Restoring Lost Connections

In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, or even perhaps in the years leading up to it, I’ve had the burden of having close friends and family members suffer from anxiety and depression. So when someone recommended the book Lost Connections by Johann Hari to me, I was intrigued. The subtitle sums up the essence of the book this way: Why You’re Depressed and How to Find Hope.

The Author’s Experience with Antidepressants

In the first part of the book, journalist Johann Hari candidly shares his own history of suffering from depression from childhood. He was only a teenger when he was prescribed antidepressants, being told that he had a chemical imbalance in his brain.

The problem was, after a while, the depression would set in again, he would need a higher dose, and the cycle would go on and on.

When he became an adult and trained in the social sciences, he decided to take a deeper look into his experience, and came to the conclusion that the early facts presented to us about anxiety and depression may not all be true.

This caught my attention.

Clearly, I don’t know enough about mental health to claim to be any authority on it. But according to the book, the author believes that there may be factors that cause depression other than an incurable chemical imbalance in the brain. He goes into detail to share examples in different cultural and social settings.

We were created to do meaningful work. When we don’t have that, it can be a big factor into how we feel about ourselves and our destiny.
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The Problem of Lost Connections

One of the key causes of anxiety and depression, based on his research, is the problem of lost connections. What does he mean by this?

For example, when he first got prescribed the antidepressants, looking back, he realized that the doctors never even asked him what was going on in his life that might have caused his roller-coaster emotions. Not that he was looking for attention! But going into his research many years later, he found that most of the people who suffer from mental health problems had some form of disconnection, of being “cut off from something we innately need but seem to have lost along the way.”

In the book, he details at least nine possible causes of depression and anxiety. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but at least it can give us a bit of a clue for when people close to us struggle in this area. In this post, we will share a few areas, a disconnection from which can be a trigger for mental health problems:

1. Meaningful Work 

We were created to do meaningful work. When we don’t have that, it can be a big factor into how we feel about ourselves and our destiny.

2. Other People

In the chapter on disconnection from other people, the author describes the differences between societies that are more interconnected relationally, and those that are more self-sufficient and independent of other people. The support group that community offers can be a good safeguard against mental health struggles.

3. Meaningful Values 

Just like we’re designed for meaningful work, we’re also meant to pursue meaningful values. I like the way a famous quote puts it: “If yo’ve got nothing worth dying for, you’ve got nothing worth living for.”

4. Childhood Trauma

This one was a bit of a hard idea for me to swallow. Why would being disconnected from childhood trauma have adverse effects on us? As I kept reading, I saw the importance of processing the difficult things that happen to us.

5. Status and Respect 

When we don’t have status and respect, it can be easy to spiral down in a well of self-condemnation. The problem is, in this social media-driven world, it can be easy to find our identity in what other people say about us on social media!

6. The Natural World 

This ties in to some of the other books I’ve read about the need for time out in nature, such as Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Studies do show that being connected to nature can help improve our mental health!

7. A Hopeful and Secure Future

Truly, when a person struggles with anxiety and depression, it’s difficult to think about the future. The author describes himself during his attacks as being “radically shortsighted.”

Take a look at how he puts it: “When it came, I would only be able to think about the next few hours: how long they would seem, and how painful they would be. It was as if the future vanished.”

Reconnection as a Possible Solution

The good news is that, after having identified some of the possible disconnection problems that cause anxiety and depression, it now becomes possible to find potential solutions. When we start to reconnect with the things that we were disconnected from in the first place, it can have a profound impact on our lives.

I admit, this book summary can’t do it justice, so if you want to check out the book yourself, here is the link to purchase the book on Amazon.

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