Thankfully society is learning to recognise, accept and deal with depression, and the “stigma” associated with this mental disorder is disappearing, but not fast enough. My intention in this E-Report is to cover some essential elements of “Moving Through Depression” that I have gleaned through my experience with people over the last 15 years.
It is very empowering to use techniques to help yourself, to experience the helpful effect and to form the thought “there is something that I can do about this myself”. There are a number of techniques that can assist - the purpose of this E-Report is to introduce some.
In a recent newsletter I received from Depression Net, I quote “The current proven most effective treatment for depression is a combination of antidepressant medication AND therapy. Unfortunately we find that most people still are only aware of - and getting – the medication half of treatment. Many have never heard of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) which is one of the most effective therapies for treating depression. In addition, CBT is the most effective treatment for anxiety and many people with anxiety know nothing about it. A clinical or counselling psychologist is generally the first port of call for CBT…”
The following information on CBT comes from the website – www.cognitivetherapy.com
Cognitive behaviour therapy combines two very effective kinds of therapy – cognitive therapy and behaviour therapy.
Cognitive therapy teaches you how certain thinking patterns are causing your symptoms – by giving you a distorted picture of what's going on in your life, and making you feel anxious, depressed or angry for no good reason, or provoking you into ill-chosen actions.
Behaviour therapy helps you weaken the connections between troublesome situations and your habitual reactions to them – reactions such as fear, depression or rage, and self-defeating or self-damaging behaviour. It also teaches you how to calm your mind and body, so you can feel better, think more clearly, and make better decisions.
When combined into CBT, behaviour therapy and cognitive therapy provide very powerful tools for stopping your symptoms and getting your life on a more satisfying track.
Let me repeat that the current proven most effective treatment for depression is a combination of anti-depressant medication and therapy. Being on anti-depressants means that at the very least, the sufferer has recognised their illness and visited their doctor. This I applaud. It is a beginning on the road to coping.
The next step is to use various techniques. The following are some which I know have been successful.
Talking about it
A recent ABC TV’s 4 Corners program devoted 45 minutes to depression. A number of the people on the program expressed how important it was to talk about their actual experience of the symptoms of depression. My own experience of handling the murder of my daughters is that when you push things down (by not talking about them) you push the associated thoughts and feelings down to the subconscious mind. The subconscious mind houses memory and habits. It is the dream mind. When there are negative thoughts pushed into the subconscious mind, it deals with the problem with hot sweats, nightmares, irrational actions and unexplained anger. This is known as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and it can contribute to depression. (Much of the beginnings of recognising PTSD started with examining the effects on Vietnam Veterans – another subject close to my heart.)
Talk to anybody – your doctor, your therapist and above all your friends. Yes, that’s right, your friends. It’s up to each and every one of us to learn about depression, to recognise its symptoms and to encourage our friends to talk. Don’t hide depression – it’s the worst thing you can do.
Changing Negative Thoughts
Science has shown that we talk to ourselves over 50,000 times a day. Professor Roger Sperry, who received the Nobel Prize for dividing the functions of the Left and Right brain in 1981, proved that negative thoughts attract negative thoughts, which lead to negative action and to negative reaction. Thank goodness for the corollary – positive thoughts attract positive thoughts, which lead to positive action and positive reaction.
So what’s the key in this? Awareness! We need to be aware of our own self-talk. There is no doubt that negative self talk can drive us into depression. My encouragement is to listen to your self-talk, become aware of it, and if it’s negative, change it! Statements such as, I can do this, I’m good at what I do, every day and in every way I get better and better, my self confidence is improving each day, (and many more) can replace any negative statements. I would recommend using a type of CBT to form new habits in the subconscious mind, and employing a system of goals, visualisation and emotion. (Refer to my book Piece of Mind.)
How we react to situations also needs to be examined. After a negative situation or an event takes place, a trigger mechanism within you is activated which can send you “straight into depression”. It could be a thought about a previous failure, an event with a friend, or something that sparks sadness or anger that starts the downward spiral. Using a CBT method I teach about Peaceful Place which can act as an “interrupt mechanism” (to the spiralling negative thoughts) which in turn can “nip the negative thought in the bud”. You can learn to immediately replace the negative thought with a positive event – thus responding instead of reacting. Sometimes I slip into negative thoughts about the events of my daughters’ murder and I immediately bring in and swamp this negative thought with a picture of my three smiling daughters going horse riding or camping.
