as various life problems and bad decisions haunt me.

    If you were just a super-successful young guy glibly chronicling one triumph after another, I doubt I’d keep reading your blog. I appreciate these serious posts as much as the “how to be fabulous”-type of posts. Thanks.

  9. I’m not sure you’re speaking of clinical depression. Normal periods of sadness, regret, introspection – all normal. Waking up exhausted with body aches all over and a pervasive sense of doom that lasts for weeks, can be signs of depression. With a bit of time and effort, you can pull yourself out of a funk but depression requires some treatment. It could be a serious vitamin deficiency or other physical problem manifesting as depression.

  10. thank you very much for posting this tim. all too often i have found that when i try to reach out to others when i am in a depressed state, i get blamed for my depression and shunned. when really, that increased isolation from people i am looking toward for support just ends up throwing me into a deeper state of darkness. trying to change my self-talk has been incredibly challenging, but that you for the pointers. thank you for even posting this to open up the space for others to talk about it.

  11. Thank you for this post.

    Gym every monday and wednesday after work!

    Every Tuesday salsa.

    Thursday, I do my best to hang around some cool dude.

    Friday and saturday , reading , biking , meditation with audibook Focus by Daniel goleman.

    The daily pressure is less.

    This is my lifestyle…

  12. Great! I know what it’s one day feeling like ending your life and then you think about those that u love and change ur mind,it’s terrible believe me,one thing,I don’t want pills to cure my sadness,I want love and give it back,is it too hard love too much?,well some people think of it as a cliche,but I think everybody in this planet wants to be loved!!

  13. Tim, while I appreciate your compassion and your attempt to broach a difficult subject, I have to challenge you on this one. There’s an important distinction to be made between the normal ups and downs of life. As someone who has actually experienced clinical depression at various points in my life, I have to say that while mindset and physiological changes are important and can help to an extent, depression is not something people can simply will themselves out of. Your advice, I’m sorry to say, can be more harmful than helpful.

    Using the glass half-full/half-empty (optimist/pessimist) model, depression is something like this: No matter how full the glass is, it looks completely empty to a person with depression. Suggesting to such a person that it’s their responsibility to make changes that will pull them out of it (regardless of whether or not there’s an element of truth to it) can make them feel like more of a failure when they’re unable to do just that. It can hasten that downward spiral. Before you can start on the work required on the road to recovery (and mindset shifts are no small feat), step 1 is to break that downward spiral. My humble suggestion is to start with self-compassion and forgiveness. Instead of having someone beat themselves up over not being able to will themselves out of bed, start with, “I am deserving of forgiveness, and I forgive myself.” Just that thought, and even if the person doesn’t believe it at first. (Think of it like breaking down tasks… you look at just the next step, not the whole enchilada, lest you become overwhelmed. Imagine how much more overwhelming it is to a depressed individual to be told to shift their mindset and physical habits.) But of course, everyone is different and it’s a YMMV situation.

    In any case, Andrew Solomon’s TED Talk on depression is much more eloquent than anything I could muster here… I highly, highly recommend it if you have the time.

  14. Thanks for this. I especially like the part about eating with loved ones and would love to underpin this for parents of young children – having your children sit at the table for at least breakfast and dinner without the distraction of devices or TV, really allows for integral bonding and forces them out of any destructive, introspective thinking – for long enough to act as a circuit breaker, if they are going down a depressive path. I wish more parents would make this effort routinely. This is the soul time of the family. I ask my children to come to dinner prepared with either an anecdote from their day, or a joke – this usually (as you mentioned, we’re not all, always, experiencing an upward swing in our moods) results in quite a

    few laughs! Cheers.

  15. Its obvious from your post youve never suffered from Depression. You lack real understanding of how often depression evolves from being strong for too long. I followed all of your advice, albeit from a different source, and due to the circumstances in my life still became over whealmed. Perhaps you should do a little more research to understand the illness before you attempt to suggest how to protect yourself from it or cure it. Your intentions may have been good but it is poor advice like this that often makes it harder for people to deal with it.

    1. Everyone’s experience of depression is different. Depression may evolve from being strong too long, or it may evolve from a pituitary adenoma (happened to someone close to me). Tim offered a few things that work for him as depression prophylactics – it doesn’t mean they’re going to work for everyone. FWIW, I don’t think there’s anything in there that contradicts the scientific literature.

