Depression is a strong and protracted emotion that locks a person’s attention into negative thoughts and feelings. Healing depression involves managing emotions, changing thinking processes, and making lifestyle changes that provide a sense of fulfilment.
Learning techniques to relax is imperative. Calmness will initiate a more rational perspective and enable you to break free of cycles of negative thinking. It will also reduce levels of cortisol and increase the efficiency of your immune system.
Take regular breaks and be aware of your stress levels, and implement relaxation practises as needed.
Be careful to not overstimulate your mind with too much media consumption. And never underestimate how important time in nature is to your mental well-being. Fresh air, sunlight and the soothing colours and sounds of the natural world are mood enhancing, calming and healing. Get your bare feet on the Earth every day for at least a few minutes.
Be sure to drink plenty of clean water and eat well. In particular, avoid excess sugar and heavily processed foods. Ensure you are getting enough B vitamins, chromium, folic acid and omega 3. Furthermore, foods containing tryptophan such as cashew nuts are excellent natural anti-depressants.
If you’re spending a lot of time worrying and ruminating, your brain will have to dream more than it would do normally. It’s why people with depression invariably feel tired on waking. So, it may seem counter-intuitive, but by setting an alarm early, you can ensure you don’t deplete your energy through excessive dreaming.
Some form of outdoor daily exercise will also be helpful and will increase blood flow to your brain whilst raising serotonin and dopamine levels.
Changing Your Thoughts
It is normal to have some self-disapproval and discontentment at times. But in order to attain inner peace, we have to accept our circumstances, learn from our experiences, and then move on. Otherwise, we can end up languishing in the limbos of regret, guilt, frustration or unworthiness.
If you find yourself thinking negatively, then challenge your thoughts. Ask yourself, “What good is this thinking doing?” Are your thoughts in any way productive?
You have to make an effort to change focus, to stop replaying negative thoughts, and to engage your rational senses. Question the rationality of your thoughts. And try to come up with alternative viewpoints that are neutral or positively affirming.
The emotional part of the brain cannot distinguish between imagined and real scenarios. So, if you use your imagination to fantasise about fears of the future, or to dwell on the past in evermore self-depreciating ways — you will end up generating more impressions of misery.
Try rehearsing success, try rehearsing ways in which you overcome your difficulties and go beyond your worries. Agree to worry less. And think more about improving your life. Think more about doing things that are beneficial to you. Visualise and imagine things going well. It will imbue you with more confidence.
It can also help to constrain your negative thinking into a certain time of the day. For example, you can do a thirty-minute session in the morning where you explore your negative thoughts. But after this session, if negative thinking patterns arise, be assertive with yourself and say, “I will not worry about this now, if necessary, I will worry about it tomorrow morning.”
You can combine this morning session with some relaxation practices, and gradually you can turn it into a productive meditation.
Never worry for more than half an hour a day. That’s the secret to preventing and healing depression.
Changing Your Life
Make a list of what you feel dissatisfied about. Then think of practical steps you could take to bring about positive changes. Your strategy is simply to gain some feelings of fulfilment.
- If you want to be happier, you have to unpack that sentiment by exploring answers to the question, what would make you happier? For example, perhaps doing an activity you used to enjoy will make you feel happier.
- You want to feel safer? Unpack that, what would make you feel safer? For example, perhaps finding a different place to live will make you feel safer.
- You want to feel more satisfied with what you are doing in life? Perhaps look for a different job, hobby or training in a new skill.
- You feel lonely? Could you ring up an old friend and arrange to meet them or join a new class or group?
- You feel worthless? Could you go and help someone you know or volunteer for a charity?
- You feel inadequate and hopeless? Could you go and accomplish something? Perhaps you could clear out the garage, learn a new skill, walk the dog, cook something new or redecorate your bedroom.
Central to your success is to direct your attention outwards. Seek activities that occupy your mind, giving yourself less and less time to worry and ruminate. The keys are: to keep active, productive and social.
Don’t get upset if you can’t manifest your ideal life in the next few weeks. Just be patient and persevere, and try to appreciate the healing journey you’re on.
Find peace within yourself by appreciating what you do have. Be grateful for all the things that have gone well in your life. Make a list of all the people, experiences and things you are grateful for and keep this list updated.
Help yourself to build an expectation that you can adapt and change. Use your inner dialogue in a way that builds your confidence to see things through. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t bear it anymore” say, “I am now ready to make changes to help myself.”
And remind yourself of all your successes, talents, abilities, skills and achievements. Don’t lose sight of your value. Focus on your strengths and resources.
Doing anything that is new and novel can give you a positive boost. People thrive when they are challenged by new experiences, new knowledge and the learning of new skills.
Maybe you could sign up for a course. And perhaps this will lead you to meet new people and develop social connections. Any social stimulation that brings you out of negative thinking will be helpful.
You could go on a trip to somewhere you’ve never been, play a sport you’ve never tried, or just get on a bus you’ve never been on and see where it goes. Begin to see life as an interesting adventure. And be spontaneous at times. If you like something, great, if you don’t, it’s okay. The very act of seeking novel experiences will boost your confidence and make you feel better.
Become part of something that’s bigger than just yourself. And it doesn’t need to be anything world changing. Some examples include, joining a gardening group, a Tai Chi class, a weekly meditation gathering, a choir — it doesn’t really matter as long as it provides some sense of working with others towards progress and achievement.
Laughter is a powerful medicine and if you’re getting stuck in negative emotions, think of the funniest moments in your life. Ring up a friend and re-live a funny memory and laugh. Also, remember to laugh at yourself, it is healthy to joke about yourself — don’t take life too seriously!
In terms of taking medication such as anti-depressants, research clearly demonstrates, people who recover from depression without taking psychiatric medication are less likely to have a relapse. Mounting evidence is also revealing that psychiatric drugs can actually prolong mental health problems.
If you are taking anti-depressants, consider talking to your doctor about coming off the pills. But come off them slowly, slower than the doctor will usually advise. By doing this, you will allow your neurochemistry to adjust more gradually, and then you can come off these medications whilst minimising withdrawal symptoms. It’s known as tapering, and it is finally being more widely acknowledged by mainstream medical services.
You should also be aware that many pharmaceuticals given for heart issues, high cholesterol, migraines and other conditions have been found to cause depression in some people. If you don’t understand why you are depressed and are taking medication, speak with your doctor about changing or stopping the medication.