Another CBT method is to learn about anchors. You can develop an anchor (for example the movement of a forefinger to touch the centre of your forehead – it can really be anything) which is linked to good positive events with good emotion. As soon as a negative event arises you give yourself your anchor, and then you are swamped with good emotion and can respond instead of react negatively. (Once again I would recommend my book Piece of Mind.)
About the Powerful Subconscious Mind
The subconscious mind aims to keep us where we are and prevent us from changing, by creating doubt, negative self talk and self sabotage. It is up to the conscious mind to change the subconscious mind, and we can do that by using CBT methods of visualisation, goals and active meditation. How is this possible? By using the fact that the subconscious does not know the difference between imagination and reality, (look at a dream about falling – in the dream you really think that you’re falling and yet you are not), we can reprogram the subconscious mind. Because of this amazing fact the subconscious mind will accept the new “programming” when using these CBT methods.
The power of imagination within the subconscious mind will work for all of us just the same way that great sports people are taught to use their mind to achieve fantastic results. (The healing process that was used by Jana Pitman in the 2004 Olympics is a wonderful example.) This process, when used for healing, is called psycho-neuro-immunology and science has shown that we can increase the T4 Cell count (the fighting cell) and so improve our own immune system.
It’s easy to stay in a negative pattern. The subconscious mind wants it – it wants what it’s got and it doesn’t want anything new or different. Your job is to recognise this and then use conscious mind methods to get through to the subconscious mind to create new habits. When the subconscious mind has got the new habit, it will want it – the new habit - and life will become easier.
Taking Personal Responsibility – Loving Yourself
An important part of loving yourself is taking personal responsibility for yourself. This involves elements such as taking responsibility for your own thinking process, for your own therapy program, for what you watch, read, eat, how much sleep you have, and more. It is important to love yourself to enhance the healing process.
Worry and anxiousness from past emotional events can often rekindle injustice, resentfulness or hopelessness. Often blame is involved with these thoughts. It is important that you know that you have a choice when dealing with adversity. You can choose to learn from adversity. Never say “Why me?” because the answer to this question sets up guilt. Ask the question “What is there that I can learn from this event?” If you ask a positive question, you will get positive answers.
A good way to proceed when such events arise is to handle them using meditation (another CBT method). In the meditation you can acknowledge to yourself that you have done the best you can do in this situation. Acknowledge to yourself that any others involved have done the best that they can do in this situation. No matter what you’ve done up until now, know that you’ve probably done the best that you knew how to do at the time. One way forward is to say to yourself “I’ve done the best that I could do – now that I know more, I’ll do better next time.” You accept all the good thoughts and say “Yes” to them. You reject any negative thoughts by saying “No” to them. You acknowledge yourself for who you are and know that you are growing. You can love and accept yourself for the way you are. You say to yourself – “I love and accept myself”. You feel and know the loving. You feel and know the Peace. You feel and know the Joy. You feel and know the Compassion in yourself and others. You know that your own soul, your deeper inner self is positively affected by your positive actions. You know the real you is OK.
In this way you are taking personal responsibility for yourself – loving yourself and healing yourself. Your self confidence grows and grows.
I haven’t mentioned the established links between “recreational drugs” and depression. Marijuana has been established as one of the worst and it can in fact “tip one into depression”. My advice – tell the world about this proven fact thus creating awareness – and of course stay away from drugs.
Exercise helps to handle depression – ensure you have a good, healthy balanced diet and make exercise part of a daily regime. Always make sure that you consult your physician and if advised take any anti-depressant medication knowing that most of the time you will be able to adjust doses and have periods which are anti-depressant free.
A quick word on meditation. Many people think that meditation is “think nothing” or “clear your mind of thoughts”. I describe that sort of meditation as passive. Active meditation on the other hand is total focus and concentration on the topic and includes processes of guided imagery, visualisation and emotion.
Take personal responsibility for yourself (love yourself) by doing as much about depression as you can yourself. Talk about it – share your experiences with trusted friends. Learn CBT methods to handle negative thoughts, to change from reacting to responding to negative events – both past and present, and use anchors, goals, visualisation and active meditation to enhance your life.
So, please help with depression by encouraging others to be aware of the issues and indeed how they can empower themselves.
All The Best
PS. I have recently made a meditation CD called Moving Through Depression and another called Overcoming Worry and Anxiousness in order to address this subject. Just click on the links for more information.