For most people, depression comes about when emotional pressure builds up: Loss of job, relationship ends, loss in the family, or similar. When our mood is dragged way down, beyond being just a bit sad, but a truly depressed mood, then our behaviour changes. Motivation, energy, clear thinking, restful sleep, and other aspects of life can all change. When they do we’re into a loop.

The poor sleep now feeds into draining energy, which keeps motivation low, which holds us back from making the efforts needed to break out of the depressed state. As it continues we get less restful sleep, our minds become agitated and our ability to think clearly drops – we start to fall into black and white thinking: Everything is bad, it’s all pointless, nothing is fun anymore, and so on. We don’t spot the good, just the bad. We also tend to become more focused on what may be outside our control – things feel like they are happening or done to us rather than something we can influence.

What happens when we’re depressed, inside our brains, is that all the agitation and black and white thinking is created in a part of the brain used for dealing with major emotional issues and keeping us alive. Our self preservation system works hard but not efficiently. Our clear thinking is reduced because a kind of panic thinking is going on. We don’t see how we can help ourselves and we end up thinking about how bad it is, how we can’t change, and beating ourselves up that we’re feeling down. None of which helps (in-fact it reinforces the problem as part of the loop), but it feels appropriate as it matches the self preservation system’s patterns.

So, how do we break the loop?

One way that has worked a lot for people is this…

1 Notice that you need to change your thinking. Don’t force it. Your first step needs to be to get the internal activity to calm down – use Yoga, meditation, or a hypnotic CD to do so. Give yourself a chance with this. When you do so, your ability to think clearly goes up. It can all get easier at that point.

2 Look at what has changed in life. Have you become isolated? if so, make arrangements to meet someone, or join a club, or engage in sport – your brain does better when you interact with people. If you’re sleeping late, break that habit – when you sleep long hours while depressed you are spending more time in REM sleep and that exhausts you. Odd as it sounds more REM sleep is less restful.

3 The reason REM sleep is occurring too much is that your brain is trying to sort the previous day. If you’ve been beating yourself up and over thinking things then that sorting takes longer. So, the less hard you are on yourself the easier it gets. It’s part of the cause when you’re in the loop of depressive activity. When you catch yourself thinking in black and white terms or being hard on yourself, ask yourself – ‘does this help me at all?’ and ‘is there anything useful I could do that would help me more?’

4 Exercise, light exercise (30 minutes walking or anything similar) will boost energy, reduce depression, and increase health. Can you limit your inactivity to just 23 and 1/2 hours a day? Give yourself 30 minutes for a walk.

5 When we feel bad we have less activity in the forward looking areas of your brain. When you feel bad, do something to make yourself smile. Watch comedy on YouTube, call a friend who makes you laugh, even just remember some time you had fun. They all create a positive feeling by activating more resourceful and success-oriented areas of your brain. it’s not just changing a feeling, it’s switching on better parts of your brain to help you out of low mood.

A therapist doesn’t switch off your problem, but a good one helps you to create the change you want. You can get yourself out of depression, will you work for it?

I’ll post more in the coming weeks on tips that help change depressive feelings.

Change is easier than you think,