  16. Tim, this is a very real topic and one of heated debate. I am a firm believer that suicide is never an answer to any problem life throws at you. I feel it is a true cop out and maybe even a plea for attention. A bit general of me to think this way but I definitely do not see it being a solution. I completely sympathize with your situation and offer my deepest sympathy and respectfully say that I’m so very sorry you have had such losses and in such a short time frame. I know it is a lot to deal with but I admire your analytical synopsis. I have read some of Daniel’s work and he is definitely a top scholar when it comes to psychology and human behavioral science. I am reposting and sharing this as far as I can since being in the Army we see probably more suicides than any other sub culture on earth. It’s a real topic and one that can be completely rationalized depending on how you frame the situation. I appreciate your insight. Thank you and God bless in coming to terms with the things you are facing.

  17. I wish I would have known or seen this sooner. I lost a friend on Thursday 11/26/2015. Dalton Potter took his own life. There is never enough information on this subject. Thank You for sharing. I hope it reaches the right people, before it’s too late.

  18. Thank you for this, it’s rare to find an article that offers coping mechanisms and ways to work through it without trivializing it.

  19. Thank you Tim. Your beautiful nature and powerful influence has impacted my household in ways I never could have imagined. ❤️

  20. Thank you. I wish my boy read this 4 months ago. He was wonderful. He was bright. 16 years old. After listening to one of your podcast he took the challenge as well as I to contact important people. Noah Kagan replied to me. It was wonderful. Now my beautiful son is gone, July 26, 2015, the darkest day in my life

  21. Thanks Tim for leaning into this epidemic. In today’s consumer focused uber busy ego driven everything, it is harder than ever to feel like enough or experience true contentment. My wife and I went through a suicide attempt by our teenager and I have danced with this “solution” at times. It is a very real issue that lives right under the surface of so many. I practice gratitude daily and that is probably one of my best defenses against depression.

  22. Thank you for this post. It has helped me understand what my daughter is going through. I value and respect the words that you have to share. Again… Thank you

  23. “Recalibrate your perspective” – I like that. I sometimes use a thing I call “Game of Thrones Therapy”. I recently tried it on my wife when she was fed up with her life, and it went like this.

    ME: Think of the person with the best life you can imagine.

    HER: Ummm, Kate Middleton.

    ME: You what??

    HER: Yeah, really, Kate Middleton.

    ME: Er, OK. So her life is a 10. Now think of Theon Greyjoy. That’s a 1. Where are you?

    HER: Woooo, maybe an 8?

  24. We must enter and experience our darkness to better understand and appreciate our light.

    Thank you for the reminder to spread love and peace every moment

  25. Thank you Tim:

    Viewing depression and its label as a natural biorhythm is refreshing. This post can help us remember that most forms of depression are situational, natural, and temporary. Your empirical perspective was indeed enlightening and helpful for many.


  26. Great article Tim especially feeling down this year being away from family and with a woman who is stuck but I love.

    Exercise today is my goal.


    1. Hang in there Ed. Keep smiling. This isn’t an easy Christmas for me, but I look around at all the things that I have to be thankful for, and that helps me keep going 🙂 you’ve got this! Merry Christmas

  27. Sorry for your losses. I’ve been trying to study some of the causes for mental disorders to help a family member. Haven’t finished it yet, but was wondering if you have read the book, The Ultramind Solution. It goes into a lot of detail about how the chemicals we introduce into the body have caused disease, depression, and different mental afflictions. If you have read it, what’s your opinion? Since I have not finished it I don’t won’t to speculate at this time, but am always interest in the criticism of others.

  28. Great read, I’m thankful for my bouts with loneliness & long-suffering because they taught me I needed to make a change in direction. I no longer think of negatives as all-negative. They biblical passage that says “with God, all things are possible”. It does not say all “good” things. So learning to take the bad with the good has taught me it’s ok when less-than-stellar days occur. “Some days are diamonds, and some days are dirt” Tom Petty. No I simply appreciate all days with a sense of gratitude for each day of my life is precious whether it’s stellar or in the cellar :-))

  29. While I understand where you and some of the people commenting are coming from, this makes me a little angry, as someone who has been dealing with depression for about 30 years (I’m 34 YO). I was un-diagnosed until I was 20 years old, and some of my parents’ solutions was “maybe you should get a job” and “why don’t you exercise?” the truth is, I am lucky to be alive, because my parents didn’t want to think I was actually depressed, and I didn’t know anything else at the time.

    For me, what you wrote here is a lot like- if you don’t *call* it cancer- you’re going to be fine!

    No. Figuring out that I had this condition made it possible for me to get a proper treatment and understand how it feels like for the rest of the people around me. Naming is important, and people who have winter blues or maintenance time don’t get to places where the pain they feel is so huge, they would prefer dying just to stop it. Trying to make it smaller than it is is more harmful than not being grateful. People who never suffered from the real thing cannot understand it, and I have been trying to explain it a lot.

    The best thing I came up with so far is this-

    What is the thing that makes you get up in the morning when things are tough? when you are poor, sick, know there is nothing good or bright to expect for?

    it is hope. For change, for things to get better, for you to be different, better, for your life to become more interesting.

