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This is not a treatment for depression. I am not qualified to give that. It is simply a series of techniques that I researched from many areas and disciplines, put together into a program, and utilised to overcome depression in my life. The program worked for me. It may not work for you, and is offered as information only.
Depression is sometimes a temporary condition, brought about by some event in life, and can often be relieved by some of the techniques I will mention. If it is deeper or longer lasting, it may be clinical depression or some other more serious form of depression, and while benefiting from the same techniques, may need to be treated by a medical professional or psychologist.
Depression is defined by a standard set of symptoms described in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. They are:
poor appetite and significant weight loss, or increased appetite and significant weight gain;
insomnia, or increased sleep;
agitation, or retardation, of movement and thought;
loss of interest or pleasure in usual activities or decrease in sexual drive;
fatigue and loss of energy;
feelings of worthlessness, self-reproach, or excessive or inappropriate guilt;
diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness;
recurrent thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts.
Not many people will have all of these symptoms, but if some exist, then there could be a degree of depression which needs to be addressed. One thing that depression does is rob you of a lot of energy, and as this is an extract from a book about gaining energy, I will discuss some methods to combat depression and thereby gain more energy.
Depression gets worse when you do nothing. When you just sit and think about whatever it is that is bothering you, you will probably end up feeling more depressed and very low in energy.
Sitting in bad feelings just makes the feelings worse. The thing to realize is that feelings do not create actions. It is actions that create feelings. And good, positive actions create good, positive feelings and lift your mood. So the first step out of depression is to do something, to move forward in life taking action, no matter how small to start with. Don’t wait till you feel like taking action, or until you feel more confident, because you may never feel that way UNTIL you starting DOING something.
Physiology is very important. This means the way you move, the way you stand and sit. If you are finding yourself looking down, with shoulders hunched over, and breathing very shallow breaths, and thinking “poor me” thoughts, you can make an almost immediate change by changing your physiology. Stand or sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, look up, smile and start thinking about a time you felt good, or a time when you felt most loved and cared for. You should experience a lightening of your mood very quickly. If you then start moving around, at a brisk pace, and DO something (even household chores), you can quickly move out of the darkness of the mood and feel happier within yourself. Try it, and if you want more information on this technique, get a copy of Unlimited Power by Anthony Robbins, who discusses physiology in great detail.
The next step is to look at what you are eating and drinking. Eating a lot of junk food, caffeine, sugar etc will make you feel worse due to its fat and sugar content and lowered nutritional value, so eat healthy, nutritious food, lots of fresh fruit, fish, vegetables and grains and drink lots of filtered water (2-3 litres a day). Give much more focus to these fresh foods than to processed food. This will help to stabilise your brain chemistry along with the positive self-talk, exercise and mediation, and as it is unbalanced brain chemistry that is a main causative effect of depression, addressing it through diet is critical.
Alcohol itself is a depressant and will not help your mood at all, so try to avoid it when depressed. Long term, it will aggravate your depression and lower your mood further while affecting your health and fitness in a negative way. Moderate social drinking with friends occasionally is fine. What I am talking about is daily drinking alone in an attempt to combat the depression and make the problems go away. It just doesn’t work.
Vitamins and minerals will further strengthen your system and a good daily multivitamin together with a strong anti-oxidant supplement is a minimum to start with. Learn more about health supplements, read articles, talk to people and implement a supplement program in your diet. It is essential in today’s world.
Exercise is essential as the body will produce hormones called endorphins when you exercise properly and the hormones will make you feel quite good. The increased fitness level will make you more able to cope with life’s problems as well. As mentioned before, the better tuned your physical body is, the better your psychological state of mind becomes. It’s when you are depressed that it’s hardest to take action and exercise, but this is probably when it is most important.
Anti-depressant medication should be only be taken if necessary and on the advice of a medical professional, but sometimes is required before other techniques can work. As a natural alternative to perhaps try first, there is a herb call St. John’s Wort (available from health food stores) that has been reported to be effective against light depression in many people and is a safe and natural substance. Wort usually needs to be taken for at least a month before seeing results.
