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Debra Smith

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What are your proven techniques for fighting depression?

Martin Seligman is the father of Positive Psychology is also the person who coined the phrase "learned helplessness'. His new book 'Flourish' is full of information for improving well being.

One of his proven therapies is the following:

Each night before bed write down three things that went well that day. After you write each, add a brief reason for why it went well and what that particular positive experience meant to you.

Who will try to do this each night for a month? Proven clinical studies indicate that those who try this practice can dramatically decrease their feelings of depression and enjoy a greater sense of well being. (It might be more permanent and more effective than either drugs or therapy!) Let's see if we can raise the well being level of TEDsters!

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    Aug 7 2011: Praying would be my answer.I found that being in an environment that I desire helps a lot.I suck all the positive energy out there into my body when I pray.Praying gives me the time to relax and the space I need in order to think straight.For non-religious TEDsters, I would suggest meditation.It doesn't take long.Just 5 minutes will do.Trust me, it works like a miracle!
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      Aug 7 2011: Yeah. The first technique also works for me.
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      Aug 10 2011: I lost my faith during the past couple of years. But still pray sometimes just because it still feels good.
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      Aug 10 2011: Muhammad, for us the christians , we have ORA & LABORA....pray and work with the hands. Any theraphy is nice but also is a chance. Pray is for sure.

      Debra would you like to pray. ?
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        Aug 11 2011: Very interesting because we share some similarities regarding prayers.Muslims believe in pray and afterwards work as well.Truly interesting.Thanks for sharing it with me.
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          Aug 16 2011: Here is an interesting turn of events!
          Two TEDdies (my nickname for some of the TEDsters that I have come to love and adore) contacted me directly and told me that they were praying very specifically for me. I have an aunt who just received a kidney transplant and her body was rejecting it. I was preparing to fly out to Vancouver to donate one of mine. One day after my prayer people told me specifically that they were praying for me she had an astounding turn around. The kidney started to function and her creatin level dropped by a hundred points. They are releasing her from the hospital soon.
          Co-incidence or answered prayer? I tell you this much: I am delighted and grateful.
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        Aug 11 2011: Dear Luigi and Muhammad,
        I grew up with a father who was an atheist who was pretty hostile to any concept of God or practice of faith. I also had a Catholic grandmother who defied him and had me baptized as a baby. I discovered a faith as an adult and dove head first into it. It was a thing of great beauty for me. The politics of religion were, however, extremely ugly, and faith destroying. There were times when I waivered between being convinced and being certain that I was deluding myself. I had the faith of a child and unfortunately I was rocked by traumas in my life. No matter what though, I too throw prayers heavenward, in the hope that they are heard.
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          Aug 11 2011: Dear Debra our personal history about faith and belief is just a past.

          The eternal life has no time, so the present is the only valid time to express ourselves in harmony with spirituality. Spirituallity is the same in any religion.
          Religions and beliefs are not faith and faith has nothing to do with spirituality.
          It doesnt matter if you loose or regain your faith, or religion, but the main thing is your spirit.
          Where can be hide your fears, your injurys, your looses when the real dimension of yourself is enlighted with the flames of the Spirit.?
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          Aug 12 2011: Dear Debra, no matter what happens, God is always there with you.So, do pray and Insya-Allah, they will be heard.God loves everyone regardless of their past.Have a nice day.
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      Aug 10 2011: Praying or meditating: definitely YES. If not possible, then avoiding things that anger you (ex: you don't like your job, try to find another one. You don't like your neighborhood, try to move. You don't like the relationship you're in, try to make it better, and if impossible, get out of it, etc… So, in other words: do the things you love and be near things you like: you'll never be depressed. But yes, sometimes life hits you with unfortunate events; that's when praying, meditating, friends, family come in :-)
    • Aug 11 2011: I finally had to say something on this one. As one who sometimes struggles with it, prayer is a good way. I have told a wonderful friend about my praying that I scream, sometimes he listens. But even in the screams, wonderful things seem to happen, unexpected wonderful things. Thanks Muhammad...and you too Luigi.

      Thanks Debra for asking.
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    Aug 17 2011: (Continued from previous post) The most powerful exercise I had done during that time, when I began to see hope (maybe not feel it fully, but see it) I wrote a letter to me from God. I know that some may think it blasphamous to think I could speak in his name, but it was my own personal prayer and seeking to understand. To me God is unconditional love, so I began to write to me as if I was watched over and LOVED unconditionally. I tear up thinking of it now, for it was the best therapy I could have ever had. It was the first time I truly felt loved in a very long time. Loved for who I was no matter how imperfect I was. It was like my soul was getting the best hug it could ever have.

    The experience changed me. I did not overcome my hardships over night, but I was well on my way, and I was stronger. I am not afraid, and if I do get a panic attack, which is once in a great while. I deal with it, and move on. I don't allow myself to get back into the depths. I have a belief that no matter what happens, I know that in the grand scheme of it all, I am OK and all is well.

    To me, I don't see it as fighting depression, for fighting is exhaustive. I suppose in order to overcome, I had to stop fighting and pushing against, and rather refocus in the closest direction that provides relief. Always remaining true and authentic to what I feel instead of what others think is best or right. I can't say it is what will work for everyone, but it was best for me.
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        Aug 17 2011: Thanks, I didn't even know we had a friend option. Still a bit new to the TED community.