    That is the thing that depressed people lack. It doesn’t matter what they will do, who they will see, where they will go- there is no hope.

    Think about it, and ask yourself if calling it in a different name will change that.

    Depression is a mental illness, just like any other, and while we can argue what caused it (the whole body chemistry- mental state argument egg and chicken question) the fact is that it is there now. Just like PTSD. Just like bi-polar disorder. And reducing it to “change the way you sit/ act/ breath” is harmful and as disrespectful as telling someone with any physical illness that same thing (funny how though it’s clear that heart conditions and diabetes are in fact mostly results of certain behavior, I never seem to find anywhere the people who will say upfront that it’s the sick person’s fault, or only in his head (because if they only just stopped with the sugar/ shitty food/ smoking they wouldn’t have been there, so why don’t they just get over themselves).

    IF your intention was to discuss people who feel a little blue, and not anything more- I think it’s very important to make that distinction, especially because people with mental illness suffer from stigma and are often accused of being lazy (depression)/ over dramatic (anxiety) for example.

    I’m sorry that’s how we have to meet after lurking and enjoying your writing for so long, but- that’s (one of my) soap box(es).

  30. I had about a year long bout with depression back in 2000. I couldn’t motivate myself enough to stick to meds. I remember how horrible my life felt. My friend made me sign up for the Pikes Peak Marathon (ranked 2nd most difficult in the world) even though the furthest I’ve ever run was 5 miles. He would pick me up at 3AM often and we’d drive to Grey’s and Torrey’s peaks, two nearby 14ers and train. I finished the marathon, but it’s the wilderness, the cool fresh air, and the exercise that cured me. Been exercising daily ever since, and haven’t had a depressing day since (aside from the week my dog died, but even that, I knew I just needed to go run to deal).

  31. Hey Tim,

    This post comes at a point when I’m actually thinking of ending this life right now. I always knew myself as a happy go lucky guy and someone who loathed those who would give up too early and what sickens me more is that as I write this… i’m thinking that what will I write when I am about to end this life.

    Am I in depression , i’m not sure – am I in anxiety, i’m not sure about that either but I am someone who’s trying to deal with their life partners anxiety and depression – oh hell yea and its not easy. Its just not is.

    No matter what you do – no matter what you think – its all in vain. You stay up helplessly thinking that things will improve but they don’t.

    Writing this comment is helping me break down and I think that’s helping a little – i don’t want to fail – i don’t want to lose this battle called life… for all those who are about to end their lives.. please think about those who care about you… what all will you leave behind… cry its ok, its ok to cry.

  32. Tim, this is by far your best post! Man, you’re spot-on! With this you’ve established yourself as a true master. Having been there (and thankfully, not done that) probably gave you access to the deep insights you share. Reading it once daily will be far more therapeutic than taking an overdiagnosed antidepressant.

    The lone exception I see is a person whose brain is so broken, even if temporarily, that they are unable to focus on this compelling piece of sage advice, much less comprehend it, during their down phase, for which you rightly ask them to seek out other help.

  33. Thank you for addressing such a difficult topic. However, I think your suggestions are well-intentioned but misguided. I don’t usually post dissenting opinions on such well read blogs because I feel like trying to win an argument on the Internet is futile. I’m only choosing to do so this time because this topic is so personal and because you have such influence.

    Trying to explain major clinical depression to someone who has not experienced it is impossible. I’m not saying this to automatically discredit what you’ve suggested. I think those are wonderful suggestions for people who are simply experiencing as you’ve said, a natural downswing in “normal” cycles. To use your metaphor, I would say that a person with major clinical depression’s natural baseline is set lower than “normal”. We automatically feel more depressed, more often than “normal”. Feeling guilty because we “don’t have it that bad” compounds the problem and sometimes being around well meaning but misguided friends only makes us feel worse.

    I could go on trying to explain what it’s like or what not to do but my best piece of advice for someone who doesn’t have depression who wants to be a good friend is to offer company without judgement or trying to fix things. Sometimes we want someone’s presence without interaction. That’s why pets are so therapeutic, they offer love without judgement and don’t require you to “do” things. Thank you taking time to read my comment.

  34. This is a great message Tim. Having suffered from “depression” on and off for years, coming close to suicide on a couple of occasions, what you’ve shared has definite merit and great suggestions. Understanding the ebbs and flows of life, avoiding the label of “depression” whenever possible, getting together with a close friend to talk about what you’re going through, and seeking medical assistance when it’s warranted are all options.

  35. Hey Tim,

    Thank you for speaking up about this. Listening to your podcasts and reading your blogs have helped me get through my own frightening biorhythms without making me feel ashamed of having thrm. You’ve been like a super reliable, honest, long-distance friend who I have never met.

