Today, one in four people experience depression at least once in their lives. And no wonder: in the modern world, people face a huge number of stressful situations every day. Any of them could be the last straw.
Chronic fatigue, inattention, memory impairment, a sense of hopelessness, derealization , low self-esteem … If this is all about you, it is possible that you need urgent treatment!
The New Year holidays are the best time to slow down a little, understand yourself and learn how to be happy. Shall we start?
What is depression?
First of all, depression is a disease, not a weakness of character, as many believe. In confirmation – a small list of people who survived this painful condition: Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Eleanor Roosevelt, Sigmund Freud, Joan Rowling, Charles Dickens, Mark Twain.
Unfortunately, most people are ashamed of depression and self-flagellate instead of taking treatment. But acknowledging a problem is the first step towards solving it.
Depression is not just melancholy or sadness. Emptiness, fatigue, tension, absent-mindedness, loss of meaning in life, a sense of hopelessness, lack of connection with reality, low self-esteem are far from all symptoms of depression. After all, it affects thoughts, feelings, behavior, and even the body.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that depression physically affects our brain. The hippocampus shrinks significantly, causing problems with memory and concentration. But there is good news: this process is reversible.
How does depression occur? Psychotherapist Richard O’Connor writes:
“Depression is the result of the impact of current stress on a vulnerable person. Stress is enough for a person to cross the invisible line and fall into a vicious circle of repressed thoughts, self-destructive behavior, guilt and shame, neurochemical changes. These elements both evoke and reinforce each other.”
Traps of thinking
“My friends, relatives and colleagues do not really know me, they do not even suspect how insignificant I am. I’m absolutely incapable of anything.” Depressed people often engage in this kind of internal monologue. The first step on the path to healing is to learn to notice such thoughts and perceive them as something alien, which has nothing to do with your personality.
Here are some typical thinking mistakes of a depressed person:
Expecting the worst. In this way, depressed people try to protect themselves from disappointment. Some of them have experienced betrayal or aggression from those they trusted. Frustrated expectations can also relate to other events, such as failure to succeed.
Self-flagellation. The thoughts “I can’t”, “I don’t have a chance”, “I’m not capable of anything”, “I’m disgusting”, “I’m trapped” constantly appear in a person suffering from depression.
Fatalism. A depressed person usually believes that some external forces influence him. He believes that he cannot really change his life and decide something in his destiny.
Selective attention. A person pays attention only to what can confirm his expectations. So he tries to avoid stress and feel safe. But such behavior leaves no chance to see the love and respect of others, the beauty of the world, and so on.
Depressive logic (excessive responsibility, catastrophization , overgeneralization, self-obsession and other destructive thought habits).
How to change your mindset
Negative thoughts are just a bad habit. Fortunately, you can get rid of it: regular mindfulness meditation will help reprogram the brain and remove obsessive anxiety. Start with the following simple exercise.
Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed for at least half an hour. Turn off all phones, TV, music. Sit comfortably. Place your feet under your knees, but without stretching. Sit up straight with your back straight. The weight of the head is directed down to the spinal column.
Close your eyes. Breathe calmly, slowly and deeply. You can focus on a word or phrase by linking the pronunciation to the rhythm of breathing – “inhale … exhale”, or something else according to your mood. Imagine that distracting thoughts and sensations are bubbles on the surface of a still pond. They rise and burst, the circles diverge and disappear. The water surface is calm again. Don’t rate anything. Do not worry if you are doing the exercise correctly.
Remember that intrusive thoughts and feelings are normal noise generated by the brain; it is used to working this way under stress.
To drive away intrusive thoughts, you can imagine putting them in a box or writing them down – see later. Or tell yourself, “No thanks.” Don’t get angry if you get distracted, just focus on your breathing again.
Sources of pride and self-respect
Reconsider your view of achievements, praise yourself more often and be proud of your successes, even if they seem insignificant to you. Finding a few minutes to read a book with a naughty child is already a major achievement, not only because it is difficult to find time, but also because it has benefited the child.
Whether you love your job or not, it’s important to remember that it brings a lot of pride. You get up and get to the office on time, stay there for the rest of the day, sometimes doing difficult or unpleasant things. It can also be a source of self-respect!
Recall right now for what recent achievements you are worthy of praise. Maybe you fed a stray kitten, supported a friend in a difficult situation, or just did your morning exercises?
Depressed people are often procrastinators . By postponing important things for later, they protect their own unstable self-esteem. If something doesn’t work out, then you can always find an excuse: “Now if I had more time!”
In this case, you need to gradually accustom yourself to action. Get rid of perfectionism and in no case expect the perfect result, but just take on real goals. First, you will experience relief when you complete a task that you have long been afraid to start. And secondly, work often helps to distract from problems. But even here it is impossible to go too far.
Sometimes the opposite habit develops: the desire to work until you drop. A depressed person does not know how to prioritize and mindlessly moves forward. The fear of stopping and being alone with emptiness makes you work without respite.
Those who are prone to workaholism need to learn how to relax. You can find a hobby and improve in it (then there will be no feeling of guilt for inactivity). Better to get used to enjoying doing nothing. Walking, meditating, playing with animals, or listening to music are great ways to pass the time.
Attention to your body
Depressed people do not care about their health. They seem to say in plain text: “We don’t deserve better.” These people may neglect physical activity, medical help (or turn to charlatans), develop poor eating habits, and abuse alcohol and drugs.
Such a careless attitude towards oneself and attempts to harm the body are considered skills of depression. This is another way to avoid meeting the real world.
Patients with depression need to learn to listen to their body and take care of it. Everything is important here: proper nutrition, timely rest, and exercise. The latter is especially useful.
Several studies in older age groups have shown that brisk exercise three times a week is as effective as medication in the short term, and that participants who continue the exercise program are significantly more likely to avoid future episodes of depression.
Really severe depression causes serious changes in the brain. This leads to the fact that we lose the ability to experience pleasure from something good: we are let down by degraded receptors for joy hormones. But don’t worry. Scientists have found out that the brain can be trained. We ourselves are able to influence it.
You can get rid of “depression skills” by improving your lifestyle. The facts confirm that by changing habits, we erase old neural connections in the brain and replace them with others.
In this article, you will learn how to make friends with the hormones of happiness and become an optimist.
The UK National Institutes of Health recommends mindful meditation as a cure for depression.