        Oh I hope I didn't sound as if I have never met anyone that expessed humility or spiritual love. I most certainly have. I think perhaps in moments even some of the most ego driven could feel it or express it. Some more often than others :) I suppose I was thinking of humility in its pure form, and unconditional love is another, I feel is only an attribute of God in its pure form. I think more on the mirror analogy from the previous converstion you commented on. That we can reflect this, but our mirrors our not always the cleanest...it can still reflect, but often not in its purest form.

        Of course this is just my view, doesn't make it the purest form of truth! :)
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        Aug 20 2011: Hi Kate,

        Replying to your mirror/window question. If we want to get a bit deep here in this analogy, well, I am all for it! The way i see it is that bodies are temporary, all the organs, brain etc. I see us more like a radio in which we pick up frequencies ect. The soul is eternal and non physical. The soul is of more pure form, as the physical is more limitied and designed that way. We are filters, but not pure filters, because our language and perception is so limited in comparison to the ultimate Love, and Truth and Unconditional Love. I don't think any human has the intelligence or capacity to understand the grand scheme of it all the way our souls can. I also believe our souls could not fully know God either, but are closer than we understand in our limited physical existence. God, i feel, is the All.

        Now the beauty of physical existence, is that we have polar opposites, a way in which to understand Love. If all we knew and all we were was Love, then we wouldn't appreciate it if we didn't know that which is fear or anger or hurt, etc. So I suppose I see it as using our minds, thoughts, actions as a way of either polishing or allowing build up on our mirrors. God is always shining on everyone, even one who's mirror is so dirty that it cannot reflect his light, but God still shines ready fo rwhen a person chooses to clean ones own mirror. He loves all his chilren, it is we that chooses to allow the Love, or only some of it, or barely at all. Mirrors can still be dirty and reflect, maybe a bit distorted, but there is still warmth of love and light visable.

        I remember listening to Ester Hicks, or Abraham-Hicks as she is often referred to, and she came closest to what feels right to me about our relationship with God, or "Souce" as she calls it. She says there only exists a stream of well being, and we can chose to flow with the stream or peddle upstream. That our emotions are our guidance systems telling us when we are on or off track.
    • Aug 17 2011: Thanks Leila. A very interesting thing that letter from God to you.
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      Aug 17 2011: Leila, Thanks for sharing this powerful message. I agree with your point that we cannot "fight" depression. It is when we stop fighting and focus on becoming our authentic self that we are able to move through depression.
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      Aug 18 2011: Thanks Leila for this first hand account of descent and then ascendence! I appreciate your input.
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      Aug 19 2011: Thank you Leila for sharing the story about your journey. I have also found that struggling and fighting against anything is exhausting, and does not lead to contentment in ourselves. Recognizing all of our emotions, and finding our own authentic balance helps to move us through challenging life experiences.
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      Aug 9 2011: Kate,
      Very wise suggestions:>) It's important to know what we are putting in the body and how it impacts our physical and mental health. While some things like coffee and alcohol have sedating properties, they also have stimulants. It may appear that alcohol "relaxes", a person, and it also has stimulants that kick in later, interfereing with sleep. Good sleep patterns are important for physical and mental well-being, as you mention:>) The body recharges/re-energizes during sleep, so if we are not sleeping well, we deprive the body/mind of that opportunity.

      Depression often is a self-consuming downword spiral. We feel bad, so it causes us to be inactive. Our focus on our "depression" may cause us to eat and drink foods/beverages, and take medications that cause more imbalance with our health...then we feel worse...more inactivity...more self-consuming practices...on and on. All it takes sometimes, is one little choice that will break that cycle, and you've offered some good choices Kate...one step at a time:>)
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          Aug 9 2011: I agree Kate that ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions and state of mind, and for each of us, there may be very different ways to move out of sadness.

          Rest assured, I have had the opportunity to call myself "depressed", and I have made the choice to move out of the sadness that caused that feeling. Although sadness is a valuable tool to help us know our "self", I did not/do not choose to stay with, or focus on the feeling of sadness, and I do not use the word "depressed" for myself, because of the power we have given the word and the feeling in our society.

          I really believe, that on a deeper level, people KNOW they are giving up the choice for contentment in their lives, and they do not know how to interrupt that cycle, which causes more depression than we need to have in our society.

          Here's a practical example:
          Today I have a head ache, which I often have because of a near fatal head injury years ago. I also have pain in the back, caused by degenerative disc disease, which was diagnosed 30 years ago. I have the choice to lay in bed all day and take medications...or...do something else.

          I'm going biking with friends...spending time with people I care about...exercising...laughing...and soaking up the sun, which is energizing:>)

          Usually, the head ache and back pain take a back seat:>)
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          Aug 9 2011: Hi Kate,
          "Knowing ourselves" is such an important part of life:>)

          Although I feel that medications are way over used in our culture, I also believe they are very valuable tools when used appropriately and in conjunction with other methods and practices, some of which you and others have shared in these comments:>)
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    Aug 8 2011: Call a good friend.
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      Aug 8 2011: Call me any time Helen!
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        Aug 8 2011: Debra .........you are so kind..Thank you for being my friend. I just mite take you up on that.
  • Aug 14 2011: walk preferably somewwhere pretty but the treadmill with you best tunes filling your ears , or swim, just a little every day. I have stopped my meds by dong this.
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    Aug 14 2011: Maybe a repetition of what has been said... And I blatantly copy what Johnathan Haidt sais about it:
    - medication
    - meditation
    - cognitive behavioral therapy

    those are the scientifically proven things that can help (fight) depression.