    You do good work well.

  36. A little over a year ago my mother took her own life. I have thought deeply about that decision she made and the situation that she was in. Moving forward though, I now better recognize the pattern of mental illness in my family. For myself I just recently started taking antidepressants, which has given me a dramatic increase in quality of life. I can focus again, I’m listening to music for the first time since high school, I relate to people better, I talk to my family more and in short, I have a newfound love for life. I am in so many ways I am a more fulfilled person.

    I agree with you about your point on labeling. I prefer to think of this medication as something that addresses a serotonin imbalance rather than something that targets depression. I don’t think medication is right for everyone, but it also doesn’t need to be stigmatized. For those who are struggling please consider it as an option.

  37. Tim, I’m reading this post as I’m working on a book on the power of words. Thanks for highlighting the need to remove our “pessimistic blinders” and needing to break bread with those who value us the most.

    I remember Tony Robbins saying something about why we must be careful when labeling our experiences. Using the words “I’m depressed” or “I want to kill myself because ______” when we neither are nor want to, respectively, must be struck out of our vocabulary forever. The labels we give our experience could become our experience.

  38. Hey tim,

    Thanks. This helped me in two ways;

    Acknowledge what my body is telling me, listen to it and take action.

    Take time to understand how you feel and build from that.

    I am 22 years old and I am recovering from trauma. 8 months ago my life was flipped upside down and I never truly took the time to understand what happened, and how it made me feel untill now. And it’s tough man

  39. I agree that this is great advice for most people but I also think it is worth stressing that there is such a thing as a chemical component that requires more then this. I think many people undervalue this part and assume they can mentally overcome what is a physical problem. I would use similar steps. I would add focus on eating well and exercise always helps me and also deals with the physical portion.

  40. This is a topic near to me and the people I work with. I particularly love the suggestions to eat more with friends and family and practice gratitude. After all, gratitude is the opposite of depression.

  41. Spoken like someone who’s never had debilitating, curl-into-a-fetal-position, feel-like-life-doesn’t-matter-and-people-would-be-better-off-without-you depression. You can label it whatever you’d like, but the effects are still the same…and actually knowing what it is can be a relief — that others experience the same thing and that you’re not crazy.

  42. Very important post, Tim. As someone who experiences high and low energy levels quite intensely, viewing the lows as a necessary, natural occurrence has always kept me rational and from acting impulsively during these times. Now that you point it out, this strategy ties right in with not labeling your symptoms and creating your own self-fufilling destiny. The mind truly is a fascinating thing. Thanks for the awesome post!

  43. Hey Tim,

    Read this post and the other similar one about suicide. When I first read the 4hww, and later the 4hb, I had no idea you’d ever been so down. Andrew Solomon once said that one of those things that gets lost in discussions about depression is that you know it’s ridiculous while you’re going through it. Somehow though, it helps to know that even high achievers can feel low. Keep fighting the good fight, and helping others do the same.

  44. Thanks for sharing that. The formerly depressed person that I am is grateful for this.

    Severe depression requires medical attention. But if it’s just a mild or light depression, then brisk exercising, regular sleeping and eating hours, recognizing “cognitive distortion” (for ex: all or nothing, nothing, always, no one, everyone…) and changing them to more positive ones, and visualization, and taking action towards a goal can get people out of depression without medical supervision.

    I did a visualization exercise to get me out of depression. I put a little dot of light in front of me and made that dot bigger until it became a tunnel, and increased it even more until all my future was bright. Then my depression was over.

    However, I believe that true, and permanent depression recovery comes from breaking free from the story we’ve made about our past. Then gratitude and bliss are easy to reach.

  45. Thanks for sharing this post. This surely help those in situation to prevent the depression from making themselves self-destructive.

  46. Thank you, Tim. I’m experiencing this low after a really good amount of time on a high. I really appreciate the reminder. In fact, this post is 8 years old, so I want you to know that I did a search on “Tim Ferriss depression” because I knew you’d have something good for me. Thanks again. Much love to you and gratitude for your work.

  47. Thank you for this, Tim. I am a big fan of yout work and listen to your podcast everyweek.

    I needed this message today. And so did many others who may not have taken the time to write you a message.

    Again, thank you. And continue to add such great value to your followers.

    Tom Boon, 22 years old, from Liverpool, England.

  48. Excelente artículo Tim, reconocí mientras lo leía que el comer con amigos y familiares, el practicar la gratitud todos los días desde que me despierto me puede ayudar a vivir mejor y más feliz. Saludos desde Tijuana Mex.

  49. I find reaching out and helping someone else, takes the brain from “me” to “how can I give you some of my value”

  50. To get out of depression, you need to have patience for the things that aren’t working for you.

    You need to understand to let go don’t hold on with it.

