Statistics show that one in five women, and one in ten men will experience depression at some point in their lives (The University of Texas, 1997).
This article aims to help individuals overcome the effects of depression, by providing a set of psychological strategies and philosophies that can be applied practically.
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Learn from inspirational people
During times of sadness and melancholy it is often a good idea to remind yourself of inspirational people who have achieved great things, overcoming adversities and difficulties.
Often the ebbs in your life serve as experiences that equip you with a real mental toughness. Fill your mind and body with the philosophy “that if I can get through this I can get through anything.”
Winston Churchill is a fine example of someone that made remarkable achievements for himself and his country. Despite having to contend with severe bouts of depression he still managed to find the inspiration to create a vision that lead Britain to a heroic victory during the second world war.
Understand that suffering is not necessarily a bad thing, and often it is through hardship that great people are born.
Create a cause
One of the most common symptoms of depression is a feeling of worthlessness. An effective way to tackle this is to re-inject a cause and purpose into your daily routines.
Understandably it is easier said than done when you feeling at your lowest, but if you can find a way to add direction back into your life, you may find that your feelings of sadness begin to evaporate.
If you feel like you have given up on yourself, aim to help and give to others. Maybe you could consider donating your time to help charities and sign up for voluntary work.
The act of giving is an effective way to attract rewarding experiences back into your life.
By creating a worthwhile cause in your life, you begin to see that you have the power to affect change for the better. Often the rediscovery that you have an important part to play in the scheme of things has the effect of revitalising your sense of self-esteem.
Happiness is a choice taking responsibility
Some argue that happiness is a choice, a phenomena that only arrives in your life when you decide to make it so.
It is easy to view happiness as the by-product of achieving the things you want in life.
The same goes for depression; thinking that happiness will arrive once you are no longer depressed, although it seems to make perfect sense, is arguably a flawed approach.
It is much more powerful to understand that irrespective of what is going on in the present moment, you have the choice to be happy, if you are prepared to take ownership of this emotion.
Everyone has the ability to generate their own internal states, and therefore it can be argued that it is within your control to produce feelings of happiness whenever you choose to. Although it may be more difficult for some individuals, arguably it is still possible.
Surround yourself with happy people
When I work with people that suffer from depression I advise them to surround themselves with positive people. Depression is highly contagious, and a number of scientific studies have shown that being around depressed people significantly increases your chances of becoming depressed.
Therefore, if a depressed person spends most of their time socialising with people that are also depressed, the condition may worsen.
Arguably this is a problem within mental institutes. How can patients suffering from mental illness get back to a normal way of life if they are living in a confined environment surrounded by people that also have internal disturbances?
All of us unconsciously learn through observation, which is why it is advisable that you surround yourself with individuals that are positive models.
If happiness is your goal, surround yourself with people who are positive and uplifting
Remove limiting beliefs
The lenses through which you view the world are created by your beliefs. Suffering from depression comes hand in hand with having a set of limiting beliefs that fuel and maintain feelings of negativity.
Before you can change your limiting beliefs you must be able to identify them. Limiting beliefs nearly always manifest themselves as verbal expressions, internally and externally.
Here are two common examples:
- I am useless.
- Everyone thinks I am unattractive.
These negative beliefs about your life, only serve to accentuate your inner turmoil. One way to reduce the effect of these beliefs is to soften them.
I could suggest completely flipping these beliefs for example form ?I am useless? to ?I am fantastic?, but that would be a little extreme, and probably quite difficult for a person struggling with depression to internalise straight away.
In my opinion the sure and steady way to overcome limiting beliefs is to first soften them, for example:
"I am useless" becomes "At the moment I am feeling useless, but I may not always feel useless."
"Everyone thinks I am unattractive" becomes "Some people may think that I am unattractive, but certainly not everyone".
By subtly opening up the possibility that the way you feel is not necessarily the way things really are, or how things will always be, you shift your focus towards a brighter future
There a number of reasons why exercise is a fantastic way to beat depression. Exercise causes the release of a set of chemicals within the body, known as endorphins which have the effect of creating feelings of well-being and positivity.
The second benefit of exercise is that it takes your mind off your persisting negative thoughts, by preoccupying your mind and body with the physical motor actions of the exercise.
Studies have shown that during exercise your brain?s motor cortex is working at full flow, which has the effect of suppressing brain centres that are responsible for generating the negative thought and feeling patterns associated with depression.
Using a goal-setting programme is a great way of getting your life moving in a positive direction. The effects of depression are always aggravated when you feel like you have no direction and nothing to aim for.
Goals will help to direct your mind and body towards the things that you want.
Goals may come in the form of well organised exercise routines, increasing your level of social activity, and making more time to pursue your hobbies.
Whatever goals you set, when you begin making progress towards them, feelings of depression are likely to subside.
Follow this link to learn more about goal-setting.
Disassociate from the label of depression
A good way to weaken the grips that depression has over your life is to give it a name. By labelling your depression you disassociate from your condition helping you to tackle it more objectively.
One of the biggest problems of mental illness is that you cannot see it, consequently some sufferers internalise and accept the condition as being a part of who they are. This is unlike having a problem like a broken leg, where you are able to internally separate the problem from your identity.
Naming your depression compartmentalises the condition, allowing you to separate it from who you are and who you want to be.
It also helps you to confront you condition more rationally. For example, say you have labelled your depression ?Mr Black,? you can then begin to pose self-directed questions to help you identify the effects of your depression and ways to overcome it.
Questions like the ones below may be of use:
?How is Mr Black affecting my life??
?How can I reduce the negative effects that Mr Black is having on me??
I speak with many sufferers of depression, and I have had mixed feedback about the effectiveness of counselling. Some find it highly beneficial, while others have reported very little changes in their personal well-being after counselling.
The common approach that counsellors take is to spend a considerable amount of time discussing the patient's problems with them.
Some psychologists argue that this approach is flawed, based on the idea that you get more of what you focus on.
They argue that reliving pain and suffering only adds energy and strength to things that you want to avoid.
If you do use a counselor make sure that you are getting the results you want from the service.
The power of creating
The great thing about creating is that your focus moves away from being inwards, to a focus style that is directed outwards.
Part of the problem with individuals suffering from depression is to do with their focus style being predominantly inwards, as this creates the opportunity to ruminate over their negative thoughts and feelings.
Try painting, creating music, playing sport... whatever takes your fancy, as long as it forces you to adopt an external focus style.