    As for preventing depression... I don't really know for sure, but I would suggest:
    - avoid big changes in life (they are stress-full and can trigger depression)
    - learn coping strategies (like meditation or thought-patterns, acceptance, Zimbardo-advise on time orientation, don't expect too much,...)
    - avoid depressed people (tend to have an emotional contamination effect; is documented in burn-out, not sure about depression)
    - check your genetic sensitivity for depression
    - get contingency on life (locus of control = you)
    - attach yourself to significant others
  • Aug 11 2011: Can't I just drink a bottle of red wine and masturbate?

    But seriously, when it comes to depression, I think a big part of the problem is we feel there is something wrong with it. I think a big problem is we carry unrealistic expectations, and when those expectations fail to be met, we can get depressed. It's been demonstrated that people tend to have overly optimistic viewpoints about the likely outcomes of situations.

    So I suppose in summation, that rather than forcibly look on the bright side, I might be better served to practice tempering my expectations, and learning to take joy in the things I do have. When I last checked, I'm in the top 5% of living standards globally, so I really don't have much to complain about personally.
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    Aug 10 2011: Take a pause, consider what you enjoy or once enjoyed and what your goals are. Make a reality check and change goals and habits that not are aligned with reality or what you enjoy. Take time to do what you like, and engage fullheartedly in that which you enjoy and that which feels purposful. Finally accept that it may hurt like hell for a while.
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      Aug 11 2011: Kristofer, this is the voice of love and of experience and so I value it deeply. Thank you for sharing!
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      Aug 13 2011: Kristofer,
      I agree that acceptance is a big part of the process.

      This has helped me over and over again in my quest for "flow" in my life.
      "Grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change,
      courage to change the things I can,
      and wisdom to know the difference"

      I observe that sometimes people are depressed about something they cannot change, or something that feels overwhelming. It's important to know our "self" enough to be able to figure out what we have the power to change...or not. There is no point in spending our energy struggling with something that we cannot change.

      This is where your good ideas of considering what we enjoy...determine our goals...reality check...change goals and habits...take time to evaluate ourseves and be fully engaged in the choices we make comes into play. We may not be able to change the circumstances that seem to cause the depression, but we CAN change our perception of the circumstances.
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    Aug 8 2011: What Martin Selgman is suggesting is how we educate our children already. As children, we are asked to write about or draw about what do we plan on doing this weekend, holiday, or day for "fun" and/or "happiness" (I quote them because the words are not exact but similar).

    There is a fundamental flaw here, it could dictate someone living life in a "rut" and make them even more depressed. The reason is fuzzy; consider you had just an awful day, everything that went wrong, went worse. You write down the 3 things that were good for that day, what if the next day you wrote the same three? Never mind that, what if you can't find good things besides "a lot of green lights" and/or "free lunch".

    If the cycle of thinking contains negative emotions (Ex: terrible boss), any thought relative towards working will be negative. Emotions control our thinking too often to not be educated about them. They can be the reason we are delusional or the reason we are on top of the world.

    What I am selling here is simple; change constantly.

    A healthy person(ality) is one that is an adaptable, enlightened, and wise. Wisdom is the ability to understand others, enlightenment is self awareness, and adaptability is environmental awareness. Try to achieve total awareness in reality and you will be happy with what you have more often.

    In fact, you should be happy you can read my comment, because you probably have "more" than a large percentage of the world.

    Depression is a fictitious diagnosis for those who practice psychology without neurology.

    You can't be an unhappy person if the environments you are in are stimulating your intelligence as well as your emotions. If you are in a place (self and environment) where only emotions matter and not improving oneself to be better (by self standards) in the now and future... You are not in a good place right now. You are probably "depressed" (If it is a physical "place" - e-mail me).

    Want to be "happy"? Just be "happy" then, put yourself there.
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      Aug 8 2011: Nicholas you know that I adore you and I think you are most often correct but in this instance you remind me of the man who asserted that there is no such thing as a head ache because he had never had one. With the astounding rate of suicide especially among the young, there is something called depression and it has a neurological foundation. Pretending ito be happy s not the solution.
      Research indicates that it is getting worse in almost every developed country and people feel that their lives have little or no meaning. Drugs are rewiring the brains and therapy is minimally effective but not a cure. What I do agree with is that we need to find ways to reconnect and to find meaning and Seligman agrees with this.
      The simple exercise that I have suggested is a way to help people reconnect with what is
      working' in their lives and with what is meaningful.
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        Aug 8 2011: I often feel depressed Debra. Trust me, negative emotions affect me often, but in no way is this a genuine concern. Then concern should be more towards HOW are we are educating and not the result. I am well aware that the third cause of death in America for youth is suicide and I balme two major centers of information. Parents and education curriculums.

