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Part 2: Intellectual Integrity and Depression Recovery

Just because you think you know something, doesn’t mean that something is true.  That something could be flat-out false.  That something could be partially true but lacking in full context.

In order to recovery from depression, you need to strive for intellectual integrity.  Integrity can be defined as adhering to a code of ethics, and that certainly is a good thing; but the integrity I mean here is a bit different.  Intellectual integrity is like structural integrity.  When something has structural integrity, there are no gaps or weaknesses to create instability.  When you believe something that isn’t the truth or is only partially true, you leave yourself open to gaps and weaknesses that undermine intellectual integrity.

One of the keys to overcoming depression is to honestly and realistically evaluate your life and determine whether what you think you know is really the truth.  As much as possible, develop a plan to accept those things that are unchangeable and a plan to change those that you can.

Please recognize, you may be reluctant to do this for fear that it will make you even more depressed.  Remaining tied to false truths and half-truths may seem more comforting that living life in the glare of intellectual honesty.  If you feel that way, aren’t you tired of living your life while feeling like a spectator instead of an active participant with the power to choose your own course?  Unless you take intentional action, chances are that circumstances won’t force a change to the positive.

It’s time to take control and look at where you are in your life.  It’s time to actively and intentionally participate in the course of your life, shoring up your intellectual integrity by understanding and accepting the truth of who you are.

  • If you have developed a pattern of tying self-worth to activity, you may find it difficult to let go of some of the things you are doing.
  • If you have developed a pattern of believing in your own incompetence, taking on new activities may frighten you with a potential for failure.
  • If you have developed a pattern of being afraid of making mistakes, an honest appraisal of why you are engaging in an activity may be uncomfortable, because of needed changes it might reveal.

In order to continue taking stock of your life, you will need to press on.  Don’t let any initial hesitation stop you from being honest with yourself.

Your perspective on life is based upon what you “know.”  These “truths” are often forged in childhood.  If what you “know” is framed in negativity, your perceptions and expectations may also be negative.  Another way to think of this “knowledge” is as a filter through which you view your life.  Some people who seem perennially happy are said to view life through rose-colored glasses. Their filter is weighted on the side of the positive.  In depression, life is viewed through gray-colored glasses.  Life appears negative, oppressive, and filled with shadows.

One of the main areas that may need to be changed in order to overcome depression is what you “know” about life:

  • If you “know” that life consistently treats you unfairly, then the inevitable ups and downs of life are filtered through that perception.  If you “know” that life is supposed to always be smooth sailing, the inevitable ups and downs can cause great anxiety.  Down times are not put into a proper perspective, because you don’t consider them to be legitimate.  Down times are supposed to happen to other people but not you.  If you’re unprepared to deal with these down times, confusion, frustration, and depression can result.
  • If you “know” that you don’t really deserve to be happy, you will filter the events of your life to make sure you aren’t.  Good things will be met with suspicion, and bad things will be accepted as inevitable.
  • If you “know” that the only way for you to be safe is to be in control, you will have a heightened sense of anxiety over life events.  Since people are rarely in total control over their environment and never in control of other people, this “knowledge” leaves a persistent, nagging feeling of insecurity.  This perpetual sense of unease can lead to anxiety and depression.

Life does not always flow smoothly.  Circumstances can alter the most carefully constructed life.  Traumatic events will be part of each of our lives.  That we cannot change.  What we can change, however, is our response to those traumatic events.  If the fundamental foundation for what we know about life is based on negativity, we will have little support when bad things happen.

But we can use intellectual integrity to identify and replace the false and incomplete truths we’ve been basing our lives on.  We can replace those false and incomplete truths with a more complete understanding of ourselves, our expectations, and just what the world is truly able to offer.

Making changes in your life requires a certain level of optimism.  If you find it difficult to be optimistic, consider working with a caring professional or counselor.  Oftentimes, when the process of evaluating your life activities is done with the help of others, their vantage point offers perspectives you hadn’t considered.  Borrow their optimism, hope, and joy, until you are able to generate those refreshing, renewing feelings on your own.

If you are struggling with depression, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help.  Call us at 1-888-771-5166 to speak confidentially with a specialist.

Physical Healing in Depression Recovery

Feeling depressed is not just a mental state.  Depression is a debilitating whole-body condition that must be addressed physically as well as mentally.  The whole-person approach accepts the body as a complex organism and looks for systemic reasons for depression.

