October 10, 2007

Avid activity vs. depression

Physical activity can be quantified.
  • It's not the same as the level of depression in terms of amount of non-depressed behavior.
  • However, physical activity may be useful as a treatment for depression.
Mental activity is hard to quantify.
  • A variety of activities in a day, a lot of hours used for some different activities every day, isn't necessarily a lot of mental activity, and isn't necessarily not depressed.
  • A lot of time each day used for difficult mental activity that has some results or progress, even if a hobby, isn't necessarily not depressed. (It might be required work or a habit, and going very slowly or unenjoyably.)
The kind of not depressed I want is an "appetite" for learning and activities, and "energy" to put hours into various hobbies and activities every day.

It's hard to express in abstractions and generalities.

A very depressed state is sleeping in, sitting around, not taking much of an interest in anything, —which means specifically when one happens to look at a book, turn on a radio or t.v., pick up an instrument, there's nothing important about it, it's all boring, and even if one has hours to spend doing that one thing, it's only the most casual amount that gets done and it doesn't catch on to doing every day— going along with watching t.v. sometimes, but not even consistently about that and losing interest in longer, boring things because it gets hard to pay attention.

A moderately depressed state is having activities at various times of day every day, being able to have a routine of media consumption, scheduled radio and t.v. programs that one likes, and reading time to keep up with some periodicals and reading novels, being able to have an exercise routine and regular meals, shopping, laundry. But choice to do new things isn't there much, and avidity to learn and to progress is lacking.

A positively not depressed state includes the ability to take an interest in learning something, to read and to study it avidly for hours every day, to make the time for it, just because it's interesting and one is curious or feels challenged. It doesn't have to be part of a school program or have anyone else's approval as an activity that's "not a waste of time."

It's hard to fake a proper interest in a hobby just by putting time or money into it or making some product or performance to show for it. Without interest, whatever art it is, one barely might put out cookie-cutter, paint-by-numbers, crude models, school-level unenthusiastic performances, etc.

With a proper interest, one can produce results from areas of interest that don't seem to lend themselves to showing results. One can have a wealth of knowledge and skills and related products and accomplishments to show for it, where others if they just heard of the area of interest would think there's nothing really to do in that area, at least not for an amateur who isn't well funded, because there isn't a conventional expectation of school-like project results to show. For instance, people can see how an interest in boats might be demonstrated by the result of having a boat or the result of making model boats, because that's relatively conventional, but to take some arcane, useless-seeming curiosity and make a product people wouldn't expect out of it, resourcefully not extravagantly, is possible with a proper interest.

But not to get materialistic about having products, or to make interests about having something to show off.

With interest, one can take a curiosity about a language, for example, and learn the language and read interesting books in it, and so on.

With less interest, less avidity, one reduces language learning to having to know a list of words that are substitutes for what one already knows, so it becomes intensely boring, then one doesn't seem to have the energy to spend hours on it every day, even if there's still an interesting part left one feels a lack of energy to get through the overhead to getting to that part and would rather sit around and daydream than spend time on it every day.

It has to do with a distinction between "interest" as having a motive to do something that's in one's interest, then it's all a means to an end and one needs to have willpower and low time-preference to get through it for the long-term result, and the more colloquial sense of "interest" as one's curiosity about something, pleasure in learning it, which is really living not preparing to live.

With depression one feels "stuck," "blocked," fears and inhibitions and dislike of routine and tiredness blocking getting through the basic requirements of activities that would be "interesting," that is, mentally stimulating and learning experiences.

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