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One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and Finally Let the Sunshine In

April 22, 2012 , ,

Happiness radiates from within

KEVIN CULLEN Commercial-News

Todd Patkin had it all: the respect of his community, leadership of his family’s growing auto-parts business, and a great wife and son.

But over time, he became paralyzed by depression and anxiety. At 36, he suffered a nervous breakdown.

His new book, “Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and — Finally — Let the Sunshine In” is a primer in how to set priorities, establish limits and find happiness.

Several of his suggestions hit home with me, for instance:

— “You have to choose and prioritize happiness — it doesn’t just happen.”

Long ago, someone told me that real happiness requires three things: something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to. You may live in a shanty in ol’ Shantytown, but if you have a job, a dream, and the right girl, life is sweet.

— “Striving for work/life balance is worth its weight in gold.”

I once knew a reporter who earned four weeks of paid vacation each year, but took only one week; the other three were forfeited. His job was everything to him. He acted as though the newspaper would shut down if he weren’t there. He’s gone now, but the paper has never missed an issue. Lesson learned.

— “We are our own worst critics.”

Comparisons are corrosive. No matter who you are, there always will be lots of people smarter than you, richer than you, better looking than you. Run with your blinkers on.

— “It’s never too late to start living in the present.”

It’s one thing to be nostalgic, and another to constantly relive mistakes, become mired in disappointments and wallow in regret. When someone asked George Burns what he would change in his long life, he replied that he wouldn’t change a thing … but he would like to live it all over again, just as it was, one more time.

— “Focusing on what you’re good at is best for everyone.”

I once knew a Nobel Prize laureate. In his 90s, he still came to work each day, directing post-doctoral students in his university laboratory. He wasn’t on the payroll; he loved chemistry. The happiest people are those who have a knack for something and find a way to make a living doing it. As Robert Frost said, vocation and avocation should be one, “as two eyes make one sight.”

— “Exercise is worth its weight in therapy.”

Physical exertion — even scrubbing a floor — can cleanse the mind, ease sadness and mend a broken heart.

— “Being friendly is a good investment.”

Strangers used to make eye contact and say “hi” to each other on the street. Now, it seems, they’re glued to their smart phones and iPods. We need to unplug, smile, and radiate kindness.

— “A grateful heart is a happy heart.”

We Americans are the luckiest people on earth, but we love to gripe, gripe, gripe. Our country isn’t perfect, but nobody’s leaving.

Danville native Kevin Cullen is a former Commercial-News reporter. Reach him at


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