To overcome depression, there are techniques that can help lift the emotional paralysis and ruminating that often accompany depression. Both of which make it much more difficult for the patient to focus on implementing the behavioural changes necessary to prevent a relapse.
1. Take a different view
With depression often comes a psychological myopia: the sufferer robotically repeats to him or herself soul-sucking negative thoughts: “Nothing I try ever works out” “How could I have been so stupid?” “I am not worthy of being loved”. A patient deep in the throes of that kind of thinking can, if unchecked, spend an entire session staring at one spot—often the floor.
At those moments I prod, “You are so stuck on only seeing things one way that you miss any other possible view. Literally. If you force yourself to look up, there are a variety of objects in the room to observe and ponder—a bookcase; lamps: paintings; a window with sunlight streaming in… There is so much you miss when you refuse to look.”
The patient then sheepishly lifts his or her eyes to take in the entirety of the room (“Oh, I never noticed that funny placard!”) as I hammer home the point: “There are a plethora of ways to view anything. Instead of continually convincing yourself everything is hopeless consider all the other options. There is always a Plan B.”
2. Visualize a happy memory
When a patient continually revisits a painful memory (say, of a romantic rejection or failed business enterprise), it can tip him or her into near emotional catatonia. I say, “Wait, before you ‘go down the rabbit hole’ and all the dark feelings overwhelm you, close your eyes and go to a happy memory.”
Paul remembered, “When I graduated from college, looked out at the audience and saw my family looking so proud, I felt amazing and powerful.” I said, “Great, go there. Let’s relive that wonderful experience.” As he described details from that lovely day (his mother’s periwinkle blue dress; standing on the stage holding his diploma…) his posture went from slumped over to peacock proud. He actually smiled.
I suggested, “The moment you feel yourself sliding back to an awful memory that takes you under, take a breath and instantly conjure up graduation day. Counter the gloom with an immediate dose of positivity!”
3. Tell Me Something Good
A depressed person has earned a PhD in The Art and Science of Self-Hatred. When I ask, “How do you see yourself?” I get answers like: “I’m boring.” “I’m a coward.” “I’m ugly.” “I’m not smart.” To the speaker, these sentiments are absolute truths; his or her sense of identity, a soul-less place to live that is familiar, thus offering a ‘comfortable discomfort’, with no exit door. As long as these annihilating beliefs rule your self-image, nothing good can break through.
When I ask, “Tell me good qualities about yourself,” I am initially greeted by silence. Then I hear a halting, “I’m kind” or “I’m caring.” If the patient gets stuck, I help out: “You’re a loving mother.” “You are a survivor.” “You are a nurturer” “You are super considerate.” “You are reliable”…
As we construct a list, I ask the patient to write down the wonderful attributes and keep repeating them when the ‘toxic wheel of self-hating talk’ begins. I suggest asking friends and family members to email a list of positive qualities they value in my patient.
The next step will be “to compile, print out the list and carry it in your wallet like a talisman.” For extra inoculation against the constant negativity, I suggest the patient write positive qualities on post-its and sprinkle them around the house: stick “I have gorgeous eyes” on the bathroom vanity, place “I’m reliable” on the refrigerator and so on…
You are what you ‘feed’ yourself spiritually speaking. Exchange the “everything I hate about myself” mantra to “all the qualities that make me a special, unique, lovable person.”
4. Make Plans
When a person is depressed, the only place he or she wants to be is in bed, preferably under the covers with the shades drawn. Lifting up the phone to hear a friendly voice, much less having plans outside the bare minimum (work, school, grocery store) feels way too difficult.
The Internet has made it dangerously seductive to keep to oneself. Studies show that limiting social media to approximately 30 minutes a day decreases depression.
When you are depressed, the last thing you feel like doing is getting out of the house. But it’s essential to make the effort to take a shower, get dressed, take a walk, go to the gym, and socialize.”
5. Find Something to Look Forward To
Book a trip, buy concert tickets, and plan to attend a movie— whatever brings a flush to your cheeks and rumble of joy to your belly. Biggest mood-turnarounds arise when I begin a project that can potentially create some good in the world and lead to fulfilling connections. For example, volunteer as a mentor to underserved young people.
The point is: stop continually telling yourself nothing good will ever again happens. It is not over yet, you can make it.
Culled from PSYCOM