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Published 18th October 2009 by

In my first self-improvement article, I'm going to talk about defining a problem and identifying its causes. This strategy has enabled me to locate the cause of my depression and allowed me to work towards a solution.

One of the first things taught on LivingLifeToTheFull.com is that of the Five Areas Assessment. I recommend that you sign up for this free online course to learn the specifics, but in a nutshell, this assessment enables you to identify specific aspects about yourself, and how they are interconnected.

The Five Areas Assessment

The Five Areas Assessment

This diagram outlines the five areas. The first, "Life situations, relationships and practical problems" reflects all the areas that are environmental and outside our control, such as events and other people. The lower four boxes represent yourself. Your thoughts, your feelings, your behaviour and your physical symptoms.

At times of depression, or stress, your thinking will be negatively affected. You may find that you misinterpret various things, jump to conclusions, worry about things going wrong or what other think of you.

Because of your altered thinking, you will probably have bad feelings as well. If you pass a friend in the street or the shops and they blank you, you may very well think that they don't like you which will lead to your feeling unwanted, sad, upset or angry. Maybe this person is having a bad day, isn't feeling very well or simply they just didn't see you.

Emotional states are quite often reflected in physical symptoms. You may find that you can't sleep, or oversleep. You may have a decreased appetite, or you can't stop eating. You may even have your thoughts manifest as pain - eye strain or headaches.

Finally, your behaviour may change. You may stop doing activities or stop going out.

Each of the boxes is interconnected. If you have worrying thoughts, you may feel bad about things. These negative thoughts can effect your physical self and as a result, you may stop going out. Maybe going out effects your emotions, which cause pain and thus negative thoughts.

I want you to take a few minutes to write down these headings, and under each heading write down your thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms and behaviour.

A copy of my assessment is to the right - it's not very clear and very messy, but this is the way it makes sense to me. Draw your assessment, however, feels right for you.

My physical symptoms included tiredness throughout the day, difficulty sleeping, little to no motivation, poor memory, poor appetite, little concentration, slowness and little interest in things. Looking at these items I was able to deduce that the vast majority of my physical symptoms can be attributed to lack of sleep. I was then able to ask "Why am I having difficulty sleeping?". With a bit of research, I was able to deduce that my diet lacked iron, so having taken iron supplements I am able to sleep better and not feel so bad during the day. I have also increased my intake of dietary iron.

Hopefully, when you do you assessment you can link items to other items across headings in a similar way. Ask yourself why you felt that way, or why you thought that way. Were there any events that lead to them?

By connecting items, I was able to find common causes, and once I identified specific events or factors I have been able to tackle them one by one.

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