work is good therapy



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This article was excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan. Buy it now here.

THERAPY CAN BE EXPENSIVE. Work is cheap — they even pay you for it! When your work is challenging enough to fully compel your attention, but not so challenging it outstrips your ability, you enter The Enjoyment Zone, where your attention is focussed on what you’re doing, where you’re experiencing the pleasure of being engrossed and engaged in what you’re doing, where the petty worries and frustrations that normally plague your mind have no foothold. And whether or not you work in The Enjoyment Zone is up to you, not the job. You can make your job into an enjoyable pursuit.

If you want to read more about that, read Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s excellent book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience.

When you can work in that enjoyable state of concentration, you’re giving yourself an excellent form of therapy. Work can be therapeutic! It can heal and restore your mind. It can rid you of depression, negative moods, and feelings of helplessness. And it can give you confidence and self-esteem.

One of the things that contributes to negative, unpleasant emotions is rumination: dwelling on thoughts you can do nothing about, running negative and self-defeating thoughts through your head over and over, convincing yourself ever more thoroughly of the validity of your misery. Once these kinds of thoughts get going, they’re hard to stop. You feel bad, you think about your situation in a negative way because you feel bad, and then the negative way you’re thinking just makes you feel worse. The thoughts aren’t doing you any good. The best thing you can do is stop thinking about it, but you can’t seem to do that. You’re like a train on a track, and there’s nowhere to go but down.

Engaging work takes your mind off that track. Like distracting a crying baby with a rattle, your mind gets sent in a new direction.

And while you’re working, you’re causing an effect. Even moving your fingers on a keyboard causes an effect. Helplessness is a core symptom of depression, contributing to it and often causing it. Productive work proves you are not helpless, so simply doing your work can lessen or even eliminate a bout of depression.

Also, when you work in The Enjoyment Zone, your skills improve. One inevitable consequence of challenging work is an increase in competence and expertise. This gives you confidence and self-esteem — not based merely on the encouraging words of a therapist, but based on real evidence.

Work cannot accomplish everything therapy can, but it can do a great deal of therapeutic good — far more good than leisure (most leisure produces nothing: it doesn’t increase skills, competence or self-esteem, and it doesn’t engage your mind enough to stop ruminations). Work has, however, been an effective therapy for generations of people. And it can work as well for you.

Get to work — keep it challenging,
but not stressful.

This article was excerpted from the book, Principles For Personal Growth by Adam Khan. Buy it now here.

learn about the therapeutic value of purpose

Author: Adam Khan
author of the books, Self-Help Stuff That Works and Antivirus For Your Mind
and creator of the blog:
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