As Dr. Robert A Anderson, founding president of the American Holistic Medical Association, says: “A definitive diagnosis of depression should not be made until physical conditions have been surveyed.” (1)

The body is not merely along for the ride into depression.  The body is an active participant, with the capacity to aggravate or improve symptoms of depression.  The first stop on the road to recovery from depression for many people is a physician’s office.  After all, they feel bad.  Whatever the factors leading to their depression, many will attempt to obtain a medical diagnosis for physical symptoms.

There are studies showing that addressing physical conditions can have a dramatic effect in overcoming depression.  Psychiatrist Richard Hall has found “evidence [of] dramatic and complete clearing of psychiatric symptoms when medical treatment for underlying physical disorders was instituted.” (2)

The body holds its own special key to overcoming depression.  Physical illnesses as well as physical conditions that may not be diagnosed or readily apparent can contribute to depression.  Yet even when blood work and medical examinations are done, the physical culprits involved in depression can be overlooked.  Like a detective, you need to be informed and persistent to discover the truth.  To begin, let’s examine several known contributors to depression.

Mental and Health Conditions:

  • Hypoglycemia.  This can cause weakness, mental dullness, confusion, and fatigue.  All of these symptoms, when taken together, can exacerbate depression.
  • Heart Disease.  Research has shown that one out of every five people who suffer a heart attack will become depressed.  Conversely, a link between depression and heart disease was found in a study at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health, which reported that depressed people were four times more likely to have a heart attack than people who were not depressed.
  • Anemia.  This is a condition in which the blood lacks iron.  Symptoms of anemia, similar to depression, include fatigue, weakness, and lethargy.
  • Sleep Apnea.  This is a condition where the air passages in the throat close off during sleep.  The resulting symptoms are fatigue, mental confusion, and lethargy — all associated with a state of depression.
  • Diabetes.  This is the body’s inability to regulate its own blood sugar.  The constant up-and-down stress of elevated versus low blood-sugar levels can compromise the body’s ability to regulate important nutrient absorption and hormonal levels which provide protection from depressive mood swings.
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  This depressive cycle — also known as the winter blues — is tied to the body’s secretion of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the body’s biological clock and coordinates the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Heredity.  Depression appears to run in families.  Educate yourself on the health background of your family, especially parents or siblings who have experienced depression, whether clinically diagnosed or not.
  • Dehydration.  Most people don’t drink enough water.  Dehydration impairs the body’s ability to perform vital functions, causing fatique, weakness, dizziness, and mental dullness.

For more information on mental and health conditions associated with depression, see Dr. Jantz’s new book, Five Keys to Dealing with Depression.

(1) Robert A. Anderson, Clinician’s Guide to Holistic Medicine (NY: MacGraw-Hill Publishing, 2001), 243.

(2) R.C.W. Hall, E.R. Gardner, M.K. Popkin, and S.K. Stickney, “Unrecognized Physical Illness Prompting Psychiatric Admission: A Prospective Study,” American Journal of Psychiatry 138, no. 5 (May 1981): 629-35

Being Intentional in Your Response to Depression

What do we do when life feels like it’s piling on top of us?  In depression, we bury our optimism, hope, and joy and react with anger, fear, or guilt, allowing overwhelming circumstances to knock us flat.  Emotional depression can become an automatic reaction to life’s trials.  Reactions are automatic, but responses need not be.  Depression does not have to be automatic.

Even if we may immediately react negatively, we can learn to intentionally reassert positive emotions.  This may not be our first reaction, but our first reaction doesn’t need to be our only response.  Albert Einstein once said, “You can’t solve a problem on the same level that it was created.  You have to rise above it to the next level.”  Our reactions are on one level, but we can learn to take our responses to the next level.

The next level above automatic reaction is intentional response.  You need to be intentional in your response to life and its circumstances.  You need to deliberately recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy.  In the midst of depression, the thought of sustaining even a modicum of positive feelings may appear overwhelming, a burden too heavy to bear.  But aren’t you already carrying around the weight of emotional baggage?  Think how much energy it takes to carry around anger, fear, and guilt.  When you begin to put those emotions down, you will find strength for optimism, hope, and joy.

Negative emotions may be part of your personal landscape.  If that is the case, you’ll need to intentionally seek out and rediscover optimism, hope, and joy.  Optimism, hope, and joy are responses that come from within you and are not necessarily derived from your outside circumstances.  Regardless of the circumstances, you determine to remain optimistic; you decide to have hope; you derive joy.