        The reason it is "increasing" is because prior to recent times doctors weren't diagnosing "depression" because it is NORMAL. people get depressed! Change it up! Try something new! Meet someone new! Move! CHANGE!!!!!!

        I find the reason kids are killing themselves is because we educate them to be "liked" by OTHERS and NOT by SELF. Follow the leader and be creative, DO NOT be the creative leader...

        I blame our education for kids killing themselves, and parents.
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          Aug 8 2011: You always have well considered opinions. I agree that the educational system is letting kids down. We both care about that. I am also worried that our brains are being effected in untold ways by poor nutrition and by polution.

          do you think that trying the idea I have suggested could be harmful?
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        Aug 8 2011: The American culture/system is paradigm like no other in which is creating consumer zombies....

        Education teaches you to be academic which means you are right or wrong... WHICH IS NOT REALITY! Academics is no where near the right type of education needed today.

        Public entertainment teaches you "pop culture" or a subculture televised.... Jersey Shore wannabees or shaggy stoners are of the most popular choices among my college peers....

        Vicious cycles of ignorance runs through the American public making little kids learn about sex and drugs younger and younger... while 30 - 40 year olds try acting 20 again...

        What I think people should do when they are sad is do what makes them happy.. but even this causes a problem because you do not know all the things that will make you happen unless you experiment with life. Alcohol is the most dangerous drug in the world, and that is a proven fact.

        Depressed? Look at what you have... do you have a car? do you have a television? do you have time to visit friends? well then you are more RICH than a majority of the world and your depression is superficial and irrelevant.

        The children of west Africa do not have time to be depressed they have to work and feed their brothers and sisters as soon as they can work... they find peace in a good nights sleep and an extra serving a food.

        Those in first world countries being diagnosis with "depression" are selfish.

        What you suggest here Debra, should be one of the many things we should traditionalize into education systems as a self reflection practice. Self, others and environment... If you are unaware of any of them... you are a sucker. Sorry to rant.
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          Aug 8 2011: Nicholas- YOU DO NOT RANT!
          I love to read your insights. I do feel though that many people are so embedded in the system and so stuck that they cannot see the road through or out. That are emprisoned and everyone around them is imprisoned so that depression is the only response to their learned helplessness.
          Perspective is hard to come by when you have made yourself a part of a system - and it is unwelcome. Yes, many are consumer zombies- that's what comes of allowing a whole generation or two of people to be manipulated by marketing practices to the detriment of the whole country. Those generations were taught that selfishness is the only way.
          One of the things that utterly shocked me when I first joined TED was that people did not even know the definition of selfishness- when I posted it - some were shocked- they thought it was a positive attribute- even Tim Colgan (whom I miss!) was unaware of the definition.
          When people believe that they are supposed to be selfish- no wonder life loses its lustre!
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          Aug 9 2011: Hi Nicholas:>)
          "What I think people should do when they are sad, is do what makes them happy"...good point! You go on with more good points! How do we know what causes happiness and contentment in our lives if we don't explore life?

          Much of what you've said in your posts, seems to suggest the idea that we become dependant on something or someone else to "make us happy" and our society reinforces this concept. It seems that people have given up their ability to make their own choices some of the time?

          You are so right...we are one of the richest cultures in the world, and we have the highest rate of depression. Every time I turn on the tap for water, I think of how many people in our world do not have good drinking water. When I flip on the electricity, I remember how many people do not have that privilage. I have a home, food in my belly, and I remember how many people in our world do not have the very basics...drinking water, shelter...food. People are starving to death in many parts of our world, and some people in our culture are depressed because "there's not enough entertainment for them this summer"...(this refers to one of my previous posts about the young woman in the library who was bored).

          We have given up many of our choices to create happiness/contentment in our own lives. In my perception, THAT is what people are really depressed about....giving the control to something outside themselves.
  • Aug 7 2011: I go to gym. On return, I feel a lot of confidence and relief.

    Depression is a self cure help.
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      Aug 8 2011: Shokrullah, This is a wonderful suggestion. There is a proven link between exercise and mood elevation. If I were a therapist, I would have my counselling sessions work during a walk in a park or some other beautiful place to get depressed people moving rather than sitting still and thinking!
      As always, I loved your post!
      • Aug 9 2011: Thank you Debra. You are truely rich. Richness is in giving, not in holding.


        In addition, please share the cause of depression with people you you are close to. In this way, you breakdown the depression load and it gets reduced.

        What are friends for? Not just for sharing happiness. I agree with Helen.

        Sometimes, they could compare you with others that you will find yourself very successful, and sometimes you get smart idea to root out the cause too. Share with as many as you can.
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      Aug 9 2011: Thank you for the thumbs up.
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    Aug 17 2011: I have overcome depression in my life, and have also watched someone very close to me and whom I loved very much go throught the worst case of depression I have ever witnessed. It was the most difficult and heart breaking time in my life. I not only lost weight but went from my normal size 8 to a size 2. I suffered panic attacks and anxiety on a daily basis. There were times I cried and prayed to God in such fear with these atttacks in fear I would lose my mind. I came to a point where I had agoraphobic tendencies. I would break down in tears, feel faint, and anxious around a lot of people or unfamiliar places (and I was not in the least a shy person, but quite social and outgoing) Touch, love, and comfort was something I could not fully embrace at my worst. It also didn't help that I was away from my family in another state 800 miles away. While my friend had to resort to hospitilization for a time, medication, and therapy, I went down another path to overcome without medication or therapy.