    Accept the down you are experiencing and believe in yourself to get out of it and coming back as champion of your life.

  51. Thanks Tim, it’s awesome you allow yourself to be so vulnerable while being a public figure, that can’t be easy. *biggest bro hug*

  52. Hi Tim,

    It’s really important to avoid conflating sadness, loneliness or isolation with clinical depression. Evidence shows that correctly naming an emotional state, and thus, aligning with and acknowledging your mind state correctly, can actually have huge benefits because this facilitates acceptance of the conditions and of the arising emotional state. This kind of acceptance is promoted and encouraged in Buddhist philosophies, as well as their clinical derivatives such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). Once feelings, moods and emotions are correctly named and honoured, they are more likely to pass.

    Good post and interesting discussion topic but not necessarily good advice (I see that you’ve added a disclaimer – thanks)

  53. Thanks for sharing Tim. Well described. As an entrepreneur, I experience ups and downs/burnout/etc. it makes you stronger at your craft.

  54. I don’t know why this popped up in my feed today, but it couldn’t have come at a more perfect moment. Thanks Tim. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on a copy of the new book. Cheers.

  55. Sorry to say but you have no idea what you are talking about. As somone who suffers from depression I can tell you this is not about feeling low on occasion or shift of energy. This is a devastating desease that makes you loose any motivation to take action. You cannot decide to do sport or practice. Your advice is like telling somone with lung failure to just breath differently. This time you are really off topic and misleading

  56. Hi Tim,

    I happened to see this & wanted you to know how important your message is. I’d write much more if not pressed for time at the moment. After reading, I just felt such a deep connection, on many levels. I had to leave you something here to express my gratitude for sharing.

    ❤️ Tina

  57. I have a mild stutter and it drives me nuts. It has driven me to deep bouts of depression. It is a feedback loop that Is hard to break, the negative feedback loop has been the only thing that gets me past it. Very timely post to help with gratitude. Depression can kick your ass.


    If you ever want to try and bio hack a stutter, I am game.

  58. Hi Tim – I have some questions I know you have the answers to.

    1. Will we make it to Mars in our lifetime?

    2. How many galaxies are there?

    3. World War III?

    4. Is there an afterlife? If so, what can we expect?

    Please be honest with your answers even though they will decide my fate.

    Thanks for your time, Tim.


  59. Real clinical depression can’t be beaten by re-framing the depression. Nothing really worked for me until I found the right anti-depressants. Don’t discount medical help. And yes, all of suggestions are good at the margins, but they may not work for everyone.

  60. my dear sis tried to commit suicide 2 days ago.. we miraculously got her back.. Merci for sharing x

  61. Hi Tim,

    Unfortunately there is more to depression than people realize. The problem is that sometimes even if you know you have a great life, you know people love you, you are successful, you know you have everything but deep inside its not enough . I know because i went through that and the real problem is not our beliefs , lifestyle or lack of appreciation, the problem lies on the hidden perceptions within our reality. A reality created by our subconcious mind as we grow and that we are not able to recall. We have to look deep into our subconcious and change the distorted perceptions that create our reality. Its a higher level of understanding of the human mind and its deeply saddening to see how many people lose their lives to depression. God bless you and really for your loss 🙁

  62. I wonder Tim if you were in the situation where you can’t breath, don’t want to breath, don’t want to wake up to the world, if being told “how you label determines how you feel” would help?

  63. While well meaning, the advice in this post is an over simplification of clinical condition. Yes, we over-use the word depression in our culture. But *clinical* depression does not lose any of its power by finding a more appropriate synonym. Would we say something similar of Lyme Disease? Cancer? That would be absurd, right? If “loneliness” better describes one’s circumstance, then odds are good that person wasn’t suffering from depression. Where I do agree is on the importance of labelling one’s thoughts. Putting words to feelings and anxieties is an important first step in domesticating what you’re struggling with.

  64. Thank you Tim! I cannot begin to explain the profound effect you have on the lives of so many including myself. I hold you in the highest esteem because of your ability to relate to everday people. You are like having a friend who is legitimately briliant on a world class level on pretty much everything. This blog post was incredible!

  65. Awesome post. I definitely relate and will share. Especially after a 2 year deep resting. I have to say that the “family” table is regenerative and motivational.

  66. Addressing the issue and talking about it openly is one of the best things a person can do. This is great information and has some great tips for putting a stop to the negative self-talk that can keep a person down. Thanks for sharing, Tim, it’s fine to get serious once in awhile, especially with a topic that is no joke.