Intentionally choosing how to respond to life is not a trivial matter; this attitude can save your life.  In his book Man’s Search of Meaning, Holocaust survivor Viktor E. Frankl set forth to answer the question why some people lived through the Nazi Germany concentration camps and some did not.  He found that it rarely had anything to do with their physical state.  Some prisoners who were extremely debilitated or ill continued to live, while some others who were in much better physical shape died.  The difference, he found, was in their attitude to life.

Frankl discovered that in the final analysis, strength for living is found in the ability to choose your attitude — your response — to any given situation.  The situations he and others dealt with on a daily basis were deprivation, starvation, physical disease, and beatings.  Yet in the midst of the hell of the concentration camp, he and others intentionally chose to respond with optimism and hope.

Frankl, who could find positives in the midst of a Nazi concentration camp, demonstrates that each of us has the opportunity to find positives in our own situations.  We will not always have control over our circumstances, but we can determine to hold on to optimism, hope, and joy — to recognize them, promote them, and sustain them.  This is the challenge for those who are depressed.

Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 30 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

Money and False Security

“In God We Trust” has been engraved on our coins since 1864. Somewhere in the intervening years, however, it seems we’ve shifted from trust in God to trust in the coin itself. This isn’t a recent phenomenon; it’s been happening for a long time. King Solomon, in his book of wisdom known as Proverbs, puts it this way: “The wealth of the rich is their fortified city; they imagine it an unscalable wall” (Prov. 18:11).

There are many people today for whom wealth is their unscalable wall. They truly believe if they acquire enough of it, build up a high enough wall of it, the cares and concerns of the world will not be able to climb over. The problem, of course, lies in the fact that cares and concerns have very creative ways of mounting siege ramps against the walls of wealth and breach even the highest parapets. Insecurities also find ways to tunnel under the strongest edifices.

Money, quite simply, is not a secure enough thing to put your trust in. Again, from Proverbs: “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle” (23:4-5). Money is a fluid, dynamic entity, and its worth is based upon factors out of the control of most people. A person’s wealth can be made and lost within a single year. How many people have won millions of dollars on a lottery one year, only to wind up losing it all within a short span of time? How many people put their trust in the wealth they committed to Bernie Madoff, only to lose every cent in his billion-dollar Ponzi scheme? Money is not an appropriate place to look for security.

Money is not permanent because it can be lost in the blink of an eye (or in the crash of the stock market, or in the devaluation of currency, or through theft of malfeasance or cooked books). It is not permanent in the here and now, and it’s absolutely irrelevant in the hereafter. Money may get you some traction when you’re alive, but it is useless to you when you’re dead: “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him” (Ps. 49: 16-17). In cruder, present-day language: The hearse doesn’t come with a trailer.

Money promises to provide security, but it often creates the opposite: “A man’s riches may ransom his life, but a poor man hears no threat” (Prov. 13:8). The more stock you set in the things you have, including money and the things money can buy, the greater the threat of losing it all. Those who have much have much to lose. Those with little, sleep under a lesser threat of loss and can feel more secure.

Money can be a source of security, but it can also be a source of heartburn: “The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep” (Eccl. 5:12). If you put all your security eggs in the money basket, then you must perpetually worry about eggs breaking and losing broth.

 Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

 

The Power of HOPE

To understand the true power of hope, I think it’s a good idea to contemplate what the world would look like without hope. It is a world without anticipation, without desire or expectation—a flat, monochrome world with only a single what-is view. First Chronicles 29:15 calls it a shadow world.

Over my time in counseling, I have seen too many people trapped in this shadow world without true hope. I have seen them desperately reach for anything—harmful, dangerous, destructive, false—to try to provide some sort of color of hope in the shadow. Imagine my position—within their world without hope I have to tell them that the one thing they cling to for a modicum of hope really isn’t hope at all. I have to point out the painfully obvious: The hope they cling to—whatever it is—is false hope.

If this is all I did and all I could offer, I wouldn’t do it. It would be too bleak. I praise God, however, that my job isn’t just to point out false hope but to point toward true hope. This is hope that sings with a symphony of desire, expectation, trust, sweet anticipation, and even sweeter fulfillment. This is hope that sings with God’s voice. This is not a shadow world; it is quite literally heaven. And what I get to do is show people the way to find their own patch of heaven on earth, through an understanding and connection to true hope.