    Human beings can only take so much stress. This is not our natural flow, and there is moments or a moment where one has to say "I can't live like this any more" it is the choices and direction we go from that crucial point that makes the difference. It is easy to say that laughing or writing great things is the cure, but when you are in a bit deep, finding that place is quite difficult. It feels foreign and unauthentic, so somehow one needs to find relief in a way you can believe and relate to. I had to find relief in any way shape or form I could find it (such as anger as it felt better than fear or feeling worthless), then go from there and so on. The key for me was to look towards hope, to find hope.

    I looked for solutions on panic attacks, and I faced it head on. I had nothing to lose and anything to gain. I wrote a lot, I had done the self pity,anger, the apologizing, the crying...and eventually began to see hope in my search, even in a song, or a poem....
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      Aug 19 2011: We are all mirrors to each other, reflecting information back and forth in every moment. With our stories, we reflect hope to others. I agree Leila, that to move through challenges, and possible depression, we need to face it "head on" as you insightfully say. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Looking at, and evaluating our own self pity, anger, frustration and percieved helplessness, can sometimes motivate us to move through some circumstances that may seem overwhelming.
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      Aug 11 2011: Nicholas, I truly love your generous spirit! (Out of thumbs up or you would have one!)
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        Aug 12 2011: How am I a generous spirit? I'm just enlightened or wise (which ever comes first)! :-P
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      Aug 13 2011: Good article Nicholas...thanks for providing the link:>)

      The book mentioned..."FLOW", by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is a good one.

      I also like the reference to gratitude and how important it is in our quest for contentment. It's important to savor even small pleasures, and that builds a good foundation in our mind and heart from which we can "flow":>)
  • Aug 10 2011: I think a change of posture also helps in the short term. Just as mood influences your posture (head down, hunched shoulders etc for someone feeling depressed), reversing this posture also improves mood. A "shoulders back, back straight, head up" stance also allows you to breathe more deeply - a mood enhancer. Smiling helps too, even if it is fake at first. Of course, the long-term solution is to address the cause of the depression.
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      Aug 11 2011: What a simple and yet immediately actionable suggestion! Thanks for another great insight Julie Ann!
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      Aug 13 2011: Good points Julie Ann:>)
      In addition to the breathing, the more aligned posture also facilitates the "flow" of energy through our body.
      Smiling changes the chemistry of the body/mind which helps facilitate healing. I usually wear a smile, and sometimes when I'm not feeling great, I smile in the mirror, and the person in the mirror smiles back:>)

      As you insightfully say, all of these small practices can contribute to moving us through challenging feelings, and the long term solution is to address the cause of the depression. If we embrace many little practices, in our every day lives, perhaps we can move through the feelings and emotions that sometimes lead to depression?
      • Aug 14 2011: Hi Colleen, yes, I would certainly agree with your last point and I like your "smiling in the mirror" approach. Sometimes, expressing the emotions through art or writing helps too, I think. If the issues are deeply rooted, however, I suspect more deliberate therapy is needed. Cheers :-)
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    Aug 9 2011: I drink a cup of hot chocolate and watch Miranda.
  • Aug 9 2011: I think that when you begin meditation, on your own will, you already have the mindset that you wish to get better. I believe that realizing that it will help gives me just enough energy to sit and listen. And sometimes, if I am too depressed to actively follow the meditation guide, the chance to sit, listen to something other than my issues, and to just breathe allows me enough time to calm down.
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    Aug 8 2011: What we focus on expands.
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      Aug 8 2011: intense and to the point, i digg it!
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      Aug 8 2011: Hi Colleen, Lovely insight. How do we learn to drag our focus away from the negative (like a tongue probing a hurting tooth) to the positive. Any insights for us?
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        Aug 8 2011: Debra,
        It is a choice. Of course there is clinical depression, where the chemical imbalance in the body/mind may cause us to be ill equipped to deal with certain emotions. But generally, what people are calling depression, is an opportunity to learn about ourselves.

        I've mentioned this before on TED, and I'll quote it again because it is relevant to the topic....
        Ernest Holmes in "Science of Mind" states: "One of the great difficulties in the new order of thought is that we are likely to indulge in too much theory and too little practice". We try so hard to figure things out logically, that we lose touch with some very basic ideas. It's like Luigi says...sing a song...get some fresh air...be alive and content in the moment.

        I was at the local library today, and overheard a lovely young girl talking on her cell phone. She was sitting among thousands of interesting books, and saying to her friend on the other end of the phone..."I am so f........ bored...there is NOTHING to do this summer...I'm depressed.

        I had just been out in the gardens on a beautiful summer day, and getting a new book to read this evening...how perfect is that? And this young, attractive, healthy person was sitting in the midst of thousands of books, saying she was bored!!! It's a choice!

        21 years ago, when my mother and father died, I was ending a 24 year marriage, diagnosed with cancer, and sustained a near fatal head injury, I focused on the good things that were happening...I walked five more steps today, than I did yesterday...that's progress. I did not deny the sadness, frustration, and overwhelming challenge that I faced. I focused on the positive things that were happening...my wonderful encouraging, loving friends and family...the sun is out today....I walked one more step today, than yesterday.