Self Talk is one of the most critical techniques to combat depression and can be very effective in lifting mood. What you say to yourself all day long controls your reactions to whatever life offers you and indeed whether you see the world and its people as a dark place or a friendly place. (See separate section below).
Visualisation is also very effective. Take some time each day and while sitting and listening to some “feel good” music, relive some great times in your life, see yourself succeeding again in the future and really get into the good feelings. Think about what you can do to make life better, and see yourself doing it, and feel the great feelings that come with the accomplishment. And when any bad thoughts from the past come, acknowledge them and replace them with good thoughts about what you can do today and in the future to make your life what you want it to be. Do this every day as part of your routine.
Meditation is also part of the treatment and though you may not feel like meditating to start with, it will quickly become an effective part of your treatment. It also has many other health and psychological benefits as well that may amaze you after you have been practising it for a while. (See separate section below).
Breathing – Most people breathe in a shallow fashion and therefore do not get enough oxygen. Ten deep breaths taken 2-3 times a day will get more oxygen into your blood and your brain, and this will have a positive effect on mood and relaxation.
Of all the things in your life that influence your attitude, the one you have the most control over is your self talk. Negative self talk will give you a negative attitude which will give you poor results. Positive self talk will give you a more positive attitude which will give you great results. The key to controlling your self talk is awareness of what you are saying to yourself on a consistent basis.
To say things like, “I can’t, this never works for me, I am no good at this, why do I always feel tired, I’ve never had energy” etc program your mind for more of the same. To program your mind positively, you need to become aware of the negative firstly, and then replace them with supporting statements. A technique that I have used successfully is based on Cognitive Therapy and is described next.
Cognitive Therapy has helped me in the past to claw my way out negative thinking and to start making positive changes. The technique I used was to carry a mini tape recorder around for three days (a notepad would be nearly as effective). I recorded every negative thought as they occurred.
After 3 days, I sat down and transcribed all the negative thoughts into a list. It made a hell of a horrible list, and when I realised what had been running round inside my head, I knew what had been causing my problems. Like many others, I had been talking to myself in a very negative and non supportive way.
I went through every statement and wrote it in reverse. i.e. “I am a loser” became “I am a winner”. “I don’t know what I’m doing” became “I know exactly what I’m doing”. “I can’t do this” became “I can easily do this” etc…. You get the idea.
I ended up with a list of 32 positive statements, which were the exact opposite of what I was saying to myself all the time. This was the important part because the statements related to MY thinking. They were not someone else’s list of affirmations. I realised that I had dirty water (negative thoughts) circulating in my mind, and the only way to make it clean was to gradually replace it with pure water (the positive statements that were the EXACT opposite of the negative thoughts).
I put the list up on my bathroom mirror and started saying them aloud a couple of times morning and night. It took about three days to start to notice the difference and I continued reading them for a month. Now I am rarely have those negative thoughts, and am when I do, I am able to catch and replace them quickly and easily.
Meditation and Relaxation
Meditation is a simple, natural, mental technique that is practiced twice daily for 15-20 minutes while seated comfortably. Because it is effortless and natural, it requires no special abilities and can be practiced by anyone — anyone who can think can meditate! More than one million people of all ages, nationalities, religions, and walks of life are already enjoying the great benefits of this technique, which include:
deep rest (deeper than the deepest point of sleep) and relaxation
increased energy and vitality
greater alertness and clarity of mind
increased intelligence and creativity
improved interpersonal relationships
ability to accomplish more with less effort
less problems in life
Studies of meditation indicate that it tends to produce normalisation in all areas of life. It reduces stress, improves health, enriches mental functioning, enhances personal relationships, and increases job productivity and job satisfaction.
Listed below are some of the findings of the effects of meditation.
Improved Mental Abilities: Increased intelligence, increased creativity, improved learning ability, improved memory, improved reaction time, higher levels of moral reasoning, improved academic achievement, greater orderliness of brain functioning, increased self-actualisation.
Improved Health: Reduced stress and anxiety, reduced hospitalisation, reduced incidence of disease, reduced need for out-patient medical care, reduced health care costs, reduced use of alcohol and drugs, improved cardiovascular health, reduced physical complaints, increased longevity.