Now that’s a job I believe in. It’s why The Center I founded thirty years ago has become knows as A Place of HOPE. It is a place where people find the strength and courage to give up their false hopes and the joy to discover their true hope. Hope has come to color everything we do, from the name of our website to titles on my books to our theme verse of Jeremiah 29:11. People come to us riding on the exhausted, failing horses of false hope and leave soaring on the wings of true hope.

This is not an easy journey. It’s not even an intuitive one for many. Letting go of the reins of a false hope in order to place yourself within reach of true hope is very much a leap of faith.

I love the Indiana Jones movies with Harrison Ford. There is a scene in the third movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where in order to save his dying father, Indy must successfully navigate a series of tests to reach the Holy Grail. At one point, Indy reaches a place where he must make a proverbial leap of faith.

Finding himself thwarted on the wrong side of a bottomless chasm, Indy must leap out into the apparent nothingness of space in order to keep going. He steels himself and steps out into the air of the abyss, only to land on a thin stone bridge that was impossible to see before. Once he realizes the path is there, that it is real, he successfully makes his way safely across to find the Grail and save his father. The path across was there the whole time; he just couldn’t see it. The only way to see it was to trust it was there.

The leap between false hope and true hope can be very much like that step into nothingness. On the one side, the false hope seems so substantial, so present, so there. The false hope is a known quantity. Even though a part of you knows it doesn’t live up to its promises and you won’t get to where you need to go by sticking to your false hope, another part of you is terrified of the abyss you’re stepping out into in order to grasp hold of true hope.

You are terrified of the unseen. It is that unseen nature of true hope that requires this leap of faith.

With an excessity, you know what you already have. Hopefully, by now, you recognize that what you have really isn’t much and that you’ve been putting all of your hope and trust in a dead horse, unable to save you. It’s time to let go of the known—the seen—and reach toward something better, something unseen.

Hope, then, is a leap of faith. Hope and faith are linked. It takes faith to hope, and hope fuels faith. It’s time to place your hope and faith in something more reliable, more trustworthy, than an excessity.

 Dr. Gregory Jantz is the founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE  and author of 35 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety, and others.

 

 

The Many Faces of Depression

Many people who have suffered from depression describe it as a dark cloud that hovers over them, clouding their capacity to feel joy, hope and live life to its fullest. How this cloud manifests itself can be as unique as the people who suffer from it. There are, however, some reoccurring “faces” to depression that can help us identify its presence and acknowledge when professional help is needed.

Here are some common faces of depression. Depression shows itself through a prolonged period of sadness or anxiety. It leaches interest or pleasure out of activities that would normally be enjoyable. Depression alters appetite and sleep patterns. It promotes feelings of guilt, shame and hopelessness. Depression interferes with the ability to make decisions to concentrate, to remember things, and to focus. It steadily strangles the will to act, sometimes producing a frantic and anxious state, or an apathetic lethargy. Depression may lead to recurrent thoughts of suicide and death.

In times past, depression was considered a weakness, suffered by weak people, as evidenced by the higher rate of depression among women. The chauvinistic, repressive attitude toward depression and its sufferers has been changing, allowing the depressed to come out from under the cloak of shame and to seek help for their illness.

At The Center • A Place of HOPE, we have found, with whole-person treatment, approximately 90 percent of our clients experience long-term recovery. Over the past 20 years of working with depression recovery, we have developed the keys to unlock the secrets of “why people get depressed.”

Clients come to our clinic with concerns about anxiety, hopelessness, and feelings of being overwhelmed or increasingly isolated. They do not use the term depression to explain their concerns. Either they are fearful of any lingering stigma, or they simply have been unable to place a label on their nameless dread. Some are at the point of suicide, without really knowing why they feel that taking their own life is the only way to end the pain.

Others come to our clinic with difficulties in relationships; they have become moody, irritable, isolated form loved ones, sometimes even abusive. Clients are concerned about their inability to concentrate at work, and they lack productivity that threatens their employment. Sometimes it is not the depressed person who makes contact with us; it is loved ones concerned about that person’s behavior. They are concerned about the withdrawal they see, or the risky, thrill-seeking behaviors some depressed people will use in an attempt to jolt themselves out of their depression.

