1 Depression is a temporary state.
In spite of the Drug Company’s insistence that depression is some sort of chemical glitch in the mind, the evidence doesn’t support that. So much so that the British Psychological Society has launched a major challenge to that view: (http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/12/psychiatrists-under-fire-mental-health)
Instead, they are showing that the evidence is that life events and pressures over time change our state and lead us into and out of most mental health issues.
2 People slip into depression when physical or emotional needs are not met.
Dr Lucy Johnstone, consultant clinical psychologist who helped draw up the British Psychological Society’s division of clinical psychology statement, put it best: “there is now overwhelming evidence that people break down as a result of a complex mix of social and psychological circumstances – bereavement and loss, poverty and discrimination, trauma and abuse,”
3 How you sleep seems to fuel many of the feelings of Depression.
Research from the Human Givens Institute supports the theory that excessive dreaming (REM sleep) exhausts people. Depressed people spend far longer in dream sleep. This excessive work that the brain does leaves people tired and exhausted when they wake. Hence, motivation, concentration, energy and drive are all lowered on a nightly basis.
4 Knowing what causes that poor sleep can help you break the cycle.
The prevailing understanding is that this elongation of dream sleep is a response to rumination (over analysis and beating yourself up/running yourself down, worrying) during the day. In essence, if your mind is busy worrying all the time then it takes more effort at night for your mind to sort those issues during sleep. A double whammy to your enjoyment of life.
The positive part is that cutting the worry/rumination reaction can in turn cut dream sleep down to healthy levels giving more energy and motivation.
5 Many things help.
There are many ways to cut that worry cycle. Various skills can reduce rumination and worry, as can cutting stress. Getting a sense of where your worry is coming from is the first step. If it has been there life-long then it may be stemming from anxiety, so treating the anxiety can help. If it developed as life got more stressful, then stress reduction should also produce worry reduction. If you’re continually going back to a trauma in your mind, then dealing with that (actually dealing with it, not just talking about it) should help. If it’s just a habit, then the stress management and emotional control skills used in business and politics can help. So can exercise.
6 Most depression builds one piece at a time
Unless it’s brought on by a trauma or some sudden onset event, depression tends to deepen gradually. A few bad experiences can leave you feeling down. If you linger in that feeling and cut yourself off from people, it can lower mood more. If you lose a job and feel bad about yourself, that can add to the problem. If your life was tough growing up and then you find few options in later life, it can all compound the feelings of depression. Usually it takes months or even years for depression to set in.
7 You can come out of it one piece at a time
We all like to think of things as on/off like a light-switch. That’s not usually how life works. Coming out of any psychological issue is most often a case of one step at a time. It can be a light-switch – a dimmer switch. You build success one feeling at a time. Can you make tomorrow one bit better than today? Can you then add one more positive bit onto that tomorrow and keep going in the right direction?
Perfection is a direction not a destination. By moving in the right direction day by day, you can make small changes – and lots of them and that’s much easier and more successful than trying to do it all at once. You got into depression bit by bit, that’s the easier way to get out of it too. Take pride in each positive step and move in the right direction.
8 Relaxation allows your brain to work better.
One odd thing about depression is that while we feel down and unmotivated our brains are highly active. There’s a lot of work going on in there and that holds us back from clear thinking and success. When you do something to help you relax – truly relax – not just distraction, then things can get easier. Watching TV or playing games online isn’t really relaxing. Your mind stays active at a high level. You should do something like use a hypnotic chill-out CD, do mindfulness meditation, or an activity like yoga that gets you to quieten your mind. This all allows your mind to function differently and will make it easier for you to help yourself.
9 Many people with anxiety are diagnosed with depression but the anxiety may be missed.
One of the most common causes of depression I see in clinic is a reactive depression that comes out of constant worry and stress. Where you suffer anxiety it can pressure you and lead to low mood and depression. This is usually a cycle where you will get down that you’re not achieving what you want and are stressing and holding back lots. It usually lasts a few days or so and then lifts, only to come back again. If this pattern happens to you, ask yourself if you are always worrying, if your mind is always active, and if you beat yourself up internally and over-analyse things too much. If so the depression may well be coming from the anxiety. Get the anxiety sorted and the depression may disappear.
10 We are programmable beings. You can learn to programme yourself.
We take information on board consciously and unconsciously and our minds form opinions and responses based on that. When we learn a new skill it seems hard at first (driving is a great example – tracking loads of things at once at the start) but then with repetition you make it automatic and no longer consciously think about it, it just runs on automatic for you.
You can learn to start giving a more positive input to your mind to make life easier. Small changes regularly amount to the best way in the world to change the equation and make life better.
In the coming weeks I’m going to post some tips and advice on how to begin to create the changes mentioned above and to help you to make your life better.
Change is easier than you think.