Improved Social Behaviour: Improved self-confidence, reduced anxiety, improved family life, improved relationships at home and at work, increased tolerance, improved job performance, increased job satisfaction.
Aside from generating groundbreaking research, it may be that Herbert Benson’s most lasting contribution is the development and popularisation of a meditative technique with no religious overlay. This approach allows those who are not religious, or whose beliefs may appear to conflict with the teachings connected to a particular meditation system, to nonetheless participate fully in this worthwhile, health-giving activity.
According to Benson, the relaxation response technique produces the same physiological changes as does the most popular meditation technique, the method which has been most fully researched in scientific settings.
Here is a slight adaptation of Benson’s directions for evoking the relaxation response and entering a meditation state.
(1) Sit quietly in a comfortable position with your back straight. (Do not lie down).
(2) Take a few deep breaths, and as you are expelling each breath, say out loud “relaxing now” and gradually close your eyes.
(3) Deeply relax all your muscles one by one, beginning at your feet, focusing on each part of the body, and progressing up to your face and the little muscles behind your eyes. Keep them relaxed.
(4) Breathe through your nose. Become aware of your breathing. As you breathe out, say the word “ONE,” silently to yourself. For one example, breathe IN… OUT, “ONE”; IN… OUT, “ONE,”: etc. Breathe easily and naturally.
(5) Continue for 10 to 20 minutes. You may open your eyes if necessary to check the time, or you may use a timer with a quiet alarm function. When you finish, sit quietly for several minutes, at first with your eyes closed and later with your eyes opened. Stretch your arms, then the rest of your body and take a few deep breaths again. Do not stand up for a few minutes.
(6) Do not worry about whether you are successful in achieving a deep level of relaxation. Maintain a passive attitude and permit relaxation to occur at its own pace. When distracting thoughts occur, try to ignore them by not dwelling upon them and return to repeating “ONE.” With practice, the response should come with little effort. Practice the technique once or twice daily, but not within two hours after any meal, since the digestive processes seem to interfere with the elicitation of the relaxation response.
The word “ONE” may be replaced by a mantra if preferred. Some possible mantras from various traditions are:
Om So Hum Om Mani Padme Hum Om Nima Shivaya Hari Om Tat twam asi
The sounds used for these mantras, which are derived from Sanskrit, are not intended to engage the cognitive mind.
It is common for beginners at meditation (of all types) to experience a great deal of mental chatter and clutter. If this happens to you, it does not mean that you are doing anything wrong. Just notice each thought as it comes, and then let it pass on by, using the mantra to, as it were, break the spell.
Most of the information presented here on meditation is drawn from articles published on the Internet by Daniel Redwood, Herbert Benson and other highly qualified researchers.
These are a few techniques that people have found effective, so if depressed or even if you just have the blues for whatever reason, try the combination of techniques presented here for at least a month. Results with different people can and will vary, and the time to achieve results must obviously vary as well.
The important thing to remember is that these techniques will give you a greater degree of control over the way you feel. Dealing with depression is a matter of doing all the small things mentioned on a daily basis, and the results you achieve will be in direct proportion to how consistent and how disciplined you are in doing the techniques every day. You can choose to be happy anytime you want, and you don’t need anyone to make you happy. All you need to do is choose, and the funny thing is that when you become happy all the time, no matter what your circumstances, nice people will just start coming into your life, because you are a happy person and happy people are attracted to other happy people. And with the happy people that come into you life, will also come the opportunities that will allow you to be successful in every area of your life.
It’s all your choice…anytime you want….
Just remember the key – Actions create feelings. Feelings do not create actions. So take action, and you can start to enjoy life again.
The information and advice contained in this article is based on the research and personal experiences of the author. They are intended as information only and not as a substitute for consulting with your doctor or health care professional. The author is not responsible in any way for any adverse effect or consequences resulting from any suggestions or use of any other information contained herein. All matters pertaining to your physical, mental and emotional health should be supervised by your health care professional.