If you are struggling with a dark cloud of depression, or you have observed warning signs of depression in the life of a loved one, seeking professional help may be the quickest, easiest, and safest way to find healing. The Center • A Place of HOPE was recently voted in the Top 10 depression treatment facilities in the United States because of our holistic and lasting approach to depression recovery. Our team at The Center • A Place of HOPE cares, and we can help. If you are ready to regain true joy and happiness in your life, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak with a depression recovery specialist today.

 

Evaluating Past and Present Relationships Contributing to Depression

Depression can come when we feel bound to repeat the negative patterns of our past. Through an honest evaluation of our past and present relationships, we come to understand who we are and what we bring to each of our relationships.

Often times, the greatest joys, but also the greatest insecurities, traumas, and scars can come from our own family. The intentions of adults in a family may not be to pass along negative responses to their children, yet through their own inability to control these responses, they set up negative patterns for their children to follow. As children follow these patterns, the negative perceptions that accompany them become grounded in their lives.

Without ever being told, children develop a working model for life based on the suspicion, insecurity, perfectionism, self-centeredness, frustration, or oppressive behavior of their parents. This model produces feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, all of which suffocate optimism, hope, and joy.

You may have a background where emotional abuse of this type, or worse, was evident in your family. It will not be difficult for you to pinpoint how these negative experiences have impacted your ability to balance yourself emotionally. Or, you may look back at your childhood and conclude your family can’t be a source of your depression because you didn’t have an abusive experience. Take time, however, to really examine the patterns you learned from your family.

This is not a search through your past to assign blame, but rather a mature look at the learned responses from your family to discover those that might be contributing to the strength and longevity of your depression. It is so important for you to be able to identify the burdens from past relationships that may be slowing down your rate of recovery. Once you discover these hindrances, you will be equipped to develop a plan for moving forward.

As you review past relationships, also take some time to examine your current relationships. Many times, our present relationships are a direct reflection of the quality and content of our past relationships. If our childhood experience was negative, we often choose to engage in similar relationships as adults.

Write down the significant people in your life today that are not included in the previous group of family, listing each person by name and relationship. Special people in your life need not be confined to family. They can be coworkers, friends, mentors, or acquaintances. How does each person relate to you? Is it in a positive or a negative way?  Does the present relationship mirror a past relationship?

Take time to reflect on the relationships in your life and how you engage with them. This process alone could reveal the reasons for your depression. While it is important to acknowledge the past and understand its effects on the present, it is also important to note that you have the opportunity to make positive changes for your future.

If you are struggling with depression and you are ready to change your life for good, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Recently voted in the Top 10 depression treatment facilities in the United States, The Center • A Place of HOPE not only helps ease the symptoms of depression, but seeks to heal its root cause. If you are ready to regain true joy and happiness in your life, fill out this form or call 1-888-747-5592 to speak with a depression recovery specialist today.

 

Overcoming Depression Caused by Busyness

In today’s hectic, action-packed society, we often pride ourselves on our productivity and busyness. We fill each day with work, technology, errands, and activities that leave little room for much else. However, over time it’s possible for your productive and busy days to become unhinged from their original intent.

You might become so entrenched in your hectic routine that the activities begin to lose their meaning, and you feel like you are simply spinning your wheels each day without any true direction. You may begin to feel that your life is not making a difference or that what you are doing and how hard you are working is not moving you forward on the path you were hoping to take. Life seems busy and burdensome, yet without purpose. This outlook can be a major factor in environmental causes of depression.

If you are experiencing this empty feeling of depressed burnout, it may be time for you to reevaluate your routine and focus in life. While there may be a great many things in your daily routine that you cannot change, you may be surprised at how many things you can. One of the keys to overcoming depression is to honestly and realistically evaluate your life and then develop a plan to change those things that are in your control.

You may be reluctant to do this exercise for fear it will make you even more depressed. But the objective of taking stock is not to create an inventory of all the things that are wrong with your life. Rather, taking stock will help to categorize the changeable and unchangeable things in your life to intentionally move forward, out of depression and the doldrums of meaninglessness. Here are some simple steps to help you evaluate your routine.

