For much of my life I have battled depression. Some of the depression is due to a loss or a challenge. Much of my book and coaching centers around changing thoughts and behaviors to minimize the impact of “for cause” depression, sadness, anger, and anxiety. I have found the best approach for this type of issue is to reframe how we see that situation. Most of the time we are blowing things out of proportion, wanting to change what can’t be changed (lacking acceptance), or seeing things not as they are but as colored by our past experiences. Talking through the dishonest beliefs we have about difficult situations can often provide relief.
The depression I am trying to work through now, the one that has visited me throughout my life, is the depression which seems to appear out of nowhere and for no reason. Cognitive behavioral therapy, the basis of much of what I do, does not work with this type of depression because there is nothing to talk about. The depression is not based in a specific issue or life event. The depression is more chemical or emotional. It is not due to external circumstances. What I am learning is because this type of depression is not grounded in the mind, the cures are not either.
What I have found best to deal with this type of depression is to get out of my mind through meditation, exercise, connection, and service. I use meditation to stop the mental-monkey-chatter and hamster-wheel-of-anxiety. I turn to exercise to get out of my mind and into my body. Depression thrives in isolation because being alone allows the mind to continuously play the negative tape without end. Reaching out and connecting with others is a powerful tool to keep depression from expanding. A branch of connection is actively trying to serve others. Providing compassionate assistance to others, helps me get out of myself and my self-pity.
In my search to find help for depression, I stumbled on a group that is focusing on happiness. Until the last fifteen or so years, much psychologic research was focus on illness and negative experience (anger, sadness, clinical diagnoses).* The Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley (GGSC) is researching happiness; defining it, quantifying it, and providing scientifically-based tools to help us learn to be happier.
Although some of us may think that either we are born happy or not, happiness is a learned trait. Three factors affect our happiness: our genes (50%), our environment or circumstances (10%), and how we approach things (40%).* We may not be able to change our genetics, but we do have control over much of our circumstances and all of how we approach things. I agree with the GGSC that we all have the power to affect our level of happiness.
I signed up for the Science of Happiness course being offered through GGSC. In my upcoming posts, I am sure you will see some of what I learn. Due to more loneliness, the rise of narcissism, and the increase in inequality, depression is becoming more prevalent in the United States.* We can do something for ourselves and for those around us. I encourage you to learn more at GGSC’s website and if you want some help and support in your own life, please reach out. We all deserve to be happy and joyful.