        We don't need to "drag our focus" in any direction Debra. There is ALWAYS something to focus on that may bring us to another level of understanding and learning in our "self".
  • Aug 8 2011: I meditate with meditation tapes by Dr. Siddharth.

    They help you overall relax and focus on something that isn't positive, but isn't negative. It doesn't push you into positive thinking, as some do, but rather it calms you down to a neutral feeling so you can build yourself up. I find it wonderful.
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      Aug 8 2011: Brooke, this is another great suggestion. How do you handle it when your thoughts stray? Many depressed people cannot drag their minds from the issues that are bothering them. We would all value your insights on staying on track during meditation.
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    Aug 19 2011: Dialectical Behavior Therapy and DBT Skills help me fight depression. Thoughts, Feelings and Actions are of course, inter-related. Purposeful action in spite of opposing thoughts and feelings can change depressive thoughts and feelings; reversing the cycle or flow. Radical Acceptance has helped me enormously. I have to Turn My Mind over and over and over and over again, many times in even the same minute. It is possible to decrease one's emotional suffering by Acceptance. Non-acceptance increases misery. Just the facts or non-judgmentally, one-mindfully and Focusing on What Works (effectively) are the three HOW Skills in DBT MINDFULNESS. Mindfulness creates space for tolerance and acceptance and choice. http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/radical_acceptance_part_1.html
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      Aug 19 2011: Welcome Linda and thanks for sharing your insights. You never know who you might help by sharing!
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    Aug 19 2011: Take a long drink of water and them take a walk. Rain or shine. Dress for the exercise. Do it outside not on a treadmill. 20 minutes minimum. If it is working only slowly, whistle or sing while you are walking. When you get back home, kiss or hug the someones you live with. Or at work, say hi to those whose work spaces you pass, look them in the eye and do your best to smile.
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    Aug 17 2011: Colleen wrote: "You also state that "love focus on the OTHER"? It sounds like you are focusing on love of another to avoid depression? How about if we love ourselves rather than, or in addition to, depending on "another" to lead us, or keep us out of the state of depression?" My point is that love takes us in the opposite direction of depression. We do not love "to avoid" depression. We love because it is part of our nature and it brings meaning, purpose, and fulfillment to our lives.

    The term “love ourselves” can easily draw us into self-centeredness which is the opposite direction from love. It is much clearer to simply focus on realizing and developing our gifts and potential. If you are referring to self-esteem, there is no reliable evidence that trying to improve self-esteem improves one’s quality of life or relationships. A study of a wide range of groups populations found that the two with the highest reported levels of self-esteem were prisoners and gang members.

    The nature of love is to grow and expand. It is bigger than the self.

    Regarding your second comment, "I'm afraid you may be setting some folks up for disappointment, and maybe more depression" disappointment in love comes from expectations. To the extent we are grounded, in balance, and seeing clearly (thus removing some of the primary obstacles to love) our expectations will be more in line with what is real and possible. There is always risk of hurt or sadness in love but feeling sad or hurt does not lead to depression unless we try to stifle that feeling or feed it by recycling thoughts of blame, judgment, resentment or other negativity.
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      Aug 19 2011: Bob,
      I totally agree that love is part of our nature which brings meaning, purpose and fulfillment to our lives.

      The experience of loving ourselves can only draw us into self-centeredness if we are not truly aware of our authentic self. Realizing and developing our gifts and potential, is part of loving and accepting ourselves, which all builds our own self-esteem and improves one's quality of life and relationships.

      I suggest that the study you refer to indicating the two groups with the highest reported levels of self-esteem were prisoners and gang members may be flawed a bit. After working with incarcerated men for 6 years, viewing their files, having 1 on 1 and group sessions with them, attending many educational sessions discussing this issue, I learned that they may play the role of confident, tough guys, but in their hearts, they are usually wounded children. No one with true authentic confidence/self esteem would be living a life of crime, which violates other people.

      I agree..."disappointment in love comes from expectations", and when "we are grounded, in balance and seeing clearly...our expectations will be more in line with what is real and possible". Feeling sad or hurt CAN lead to depression when we feed it by recycling thoughts of blame, judgment, resentment or other negativity, which is why it is not such a good idea to depend on someone else to give us what we may be seeking in ourselves. I've been there...done it...and thankfully learned:>)
    • Aug 19 2011: the thing is that we often misunderstand self-esteem, or what it means to “love ourselves”, my premise would advocate "self-love", self-esteem, etc... (not an intimacy necessarily pertaining to the physical). Colleen Steen mentions, "being aware of our authentic self".

      i have tried to start a conversation on just that, its closed now.

      http://www.ted.com/conversations/4959/narcissism_a_means_to_self_pr.html




      but now that Colleen Steen is here, :) i see very little point in adding much more.
      the words of a twenty year old are a lot less compelling than that of someone with 65 years of experience. even if our premise holds similar values. :)
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        Aug 19 2011: My Dear Manush,
        Our thoughts, feelings, ideas, opinions and perspectives are all as valuable, no matter what age we are:>) I appreciate and respect your contributions on TED:>)

        I agree with you that we often misunderstand self-esteem or self-love, and too often it is percieved as selfish or self centered. I honestly don't believe that we can give something to others that we do not have in ourselves. So loving ourselves, which includes respecting, accepting, trusting, being kind and compassionate with ourselves are important to give to ourselves as well as giving these gifts to others.
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    Aug 16 2011: Hi Debra , there are a lot of self-help books and materials available out there online which can be very helpful. but there's still many people who suffers from depression need more than that(if not , why not just give them copies of books ,the foremost researches ,ect and tell them to get rid of it) I have met people who knows what should be done but have not enough "will" or energy to do it.