  1. Reflect on your daily activities. Make a list of all of the things you do each day, leaving space after each item. Begin with the moment you wake up, and write down every event that takes place until you put your head on the pillow each night.
  2. Write down the reasons for engaging in each of these activities. Are they for you or for someone else? Are your reasons for engaging in each activity the same today as they were when you started? Have the reasons changed? Have you?
  3. Next to each reason, write down how this activity makes you feel. Do you look forward to each activity? Do you dread it? Does it bring you joy or anxiety?
  4. Determine if the activities are changeable. What would happen if you stopped doing that activity? Or did it less often? Are you responsible for the activity? Or is someone else?
  5. On a new sheet of paper, write down a list of dreams, goals and activities that bring you joy and make you feel truly fulfilled. Though a bit morbid, two strategies to help you discover this list is to write your ideal obituary or think of what you would choose to do if you only had 6 months left to live.
  6. Next to this list of fulfilling activities, write down what steps you would need to take to incorporate these activities into your daily life. What would that life look like? How would each day unfold?
  7. Finally, compare lists. What changes, even small ones at first, can you make today to your first list to bring you closer to a more fulfilling, joyful life?

Too often, we live our lives feeling like spectators instead of active participants with the power to choose our own course. We get swept up into the mindless hustle and bustle of each day, losing sight of what really gives our lives purpose and meaning. It’s as if we are on autopilot, but depression happens when our autopilot gets stuck in a hectic, negative descent. Unless we take intentional action, chances are that circumstances won’t force a change to the positive. If you are feeling uninspired, burned out, and depressed, it’s time to actively and intentionally participate in the course of your life.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Turing Your Down into Up: A Realistic Plan for Healing from Depression.

 

Mastering Your Mood

One of the skills we teach clients is mood mastery, or how to choose their mood. All of us have a profusion of moods at our disposal at any given time. So often, we choose negative moods simply because we’ve formed a habit of submitting to their strong presence. We’ve allowed them to take shortcuts to the forefront of our moods.

Mood mastery is akin to choosing your attitude. Mood and attitude are linked; they are interrelated but separate. Mood is how we are feeling; attitude is how we respond to the mood. Choosing our attitude, our response to the mood, is one way we can actively achieve mastery over any mood. No matter what mood we initially experience, our attitude can either reinforce that mood or cause us to choose another.

Let’s be clear. Choosing a mood is not about reacting to an event or circumstance. Things happen and each of us will have a natural reaction, such as a surprise or anxiety, that may be similar to the way anyone else might react. It is what happens next that falls under the category of choosing our mood. After our initial reaction, we have the opportunity to review that reaction. Then, we can intentionally respond with a continuation of that reaction, or respond with one of our other mood choices.

Here’s a common, everyday example: We’re in our car on the way to work. Maybe we’re running a little big late. All of a sudden, the car next to us swerves into our lane, cutting us off. Our reaction is probably one of shock and surprise. It may even be anger. It’s upsetting when we feel endangered or surprised by the irresponsible action of another driver.

What happens next, however, is a choice. We can choose to take a deep breath and back off the bumper of that car, realizing it would probably be a good idea to give a little bit more room between that driver and ourselves. In other words, we can choose to respond intelligently.

We can also choose to respond angrily. An extreme example of this response has the name road rage. It begins when the actions, real or perceived, of another driver produces an angry, aggressive response. Even if it doesn’t go as far as road rage, we can still respond by using that event to fuel a bad mood. We can choose to react to that event by remaining angry about it long after the fact.

If an event such as getting cut off on the roadway can produce a day-ruining reaction, it’s not surprising that other, more serious or traumatic events can lead to a sustained bad mood lasting months or even years. Once people understand this concept, we work to support them in expanding the moods they choose from when responding to life.

Here are a few techniques to help you master your mood, regardless of what situation life presents to you:

  1. Practice Gratitude: When confronted with a challenging situation or just a “bad mood,” instead of dwelling on the negative situation, refocus to think about five things you are grateful for in your life. If you can think of a gratitude directly linked to the seemingly negative situation at hand, even better!
  2. Breathe Deeply: Before your emotions carry you away, stop and take ten, slow deep breaths. This will send oxygen throughout your body, physically calming you and putting you in a better state to deal with the situation positively.
  3. Get Active: As you probably know, exercise can be a great, natural mood booster, triggering the release of mood-boosting endorphins.
  4. Go Outside: Nature has an amazing affect on our mood, vitality, and overall health. Spending time outdoors and in nature has been proven to boost your serotonin levels and improve your mood.
  5. Help Someone: Sometimes the best thing to do when you are feeling upset, angry, or down is to do something for someone else. Find an opportunity to give of yourself, even in a small way, to help someone. Whether it is opening the door, buying someone a coffee, or paying someone a compliment, these small acts of kindness can sometimes have a greater affect on the giver than the receiver.
  6. Smile: Even if you have to fake a smile at first, try it anyways!