  67. I have learned about depression from my 25 years as a personal trainer and nutrition counselor. I find it so upsetting that many doctors do not realize that for someone suffering from depression, just the act of getting off the couch is a major challenge. They tell their patients…just go on a walk…go to the gym…take a dance class. And YES, all of these are amazing to help increase the endorphins, etc. BUT they are not understanding that they are missing a crucial step…getting off the couch to GO on a walk. Here is what I wrote about this exact subject. Thank you Tim for being an awesome human being.


    I’m Depressed-Not Lazy

    February 7, 2017

    Every doctor, therapist, psychiatrist and psychologist knows that the best form of natural medication for depression is exercise. The most common phase a person who says they feel depressed will hear is “you should go for a walk” or “ try joining a gym” or “just dance around your living room for 10 minutes, you will feel so much better.” As a personal trainer who has been training clients with exercise and working with them on nutrition for 20 years, I know these are all true statements and true facts. Among my clients of all different ages, levels of fitness, ethnicities, cultures and sizes, I have had an incredible number of clients who have had some type of mental illness. And the most prevalent type has been different levels of depression. Some of these clients had been diagnosed before coming to see me and knew that it was what “the doctor ordered.” And some of these clients had no idea they suffered from depression or anxiety or had food addictions or other addictions until they started working with me and I figured it out by talking with them and discussing and watching their behavior. I never claim to be a Psychiatrist so I always suggests that they find a licensed Psychiatrist. But here is what I am finding in my experience with my clients and what I have seen over the years:

    I believe there is a link between the chemical imbalances in a person with depression and the inability for that said person to get up off the couch and move. I believe that there is something that is either missing or is disconnected and when the person actually THINKS about going on a walk, or going to the gym something very different happens to them than to someone who does not suffer from a chemical imbalance/depression. One of my clients who suffers from the most severe form of depression (I have learned that there are different levels of depression) described how she felt to me: “I feel as if I have a 700 lb. heavy , wet blanket on top of me at all times.” She said that sometimes her coping skills are much better than other times but that the 700 lb. heavy, wet blanket is always on top of her…every minute of every day. It broke my heart to hear this but I was so thankful that she shared it with me because it was the first time that I actually understood what she felt like. I understood why it is such a struggle for her to do basically, anything. I thought about the “average” person. After a full day of work, most of us are pretty tired and the last thing we want to do is go to the gym or on a walk, etc. So, it is a struggle to make that effort and make the right decision and motivate to drive home and change and go to the gym…or to have packed our bags and drive to the gym from work. Now, think about if you had a 700 lb. heavy, wet blanket on top of you after you worked a full day. Think about having to stand up to get to your car with that 700 lb. heavy, wet blanket and then driving home and having to stand up and get out of your car with that 700 lb. heavy, wet blanket and going into your home and once you are inside, the idea of having to go and MOVE with that 700 lb. heavy, wet blanket has to be the LAST thing in the world that you would want to do. And from what I understand and from what I am seeing and hearing and observing, this is not just after a full day of work. This is ALL THE TIME. The IDEA of moving is so overwhelming and feels like such a massive obstacle/chore/punishment that it just shuts them down. The part of this that makes me so sad and is the main reason I am writing this and trying to get my observation noticed is that what ends up happening is that the person does not understand what is happening. Here is what goes on in their mind:

    I am LAZY. I am UNMOTIVATED. I am WORTHLESS. I have NO self control. I have NO self discipline. I am a FAILURE because I have tried so many times and I cannot do it. I am a FAT slob. I have NO will power.

    So, then the cycle starts. The one thing that comes easy for someone that is overwhelmed by the idea of moving is to sit on the couch and watch TV or read a book or do a puzzle or knit and usually what goes very well with this is to also eat. I am not saying that any of these things are bad but in the context of this paper we see that the activities that are chosen by someone suffering with these chemical imbalances are sedentary. And then I wonder about the correlation between obesity and depression because of this inability to move, the uncomfortable nature of moving, the discovery that SITTING and doing an activity is all that can be accomplished. It is not laziness, it is not being unmotivated, it has nothing to do with willpower. There is a missing step in what the doctors/therapist/Psychiatrist are telling their patients…and how they are helping them. The missing step is FROM THE COUCH TO THE DOOR. Or even better FROM THE COUCH TO STANDING UP. A doctor can tell the patient to exercise. To walk. To go to the gym. But the issue is that this patient CANNOT even make it off the couch. Or out of bed. And this is NOT being lazy. I have to keep saying this because I have had too many clients feel shamed because they have been made to feel so worthless by statements like: “Oh, come on, it is not that hard.” “Just set your alarm an hour earlier.” “aren’t you worth it?” “Don’t you care about your health?” Can you imagine hearing this your whole life and BELIEVING it? Believing that you FAILED, again. And AGAIN. And AGAIN. And then finding out years later that there was something chemically in your body, that you had no control over, contributing to all of this and no one told you. Yes, you could be very angry. Or, you could react like one of my clients. She was 67 when she contacted me to help her get in shape for a scholar walking tour in France. It was a level above the beginner tours that she and her husband had done in the past and she was scared that she would not be able to walk the 4 miles required. She made a pact with her husband that she would get a trainer and get in shape for the trip. When I first sat down with C, she told me she NEVER exercises and does not like to move. Her exact words were, “ I come from a family where, Why stand if you can sit, why sit if you can lay down?” I was cracking up when she told me but was also horrified to realize it was the truth!!! After she told me her whole story of her food addiction and some other aspects of her life, I was deep in thought. I asked her if she suffered from depression. She looked at me, eyes WIDE open and said, “how did you know?” And I told her everything that I just told you in this paper. She was speechless because she has been in therapy her whole life and no one has ever touched on anything like this in regards to seeing a correlation between her chemical imbalances in depression and her real struggle to just, move. She actually said to me, “I just thought I was lazy.” And when I saw her the following week, I asked her if she had thought about what we talked about. She told me she had thought about it everyday and when I asked her what she was thinking, her response was exactly why I am writing this paper. She said, “ I felt a sense of relief.”