    I would think to develop meaningful relationships is vital cuz many studies shows that people who seeks counseling help consider the relationships between them and therapists the most healing part no matter what schools of therapy they use.(as i would often think to myself, in relationhsips we get stuck and in relationships we get healed)
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      Aug 16 2011: Amily, I love your focus on meaningful relationships. Seligman (I like his work) says that meaning in life is vital for well being. Were we get our meaning might differ from person to person but there is no substitute for feeling that you matter to a significant other.
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      Aug 15 2011: If your notion of depression is a state of mind that is remedied by a morning of shopping (or sex, good or not) then you and I have different 'depressions' in mind. Real depression, major depression, clinical depression, is a state of exquisite suffering, powerlessness and hopelessness. It is hard to get up, hard to shower, hard to converse, hard to go out, hard to work, hard to sleep......... No sex is possible. No shopping is possible. Maybe you are calling 'depression' what others call a 'bad day' .
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          Aug 15 2011: Oh. Okay. Nevermind. (the Gilda Radner line on the old old old Saturday Night Live).
          (smiling).
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    Aug 14 2011: Establish cases of depression really needs support from clinicians and psychologists.

    To get rid of bout of one or the other blues, I just try to make fun...... talk or meet my school / university buddies with whom have lot of funny memories (thats one of the best energizers I found)...... watch a funny movie........go to places I like ........etc etc
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      Aug 15 2011: This is a great reality check for many. Clinical depression is a medical condition that deserves attention and treatment. Thanks Salim for reminding us.
  • Aug 11 2011: Watch cartoon programs.
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      Aug 11 2011: I have not tried it yet but if I do it I will try with Scooby Do.
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      Aug 11 2011: This is another great suggestion. There is good research that affirms that watching humourous movies or cartoons can elevate mood for those who are going through difficult illnesses.
      I wish everyone a good laugh!
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    Aug 9 2011: First, depression is very different from feeling sad, discouraged, or hurt. This are normal emotions. Depression is being mentally and emotionally stuck in a downward spiral of tension and negativity that leads to numbness, reactivity ( I call it emotional sunburn) or both. Research indicates that depression is often not a constant state but that symptoms of depression vary in intensity and duration depending on life events and circumstances.

    What works to resolve depression, consistently in my experience (35 years Masters level license in Social Work and Psychology) is to breathe fully and deeply without holding, stop tensing, accept normal emotion without resistance (all emotion is normal in my experience), and learn to break up mental habits of resentment, blame, “should” and other negative thoughts that interfere with solving problems while learning to shift perceptions and see a larger picture more clearly.

    I have made some videos for my students that explain this process in more detail.

    http://exp.lcc.edu/users/bobv/weblog/dd6c6/Understanding_Emotion.html
    http://exp.lcc.edu/users/bobv/weblog/edab7/Clearing_Your_Mind.html

    additional related videos are available at http://www.bobvanoosterhout.com/id113.html
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      Aug 9 2011: Thank you Bob. Your post reminds me of why you are on my profile as a favourite.

      Thanks for distinguishing between the blues and depression. Depression is a serious condition that many wrestle with and have trouble finding relief. Thanks for the generous sharing of your links!
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      Aug 9 2011: I agree Bob, that depression can be different than feeling sad, discouraged, or hurt, and these emotions can often be the beginning of the "downward spiral" of depression. As you say in the video, our brain creates pathways for certain information, and if we focus on the same information enough, it becomes a pattern. So when/if we focus on the sadness, discouragement, or hurt, for a length of time, it can become depression.

      My "thought focusing" or "rhythm phrase" (literally) after the head injury, was the song "Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative"....great song! Since I was a performing artist prior to the injury, the song usually led into singing up a storm, dancing and laughing at myself to the best of my ability at any given time. What we focus on expands:>)
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    Aug 8 2011: Debra ...other thing... sing a song and smile. I cant believe that all you americans are looking desperately for methods for everything.

    Whay dont throw to the garbich can all that theories and live well? ...you are the most rich countries and the most powerfull gobernements and you have a very high standard of deppression.

