Ep. 5: Dr. Rachel Hershenberg – How to Create a Life You Love

It’s hard to build a life we love, and doubly so when we’re going through depression. In my conversation with Dr. Rachel Hershenberg, we talk about her recent book, Activating Happiness: A Jump Start Guide to Overcoming Low Motivation, Depression, or Just Feeling Stuck.

Rachel’s book goes way beyond the simple idea of “doing more activities” to combat depression. As we discuss, certain kinds of activities are more antidepressant than others, and those are the ones where we want to focus our finite energies.

I had a great time learning more about Rachel’s approach to treating depression; we covered topics including:

  • The effectiveness of behavioral treatment compared to medication for depression
  • How to start as small as necessary to get the ball rolling
  • The big effect of seemingly small decisions
  • Our difficulty in predicting what’s going to make us feel well
  • What drives procrastination (it’s not laziness!)
  • How to build habits that serve us well
  • Effective ways to cultivate gratitude

Early in the episode I mention an article Rachel wrote; here’s the blog post where I report those findings: How “Daily Uplifts” Can Counter Depression.

Rachel Hershenberg, PhD, is assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University, where she also serves as director of psychotherapy in the Treatment Resistant Depression program. She’s a productive scholar (see her profile on PubMed) and she received the Career Development Leadership Award in Clinical Research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.

Find Rachel at her website and on Emory University’s website.

2 thoughts

  • I enjoyed this episode quite a bit. Dr. Hershenberg was a wonderful guest.

    I remember when I started doing work about 6 years ago, the clinician I worked with advised me that creating new behaviors would help me to create a life worth living. Understanding why I did stuff was nice to know yet it wouldn’t help me build new skills, habits and behaviors.

    I liked the stone wall analogy used in the podcast. One stone doesn’t make a difference, yet hundreds and thousands of those seemingly nothings do make a difference. It’s similar to an analogy I picked up at a workshop at OnSite in 2013. A 2% change in course is so tiny and meaningless until you’ve been going away from the center for a ways. It really changes your course.

    Have you considered having Russ Harris who wrote The Happiness Trap on the podcast? Or Stephen Hayes or Kelly Wilson? Marsha Linehan may be quite a guest with her development of DBT. Elisha Goldstein has written a few good books on mindfulness as it applies to Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (with Bob Stahl).

    • Thanks so much for your comments, Susan. I agree that Dr. Hershenberg was a terrific guest. I really enjoyed our discussion. She does do such a good job explaining why creating new behaviors is important and worthwhile. And yes, that 2% deflection in our course can make a huge difference. It reminds me of times when I’ve navigated in the woods with a compass, and getting a degree or two off course matters when you’re walking more than a short distance!

      Those are great ideas for future guests. I haven’t approached any of them but will certainly keep them in mind and hopefully they would be open to coming on the podcast.

      Thanks again! 🙂

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