Self Help: How to overcome depression forever

Life is a mixed bag of both sweet and rotten fruits for everyone. But sometimes it can feel like you were given a bigger share of the rotten. The challenges and ordeals life throws can leave you feeling spent and hopeless. After all, in the face of incessant hardships it is only human to feel demoralized and dejected.AbbottKinney1

But if life has you feeling run over then continuing to feel sorry for yourself will only make matters worse. There are positive steps you can take that will change the game entirely and put your life back on track. The good news is that it is never too late to change your mindset and circumstances. Here are some easy ways to heal:

  1. Acknowledge your pain: To achieve freedom from pain it is first important to understand what ails you. A lot of people feel depressed out of loneliness, poverty, competition, and physical ill health. Others feel miserable because they are trapped in a toxic relationship and are unable to find a way out. Whatever your case may be, the first step to cure is always to understand the root cause. However, if your depression has no particular known cause then try probing your subconscious with this simple trick. Sit in meditation and clear your mind of all positive and negative thoughts or simply listen to some relaxing music. Then take a pen and paper, and write down 10 things that are making you unhappy. If you have more than 10, then just keep writing to your heart’s content (empty all the pain out on paper) but make sure to number them appropriately. Then focus on the list of things that make you unhappy and further write down 10 ways you can either eliminate or avoid them. You obviously cannot eliminate all toxic relationships (e.g. a rebellious teenage child or an annoying aunt) but you can find creative ways to improve your relationships. If nothing works then you will want to find ways to distance yourself emotionally.
  2. Make small changes: Focus on the list of action items you created above and focus on just one or two. See if you can do just one thing a day no matter how small. If your health bothers you then do one thing to improve it today. If your relationship with your teenage son is bothering you, see if you can have face to face talk. If your Aunt is always taunting you about not visiting her often enough, then see if you can set a reasonable schedule to visit her which will work for both of you. But focus on one or two constructive ways to improve your situation today. If there is absolutely nothing you can do about it, then learn to accept it. Time will eventually heal pain.
  3. Make health a priority: A healthy mind resides in a healthy body. If you are already in tip-top shape than that much more power to you. For the rest of us we can all make small changes to improve and keep our health in the best shape possible. If possible join a gym. If you cannot afford a gym, then start your day with a brisk walk and observe the world with a child’s eyes. Notice the birds playing in the trees, or the dew settled on the green grass or the clear skies. Seek joy in the simpler things in life. Make an effort to eat healthy. It is easy to fall into a habit of eating comfort food when you are feeling blue. But this habit can become hazardous over a long period of time. Try making simple, nutritious meals. Make small changes by inculcating more greens, grains and fruits on a daily basis.
  4. Be grateful: Gratitude is one of the best medicines to depression as it changes one’s focus from “the have not’s” to “the have’s”. While it is easy to look at everything we do not have, it is far more rewarding to focus on the things we have and offer genuine gratitude. Kindness starts at home. Be kind and grateful to your parents, partner, friends, children, pets and colleagues. Find some time to send them a card, or call or text them with a simple “thank you” message. This alone will improve your relationships. This will not only change your perception but also alter their perception of you.
  5. Offer Charity: This may be so counter intuitive. When you are ailing and need help, it is hard to think of others. Yet when you focus on helping others you take away the focus from yourself and your own pain. You look at people who are less fortunate than yourself and realize how much you have to be grateful for. Also helping other people releases mood enhancing endorphins.
  6. Inculcate a hobby: Hobbies are not just for kids. They are equally important for grown-ups. If you have a hobby then find time to work on it every day or as often as you can. This will give you a feeling of fulfillment, accomplishment and joy. If you don’t have a passion, find something you can enjoy. Maybe it is something you did as a child but just don’t have time to do it anymore? If you enjoy reading books, then join a book club. Meeting like-minded people and sharing views helps take mind off your problems. If you enjoy photography then invest in a reasonable camera and take a picture a day. If you enjoy writing then start a blog. If you enjoy gardening then get a few plants and decorate your home. Get the drift?
  7. Set aside time for you every week: The worst possible situation is to find yourself in a place where one day dwindles into another. If you have a hard time remembering what you did yesterday or what you will do tomorrow then you may be in a bad place mentally. Each day is a new day to fulfill your dreams and promises. No matter how small. Set some time every week to focus on yourself. Write down your goals and plan on fulfilling them. You don’t have to come up with flamboyant plans. You can use the time to simply organize your bookshelf, or clear some clutter in the garage. Or pamper yourself with a facial or go to the cinema and enjoy a movie. Make time to invest in yourself every week.
  8. Do not participate in office politics: Sometimes vicious cycles are created by simply participating in vicious activities. If you are unhappy at work, participating in company politics will only make it worse. Venting about difficult colleagues or bosses can sound like a good idea to vent out at the moment, but it will only make you more miserable. And usually will come back to haunt you and cause you to lose credibility in the eyes of your peers and management. If people are participating in politics around you, try to stay disengaged. In the long run, you will gain more friends and build respect.
  9. Change your attitude: Whether the glass is half empty or half full depends upon the way you look at it. Perception is everything. And yet, it too can be adjusted. Find positive viewpoints in every situation. See also positive in people. People are neither entirely good nor entirely bad. We are all motivated by our own inner needs. Learn to see these needs impartially and try to forgive others for their faults. When something bad happens to you, try not to focus on what has happened but how you can fix it. Try putting things into perspective. Will this matter an year from today? Read positive books by motivational writers such as Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Stephen Covey, Dale Carnegie. If necessary read them over and over again. The mind can be stubborn but loves repetition.
  10. Consult an expert: If nothing else works then seek the help of an expert. Look up for a psychiatrist or see if you can join a support group. Build a strong network of friends and family who would be willing to see you through difficult times. Offer them love and gratitude in return and be there for them.

