Charlie Brown’s comic creator, Charles Schulz, maintained that “happiness is a warm blanket.” Sadness, though, is a wet blanket. It envelops you—making it difficult to breathe, to see the sunlight, to function on an everyday basis. It need not be debilitating, though. There are ways to come out from under. Here are seven realities for you to think about….and to use to overcome the depression that may be blanketing your thoughts and your actions.
1) The fact that you are not alone
In all likelihood, your family loves you more than anyone else in the world does. Your family and others close to you are the people who need to know what you are experiencing. They can guide you through the difficult times and can find the best resources—medical and otherwise—for dealing with depression.
Of course, there are many others who can provide the love, support, advice, and help you need. Among them are doctors, teachers, pastors and rabbis, friends, counselors, coaches, and even strangers–such as those at the end of hotline telephones. Such individuals are experienced in dealing with issues of loneliness, depression, alienation, substance abuse, et cetera. You are not in this battle alone. There are many fellow warriors willing to fight on your behalf.
2) The knowledge that most events are transient
More than 200 years ago, a Prussian general and military theorist warned about “the brilliance of transient events.” Carl von Clausewitz knew that what seems overwhelming today can easily become less significant tomorrow. But, if we take irrevocable action on what we are feeling today, we may never have a chance to know the beauty of what tomorrow has in store for us. There is no way we can see what pleasures the tomorrows of our lives are waiting to shower upon us. What a wonderful gift anticipation is.
3) The power of gratitude
You’d think Tom Brady would be depressed after losing—in front of 100 million people—the 2018 Super Bowl. Did he retreat? Hide from the press? Refuse to comment on the loss? Allow sadness to transform him? No. Instead he wrote an Instagram post expressing his gratitude for a multitude of people and things that make his life well-worth living…despite the sadness he experienced following the loss of the expected Patriots victory.
Let Brady serve as an exemplar. Do what one group of writers did in a research study conducted by psychologists at the University of Miami. For ten weeks, the gratitude-writers wrote about things they were grateful for. A second group wrote about all the things that bothered them or made them less appreciative of the gift of life they have been given. It will not surprise you to learn the gratitude group ultimately felt better about their lives than the group that focused on the things that can bring us down.
Make it a daily habit (or weekly, at the very least) to list the things large and small that constitute the good fortune you have been given.
4) The availability of shared experience
Whatever kind of metaphoric wet blanket is dampening the zest you once had for life, you need to know you are not the first person in America to be feeling that dampness. Available to you via the Internet (and a local library in the event that you are without a computer) are hundreds of thousands of stories of people who overcame depression. In time, you may even be able to tell your own story.
Learning about ordinary people who have successfully faced and overcome the demons of depression is bound to help you. You may feel challenged to be your own tough-love advocate, but the tools that worked for others are bound to work for you.
5) The things that evoke joy
“I trust all joy,” Pulitzer-Prize poet Theodore Roethke wrote. He himself suffered all his life from bouts of depression. And yet, he knew where to turn when he needed infusions of happiness. He isolated and treasured the things that provided joy.
You have those things, too. Think about who or what makes you smile, makes you laugh, quite simply—makes you feel good if only for a short time. Your joy-spurts may be as simple or as silly as watching reruns of “I Love Lucy.” Or they may include spending time with the eternal optimists you know. But there are undeniably positive influences in your life. Overcoming depression is partially dependent upon deriving pleasure from those influences.
6) The formation of new neutral pathways
“Neuroplasticity.” As unfamiliar as the word may look to some, neuroplasticity explains why we get better at things that initially seemed impossible to do. Our brains are flexible—they form new neurons all the time. Ask your brain to perform for you—learn to think new thoughts—uplifting thoughts whenever the negative ones start to inundate you. Engage in experiences that are new and stimulating. Allow yourself to revel.
Building on neuroplasticity and the brain’s ability to redirect negative thoughts in new directions, cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) was developed to help people with depression change dysfunctional emotions, thoughts, and behavior. Numerous scientific studies show that CBT can help people with a variety of problems, not just depression. You can also benefit from the principles of CBT and positive restructuring of your thoughts and emotions, regardless of whether you decide to enter therapy.
7) The hope provided by vision boards
Think you’re too sophisticated to mount symbolic images of a new, improved you on a board? You’re not. Olympic athletes have been depending on this process for decades. Visualizing how you want to feel, what you want to do, what you want to become is a powerful tool for overcoming sadness.
Four-time Gold Medalist Missy Franklin attributes some of her swimming success to having “already pictured what’s going to happen a million times.” Another four-time Olympian, diver Troy Dumain, encourages his fellow athletes to concentrate on specific outcomes and then to realize them.
It’s not just athletes, though, who employ the power of visualization. There are numerous other successful people—Oprah Winfrey, Katy Perry, Jay Z, Kanye West, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Carey—and scores of unknown persons who depend on this weapon for slaying the dragons of self-doubt and hopelessness.
The Verse Versus The Depression
Whether or not you are a religious person, there is comfort to be found in this quotation from Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” And as you think about these things, think about others you may help with struggles of their own.
As our 44th president declared, “The best way not to feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope; you will fill yourself with hope.”
Here’s hoping former President Barack Obama’s words empower you to change that wet blanket into a warm one.
If you or someone you know experiences mental health issues, it is important to seek help from a qualified professional. Our Resource Specialist can help you find expert mental health resources to recover in your community. Contact us now for more information on this free service to our users.
Author Bio: Dr. Marlene Caroselli is an educator, author, and artist. She relied on the power of neural pathways as she struggled to overcome grief following the death of her parents. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions and views expressed in this guest blog do not necessarily reflect those of www.rtor.org or its sponsor, Laurel House, Inc.
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