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'Engage in life again'

Though John was retired from work, he was very active in a number of social and community clubs around town. His involvement in these community associations gave him a great sense of meaning and connectedness with others.

Unfortunately this all changed quite rapidly when he had a series of heart attacks over a short period of time and John developed something called chronic heart failure. His medical condition was so severe that he could not walk from his front doorstep to the mailbox without becoming greatly short of breath. As a result John gave up most of his involvement in the social and community clubs that he was previously heavily involved in. John subsequently became severely depressed, unable to see any meaning or purpose to life.

John was referred to a health psychologist working in his local public hospital. The health psychologist understood that John’s chronic disease had become a barrier to John being able to meet his emotional needs. The health psychologist helped John brainstorm a range of ideas to help meet his emotional needs. John had previously been very talented building models out of paddle pop sticks. Even though it had been years since he tried this last, John bought a big bag of paddle pop sticks and some glue. Sitting at home, John started to build a wide range of models and decorative objects. In fact he was so good that one of his clubs started to pay him for his constructions which they used in their activities.

This gave John a strong sense of being useful again and a renewed sense of meaning to life. By understanding the link between John’s physical health and his emotional health, the health psychologist was able to lift John out of his deep depression and help him engage in life again.