    So, after this last experience with C, I realized that I wanted to try and use what I have discovered in order to help give relief to so many people in the same situations. How would that look? Here are a few ideas I have thought about:

    It should be brought to the attention of doctors/therapists/psychiatrists to suggest to their patients that there are some cases of depression where the chemical imbalances might be part of the issue holding them hostage. Just giving the patients awareness that this is a possibility is so important and could change people’s lives.

    As a personal trainer, I will offer services to these patients/clients. I will set up appointments to make house calls for movement. This will not be called a workout or a training session. It will be called, “Stay Put and Move.” Or, some version of that but nothing related to exercise or working out. It is me, showing up at their home and taking their hand and gently helping them off the couch and moving. We will just walk from room to room. Or just stand up and sit down. We can go to the kitchen and get a drink. We can sweep the floor. And when they are ready, we can walk up the stairs or take out the trash. What I am trying to get at it that I will just get them moving and talking and laughing. And hopefully they will see that it is not that bad or hard and it might actually feel good and be fun. There will never be any pressure to do it on their own if they do not want to because I understand that is not in their control. If they end up doing it on their own, it is a huge bonus.

    I get a mini bus and make a group house call. This means that I get at least 5 people (or it is a group of 5 friends) and I drive to each home and walk in and actually take their hand and walk with them out to the bus. Once I have all 5 people I will go to a rented space and we will have a group move class. Not a workout, just moving. Fun, laughter, movement with other people who are dealing with the same chemical imbalances and who struggle with the same issues. The key here is that a friendly face comes to YOU and gently takes your hand with a smile so you are not thinking about the fact that you are about to go and do something you do not want to do like move. A friendly face will be walking you to a bus full of people who are going through the same thing but will all be supportive of each other and end up feeling great at the end of the hour. The bus will drop off each person to their home and I will walk them back inside and leave them with a hug and a smile.

    I start an online FaceTime/skype 10 minute movement. For 10 minutes I will be on FaceTime/skype with my client and I will have them stand up and sit down. We will walk into the other rooms of their home “together.” I will have them get up and get a glass of water. They will vacuum a room or sweep a floor. But all in the privacy of their own home, in their own clothes, without having to see or face anyone in person and only for 10 minutes. But this 10 minutes will be so important for someone who might be 400-600 lbs. and feels helpless. I will understand what they are feeling and going through and instead of pushing them hard or making them uncomfortable by going too fast, this will be based on them and what they can do in that 10 minutes with me. And when they are finished, they will feel a sense of accomplishment because no one is judging that they only did 10 minutes. THEY know that they picked up the phone and MOVED and did the work and no matter how long or what they did, for them, it is a huge accomplishment.

    So, in conclusion, my purpose is to look at depression and the chemical imbalances it creates as it relates to exercise. Does the chemical imbalance in someone suffering from depression cause that person to severely struggle with movement/exercise. Have people who suffer from depression lived long enough with the idea that they are “lazy” and can we change that so there is an understanding of why they are struggling to move/exercise? Are there ways that we can help them by focusing on the missing steps? If the struggle is from the couch to the door, that is where we need to start. I gave C “homework” of the movements and stretches that we did together to do at home until we met again the following week. I did not expect her to have done the movements because most of my clients do not do their “homework” unless they are with me. When I arrived at her house the following week, I asked her what she had done on her own. Expecting to hear “nothing,” I heard, “I did 15 minutes on the bike and the stretches you told me to do and the neck exercises. I did all my homework.” I did not let on that I was shocked but I did let her know I was very proud of her, which I was. It also made me think that because she had this knowledge that she had an extra obstacle (chemical imbalance) it gave her the green light to move. Maybe having the awareness that it is not her being lazy, it is something bigger than her, it took a different meaning to get up and move. Maybe this gave her a freedom from her own label of “lazy” and now that she knows she is not lazy, she is free to get up and move. If this is the case, can we please pass out this awareness and hand out the relief?

