THE BLOG

Stress Beats Relaxation, Depression Beats Happiness

08/10/2014 17:21 BST | Updated 08/12/2014 10:59 GMT

Google Analytics, the online software package that looks at internet search terms, is a good way of finding out what is on people's minds.

You put in the word 'banana' and you find out how many people have googled banana in the last month. Or if you really want to know, the trends in banana interest over the last 12 months.

Search terms and their popularity reveal a mine of information about our interests and perhaps our psychology.

Stress ( 5400 searches) beats Relaxation (590 searches) by a mile. Depression (18,100 searches) beats Happiness ( 5400 searches).

So what does this say about what is on our minds?

One conclusion is that we are more interested in what could be wrong in our lives than what could be right. Or perhaps our problems are of more interest than possible solutions to those problems?

These results support a finding that I encounter with clients. They often look for the answer to their problems by focussing on those same problems. It seems as if the mind cannot stop itself from rehearsing, re-living and re-telling the problem in the hope that the solution will appear. This way of thinking becomes extreme for those who are depressed, where even the hope of a solution has gone and negative thoughts and feelings rule the mind and body.

But maybe this destructive habit comes from the words themselves. As a therapist who uses the power of words as a therapeutic tool, I am curious about what different words evoke in different people.

Does not 'stress' somehow evoke a more down to earth, real-life description of how we live, whereas 'relaxation' sounds a bit wishy-washy?

Does not 'depression' sound like the reality of the human condition whereas 'happiness' sound a bit fake.

This could be why those internet search terms are so skewed to the negative. How the word Stress is somehow a more compelling description of our lives than Relaxation, Depression is somehow more real than Happiness.

When governments try to promote 'happiness' there is a chorus of disapproval. The public feels misunderstood and manipulated, as if the feeling of happiness is going to be dragged into their lives kicking and screaming. Not to mention the concept of 'Positive Thinking'. Positive thinking is a dirty word, it suggests foolishness and superficiality, as if it is bound to fail. Why not just cut to the chase, get real and be negative?

Somehow we need to reclaim the words. So that happiness seems a more true way of life than depression, that relaxation seems more powerful than stress.

ps

My apologies to those who are struggling with clinical depression, this article is not aimed at you. I am not saying snap out of it and get happy.