    We in Italy have the richest life and the nicest human relationship (well in Europe and Mexico too).
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      Aug 8 2011: You are certainly blessed to have such a high standard of well being and in recognizing it! For those of us without the joy of living in Roma, Isn't the suggestion that I took from Seligman's book- helping us to focus on what is going right - a first step on the road you suggest?
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        Aug 8 2011: Dear Debra we all are blessed with the live...the standards are a phantom from the modernity. Rome is just a spot in the whole earth (certainly a beautifull spot ) but is not the outside place to live . The real thing is in the inner place to live. I live as well in Rome or Timbuctu because from the childhood in all the italians we are used to live from in to out. We believe in love not in efficiency, we believe in empathy not in techique to approach the neighbor,we believe in joy not in laughing methodology....we write about our souls and bodys not about our minds...we dont need shrinks , we need all that we have: love, sunny afternoons, wine, and the drama and comedy from the real life. TEMPUS FUGIT CARPE DIEM.....and could be the same in your town as in your heart
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        Aug 9 2011: Yes Debra,
        The suggestion from the book...helping us to focus on what is going right - a first step on the road..."
        Time for the next step...do it:>)

        I agree Luigi,
        Rome is just a spot in the whole earth...beautiful...and the real thing is in the inner place to live:>) Sounds like Italians are much like the Irish...or maybe like ALL people? Those of us who choose to, live in that "inner place...believe in love...empathy...joy...want and need all that we have...love...sunny afternoons...wine...life...Carpe Diem:>)
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          Aug 9 2011: Signora Colleen

          Irish are the same than latins but a littlemore northern people. Ireland has an extremly rich history in the civilization development. And all they are the same than us. All the humans are the same but the cultures are different. The southern cultures are in sun, joy, dance and smile. Step by step we can begin a dance of happines. Without any technique. Just love.
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        Aug 9 2011: Luigi,
        We are all more the same than different:>) You definitly have more sun in your area than I do in north east USA, and I think the sun is very energizing:>)

        There's a good book written by a Vermonter...Thom Hartmann..."The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight"..."waking up to personal and global transformation".

        Actually, Vermont is second in line for the state with the most precipitation. Historically, we have a high rate of suicides, alchoholism, and now SAD (seasonal affect disorder). Personally, I use the rainy/snowy/hail/sleeting days to curl up with a good book, visit friends, do chores, talk on TED, etc:>) I take vitimin D in the winter, when we see less sun, and when the sun is out...I'm there with it!!! I think we can do "a dance of happiness" wherever we are at any given moment, whether it's in a physical "place", or a "place" in ourselves.
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          Aug 9 2011: Colleen move to the south. Its better and full of nice emotions with a lot of time to do nothing except what you love to do. I don't work because I'm very busy with my own matters. I dont have to timne to work or take a job. My life is in the Vatican and I'm happy with my marble tower that alouds me to study and research allthe time I desire. The sun is an enormous fountain of energy and happines. I'm single, Jesuit, schollar in ancient lenguages and old scripts. My bike, my friends, my city. with the minimum of neccesities, and a joyfull maximum of resources. I livein myself but also in the city of Rome, where all is a tremendous power and cardinal and marble buildings.
    • Aug 10 2011: Yes Luigi...a beautiful song, a smile from someone you love and a laugh...and deep friends.
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    Aug 8 2011: Carissima...Theres no any technique for that...the real is forgot any method and go to the mediterraneo. Nice living and no worries. Il dolce far niente is the best to relief that anguish and depression. See the word carefully...depression....and extreme presion over you and the subsequence deflated of your anima....you need fresh air, and open spaces with the mediterranean sun and some adventures for your body and spirit. Please forget any theraphy and enjjoy the fact that you are alive. The next stage is forever, and this is your ONLY chance. No more.
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      Aug 8 2011: Luigi- I am in love this you and your ideas! How wonderful your contributions always are!
      Nothing better than love to banish depression!
  • Aug 8 2011: I am certainly willing to try this.
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    Aug 7 2011: I will try your suggestion and let you know on September 7 how it went. Thanks for the good idea, Debra.
  • Aug 6 2011: One of the best tools that I have found in combating my reoccurring depression is the physical expression of my internal struggle weather it be hitting a bag, dancing, singing, screaming, crying, and yes writing. I believe the key is not holding back. In this often judgmental world of political correctness run a muck where appearances seem to mean more than even reality at times it is so easy to wittingly or otherwise dawn the mask of the status quo. This is why I recommend these be done in private when possible and not at the gym or anywhere else external pressure of behavioral modification perceived or otherwise exists not to hide from others but to assert self awareness as well as allow for uncompromising vulnerability. Take some you time and it will enhance your experiences with others.
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      Aug 8 2011: I like that. Practice ambivert-ism, and let out emotions physically on objects or art.
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      Aug 8 2011: Skylar, thank you for sharing your insights. There is research that supports some of what you are suggesting and other research that indicates that indulging anger (through hitting things) often makes it worse.
      I love the idea of increased self awareness and of uncompromising vulnerability if you are strong enough and confident enough to practice it. Those with insecure attachments are often more wounded by opening up to the wrong people.
      • Aug 18 2011: One need not be mad to punch and kick a bag. It is exercise and just happens to be my favorite way next to dancing and well,... "more dancing" to work up a sweat . The secret to punching a bag if you are angry about something is to keep hitting it until all of the anger is released this can take a while and you will be both drained and exhausted, but at peace. What a great workout. Violence particularly for us testosterone drones is an important tool to learn to control and if one can and is willing to hone their skills without hurting anyone I highly recommend doing so. Your muscles have memory so even if you forget they hopefully won't . The need for defense of self and others is a daily reality for many. I teach most of my female acquaintances basic self defense at some point and have met many women over the years that have been assaulted. Some of my own loved ones have been victims of abuse. Perhaps one day you will need those skills and if not it can't hurt to keep it in your toolbox. Best of luck on your journey