  68. The Fonz? Thanks for making me smile as I loved that show especially Henry Winkler. My wife of 28 years told me last Sunday that we will separate because of alcohol abuse. I don’t have any chemical imbalance in my brain called depression. Only the alcohol molecules, ..take those away and it is crystal clear that normal existence can be. My son is a follower of you Tim. Thanks for the positivity today. Terry

  69. Well said Tim such and so very well done on speaking out on this matter. So many lives are lost to this and hopefully more peopel speaking out and helping with this will benefit so many. Thank you

  70. Tim, thanks for sharing so personally and attentively. Have you read fellow Ted whiz Andrew Solomon? Can’t recommend “The Noonday Demon” highly enough.. interweaves science with personal experience in an exceptionally high class of writing.

  71. As my family approaches the 9 year anniversary of my brothers suicide, I wish I had this knowledge back then so I could have possibly helped. Now I have 2 grieving parents that will never be the same……..any thoughts or advice on how to help them would be great. Keep up the great work.

  72. I was with you up until the point where you say lets ignore the problem and call it it’s symptoms instead. Because it’s solvable. And while I appreciate the sentiment behind “trying to solve” a problem. I don’t think anything is gained by calling it something it is not. It’s depression. Many people, even successful, generally happy people battle it. I watched my uncle lose his battle, my mom struggle with hers, and myself have gone to the edge and came back.

    My point here is this. I don’t believe it should be marginalized as you are suggesting. I think it is something that needs dealt with directly. Yes we all have downs. Natural chemical cycles. And the like. I’ve had a front row seat to it my whole life. I’m still here. And I face it daily. Some days it takes everything in me to push through. And some days I don’t succeed.

  73. I now live in the US, but used to live in the UK. I STILL call the Samaritans in the UK when I hit a crisis point. You don’t have to be suicidal to call them, they will talk about anything you feel is a crisis: job, family, money, daily stress.

    ‭If you’re in the UK or Republic of Ireland, here’s their number: 116 123 (UK/ROI)

  74. Hello Tim

    I believe that constructive criticism of every topic is essential.I believe not using the word depression is not the right approach and as it leads to fear of the word, if and when used it may eventually lead to disgust by the population to the people suffering from this disease.We have seen in history how leprosy affected patients were made to live in isolated leper colonies and treated poorly by the general public.We should not try to make fear about any disease.

  75. Thanks Tim for this posts. I ve been there…

    Now working in crisis intervention I do appreciate your thoughts and profound recommendations from the bottom of my heart. Let s move on spreading the word. Best from France!

  76. Hi Tim,

    I’m not on social media but I wanted to submit a request/suggestion for a potential future potential podcast guest. But first, thank you for all of your incredible work and contributions! David D. Burns is a cognitive behavioral therapist and the author of the book “Feeling Good”. He also has a podcast called “The Feeling Good Podcast” and did a TED talk years ago. He has a refreshing and empowering approach to overcoming anxiety and depression and he also has a great sense of humor, although dry. I would love to hear a conversation between the two of you. Thank you again! All the best to you.

  77. What can you do in the middle of it… are you actually depression free now? Is there a way to make it stop for good ? How did you understand and make sense of all the emotions.

  78. Thank you I was feeling January work stress/winter blues making me feel anxious and irritable so the gratitude training gave me a tool to practice in my stoic journal.

    These blogs provide a thought/emotional intelligence support sadly lacking in so many men’s lives.

  79. Wow, number 1 was so eloquently and cogently said. I wish more people (including myself) knew this from an early age–especially in the workplace. My general observation is that depression seems to be glamorized on social media to an extent where the general public might view it as an “attention seeking fad” rather than a transient biochemical circumstance. I’m trying to learn how to properly cope with low energy levels through discipline, gratitude, and disciplined gratitude 🙂


  80. I heard that suicide was a a term people used when their subconscious wanted some version of themselves to die. It wasn’t neccessarily that they wanted to die, but their subconscious made it feel as though they really wanted to kill themselves.

    When I heard that, it actually deeply empowered me when I was in a really dark place bc I realized that there was a serious subconscious part of me that wanted to die….so I read that as though I was on the verge of major transformation…I don’t know it left me with a different feeling about suicide.

    I’m sorry for your loss Tim.