A good mood allows you to experience life in its fullest. But sometimes a good mood doesn’t come naturally, while unconstructive moods do. To overcome bad moods and negative thought patterns, you must turn the flow of this negative tide and strive, even if it seems like you’re paddling against a strong current, to promote optimism, hope, and joy. Once you begin putting good energy out into the world, you’ll be amazed what you’ll get in return!

The Center • A Place of HOPE has been consistently ranked among the top treatment facilities in the country for depression. If you or a loved on are struggling to overcome negative feelings and depression, call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 to talk with our team of specialists.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Turing Your Down into Up: A Realistic Plan for Healing from Depression.

 

Is Social Media Making You Depressed?

In today’s tech intensive world, we invest increasing amounts of ourselves online—our time, our energy, our identities. But for all of the time and effort we put into our virtual lives, how much does is really add to our happiness and overall fulfillment? Is it possible that our social networking can be contributing to our feelings of depression?

In Dr. Jantz’s book, #Hooked: The Pitfalls of Media, Technology, and Social Networking, he cites a study of “disconnect anxiety.” In it, participants described the following feelings when unable to connect via Internet, email, social networks, texting, chat and other online activities:

  • Feeling lost
  • Having only half a voice
  • Disoriented
  • Tense
  • Empty
  • Inadequate
  • Loss of freedom

Paradoxically, we also suffer anxiety when we are connected. Maybe we’re overwhelmed with a multitude of social networks we’re intent on updating on a daily basis. Or maybe we’re suffering from information overload, struggling to stay on top of every development, from world news to the latest from our Facebook friends’ news stream.

In other words, at any given moment throughout your day, the desire to connect online may be a source of anxiety. Even the conscious decision to voluntarily disconnect can be anxiety ridden, making you certain you’re going to miss something or, worse, that your “friends” and “followers” are going to forget you. These feelings of anxiety and social disconnection can lead to depression.

If you suspect you may have an unhealthy level of anxiety associated with your online activity, or lack thereof, consider the following criteria used to determine nonchemical addiction:

Importance: How important has it become to your sense of self and the way you live your life? You can determine importance not only by how much you’re doing it, but also by how much you’re not doing other things. Priority equals importance.

Reward Response: Does doing it make you feel better and more in control? Does not doing it make you feel worse? Doing things you enjoy makes you feel better. Avoiding things you dislike can make you feel better, at least initially. There is a positive payoff to all this activity that can obscure the activities’ negative consequence.

Prevalence: Do you find yourself doing it more often and for longer periods of time than you originally planned? If you feel compelled to say “Just a little bit more” all the time, you’re carving out more and more space in your life for these activities. The question becomes, in order to carve out this time, to what else are you taking the knife?

Cessation: Do you feel anxious or uncomfortable if you cannot do it or if you just think about not doing it? One way to gauge how important these things have become for you is to consider doing without them. The higher level of panic and pain you anticipate, the stronger the hold they have over you.

Disruption: Has doing it disrupted your life and your relationships, causing interpersonal or personal conflicts over what you’re doing?

Reverting: Do you often say to yourself you’re going to do something different but then turn around and keep doing the same thing—or doing it even more? Before you know it, you’re right back to doing what you did, and more.

It is difficult to recognize, promote, and sustain optimism, hope, and joy on the inside when you are struggling with feelings of anxiety, disconnection, inadequateness, and emptiness caused by the constant bombardment of technology and social media. The answer is in taking back control, as much as is possible, of the outside environment of your life. Either we allow our activities and our circumstance to carry us along, or we take control of the direction our lives are going.

Take a moment to examine the role of technology and social media have on your life. Which elements of this technological connection is fulfilling? Which parts leave you feeling inadequate, drained and depressed? Ultimately, the environment you create for yourself is vital in overcoming your depression. Structuring a holistic recovery plan, taking into consideration nuances like technology use, is imperative to this process.

The Center • A Place of HOPE has been consistently ranked among the top treatment facilities in the country for depression. If you believe you are struggling with a technology addiction that may be contributing to your depression, call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 to discuss treatment options. Know that you are not alone during this struggle, and never lose hope.

Excerpts of this blog were taken from Dr. Gregory Jantz’s book Turing Your Down into Up: A Realistic Plan for Healing from Depression.