Remember there is no quick fix to most problems in life, breaking old habits takes time. Most known quick fixes like medications, drugs and alcohol only mask the problem today, but make matters exponentially worse in the long run. Instead try to become your own best friend and make small but consistent efforts to heal yourself both mentally and physically. Good Luck!


Bora Bora 036aJust before the celestial change of guard
the sun and moon fleetingly share
a bed in the clandestine skies,
I walk alone on the beach.

A pair of dolphins burst out from the sea
doing cart wheels like two happy six year old’s
and swim parallel to the shore
their big clown smiles drawn permanently on their faces.

I too cannot help but slip out of my adult proprieties
and find myself running and somersaulting in the sand
While the waves wash the shore and my inhibitions along.
Happiness is at once so intuitive and unassuming.

Happiness for sale

Peace of MindWhoever said “Happiness is in between the ears” was right on. Happiness and misery are states of mind. Yet we continue to believe that material goods will bring us joy. TV, newspapers, radio abound with commercials that promise us lasting happiness if only we buy their specific goods. With the best intention parents will often promise a child his/her favorite toy if the child agrees to adhere to the rules laid out by a well meaning parent; “When the child adheres to these rules he /she gets rewarded with a toy. Since our infancy we are trained to believe that hard work and perseverance lead to achievement of material goods that ultimately bring fulfillment and happiness.The only thing wrong with this picture is that the promise of fulfillment is a facade and a temporary one at that. The toy only provides temporary joy and is soon discarded for new shinier one. As we grow older the toy takes on different forms, it may take the form of a better job(s), a house(s), car(s), wife, children the list goes on. The toy not only changes forms it even multiplies. Yet, the joy and fulfillment we seek is not to be found?

This is because we never looked for it in the right place, in fact we have only been trained to look for it in all the wrong places. Happiness cannot be found “outside.” This is an important concept to understand. “Outside” here represents people, places and things all of which give us temporary happiness. Happiness and misery are right here within us; inside our mind.

I am not suggesting that one must not Endeavour to improve one’s economic status by getting a better job, or seeking a happy married life. The problem is not with the material goods, the people or places that we seek, but the belief that their attainment alone will lead to happiness. All too often despite having it all we are still not happy. And when we are not happy we tend to blame the world for our unhappiness.

Let’s pause here, and discuss what happiness is, before we dwell further into this. Happiness means different things to different people. Some people equate happiness with visiting certain places, others will confuse it with an acutely euphoric state of mind rendered by drugs, alcohol, material goods, while yet others feel they are happiest in the company of their loved ones. I am not here to tell them they are right or wrong. In one way, they are all right in another they are all wrong. The quest for happiness or the lack thereof is a very personal journey and it is what makes the world go round. However one thing is certain, lasting happiness cannot be found “outside” in any one person, place or thing.

So then how can we guarantee lasting happiness? Unfortunately, the simple truth is: we cannot.

The workings of a human mind are far too complicated to fathom. An ordinary person cannot be happy or unhappy all the time. We feel love, joy, jealousy, disgust, desire, happiness and a sleuth of emotions all in the span of a single day. The goal is never to remove the negative emotions completely and permanently because that is just not humanly possible.

The goal is to lengthen the enjoyment of the positive emotions, without becoming a slave to them and without the crutch of abusive substances, things or ever the people we love. Emotions such as happiness and pain by nature are transitory and thankfully so.

The state of mind that is most desirable is not happiness; it is equanimity. Equanimity is the intelligence to neither get completely carried away in a moment of joy nor get shattered in misery or pain. Equanimity dwells on the concept of awareness. All too often we live in the past or in the future, never fully cherishing the moment we are in. Equanimity in a nutshell is the negation of its ego and the complete awareness of the present moment without forming a bias or getting attached to anything. Clearly it is a loaded concept to understand, however, it is one that promises lasting peace of mind.

To become an equanimous person, one must let go of one’s ego which is the root cause of pain and misery. Needless to say, we live in a very individualistic world and see every opportunity with the lens of “What’s in it for me?”  But if the answer to that question were to be “lasting peace and a greater appreciation of every moment,” would we not find it worthwhile to inculcate?

The problem is that the concept of equanimity preaches to lose the very baggage we have so passionately carried with ourselves through our life; our ego. Imagine a child that started rolling a ball of snow through a snow covered mountain, and as he rolls it, the ball collects more snow and grows bigger in size. By the time he reaches the foot of the hill, his tiny ball of snow has become a gigantic boulder of snow, which will eventually roll him over. This ball of snow is our ego, and it is not easily let go off.

I would like to clarify at this point, that I certainly do not claim to be equanimous myself. I am easily moved by sorrow, pain and jump for joy at the slightest indication of happiness. As humans, we can only endeavor and persist to continuously improve ourselves. When we stumble and fall, what do we do? We instinctively get up and move on. Thus also during difficult and trying moments it is only too human to lose one’s mind, but the important thing is to persevere. Losing one’s ego and becoming equanimous is not something we will achieve overnight, but realization is always the first step to change.

Realize that happiness cannot be bought with money, and the very ego that we are so protective of is the very source of our unhappiness. Realize that constantly living in the past or in the future is another source of unhappiness as it causes us to lose the only thing we are guaranteed in life: the present.

Unfortunately, happiness is not for sale here. Lasting peace of mind and equanimity is, however, available in your own mind. Let us now begin our journey to seek for the right goal in the right place; “within.”