From Depression to Contentment
supporting information

List of homework tasks

Links cited within the book

   Lots of good stuff at my blog, Bobbing Around.

   Tyrell and Elliott admirably summarize the facts of the epidemic of depression.

   Michael Gathercole's paper, Development and exploration of a new model for understanding depression.

   My personal journey out of depression is described in two of my books: Anikó: The stranger who loved me, and Ascending Spiral: Humanity's last chance.

   Mindfulness within the Christian tradition.

   Email me to request a free PDF copy of my little book of essays, You, too, can live in contentment.

   Healing Scripts is a CD with some of my favorite guided imagery scripts.

   Gary Greenberg's critique of diagnostic categories in psychiatry.

   Light to relieve Seasonal Affective Disorder.

   Many high-achieving people with bipolar are listed here.

   How to have a good life with bipolar (or any other serious problem) without drugs.

   You will also enjoy a short story at my blog: Defeating the Blood-Red Dragon.

   Hit and Run, a novel about the redemption of a multiple killer.

   Twenty answers to cries for help from people who have urges to kill or harm others.

   How to have a good relationship.

   Guardian Angel: a historical novel many readers have considered my best so far.

   How to change the world, an essay showing how to change a global culture that survives by making you discontented.

   Cat love and dog love.

   Armour-coating our kids.

   About emotion-focused therapy.

   The toolkit for getting enough distance from a problem to be able to address it rationally.

   You can check out The Travels of First Horse here.

   Traumatic Incident Reduction.

   The resilient mindset: a little essay about an inspiring lady I met at a charity walk.

   Korean POV William Funchess's story: the unbreakable spirit of Father Emil Kapaun.

   Wild bees have returned to Detroit.

   Charlie Chaplin on the assembly line.

   Four essays on my blog about Buddhism:

   Videos of Peter Ramster's work.

   University of Virginia (Ian Stevenson and Jim Tucker).

   Jim Tucker's personal website.

   My book on cancer.

   Bill Sutcliffe's speech.

   Hit and Run, a novel about the power of a positive role model.

   Armour-coating our kids.


Homework tasks

2: First Aid

The basics

   Whatever Depression tells you, do the opposite.

   Fix up your sleeping pattern.

   Change to a good diet.

   Form the habit of regular antidepressant exercise.

   Have fun; get a good laugh.

   Regularly do things in a creative way.

   Form or strengthen social networks.

   Read Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl.

Relaxation and meditation

   Over two or three weeks, establish the “Let go!” habit until it automatically relaxes your body in one breath.

   Practice mindfulness meditation at least once a day. A few minutes will do at first, but gradually increase. As you improve, start doing everyday activities mindfully. The Dalai Lama would like you to do 4 hours a day, but I don't!

   Learn to use guided imagery. Find CDs or written scripts, or make up your own. A good time for this activity is when you're settling for sleep. You could check out my Healing Scripts.

3: Know Your Enemy

The conventional view

   Make yourself a cup of coffee, tea, or whatever your favorite non-alcoholic drink is, and enjoy it.

Sources of sadness

   Think about each of the following patterns, and consider whether it applies to you. More than one could be relevant. Use the internet to read up on any that do.

The causes of human suffering

   You can't do anything about a genetic tendency to react to overwhelming pressure with depression, but you can simply accept this pattern. It is no worse than others.

   Examine your family history. Identify the people whose depressive reactions you learned to model on, the particular memories of events that taught you that this is the way to react to pressure. Then find other role models, and self-consciously, deliberately copy them. This can be an ongoing project for years.

Childhood trauma

   Later, I'll show you how to identify negative “core beliefs” that poison your life. However, it's more powerful if you manage it yourself without instruction or help. Can you find the thoughts that come to you whenever the sun goes out in your world? What are they, and where do they come from?

   Now you're an adult, can you smilingly let go of these irrational beliefs you acquired as a child?

Society

   Examine to what extent, if at all, these societal pressures (overpopulation, happiness myth, consumer myth, romantic myth, more is better without limit myth) have affected you in the past. Take your time -- weeks of thought, journaling and investigation is OK.

   Are some of your negative actions due to population pressure in the sense I've described here?

   Have you bought into any of the myths of society, and do you accept that they have harmed you?

   Can you choose to react differently?

Resilience

   Again, I am setting a task I will give guidance on later in the book. If you can invent it for yourself, it will be more powerful.

   Do you have a skin thin, or what my wife describes as long toes (easy to step on)? Does the slightest bit of bad luck drag you down? Do you find it difficult to overcome even minor adversity?

   Right. What can you do to toughen up? Devise a method for becoming more resilient, and try it out. Major habit change takes about three weeks of conscientious practice. Give it a good go, and see if it improves your life. If it's not as good as you've hoped, tweak it and try again.

4. Controlling depression

Downward arrow technique

   Look up “downward arrow technique” on a search engine, and watch a couple of the several video examples that'll come up on the first page.

ABC diary

   Pick a habit you find distressing, and set up an ABC diary for it. Record instances for a couple of weeks, then study your diary for patterns. Note any changes in its frequency.

   Next time you crash, identify the thought associated with the mood change. Ask, when was the first time you had that thought? What happened then? Keep going back with repeated questioning until you find the trauma at the heart of it.

Clarifying questions

   Next time you are angry at someone, or your mood crashes because of some happening, ask yourself, “What is my interpretation of this situation? It may be true, but what other possible interpretations can I think of?”

From feeling to thinking

   Access the toolkit for getting enough distance from a problem to be able to address it rationally.

   Memorize this toolkit, and apply it whenever the opportunity arises. This is not as overwhelming as it may seem. Get one of the tools clear in your mind, practice it until you're competent with it, then progress. There is no hurry.

Find the trauma

   Look out for your self-abusing inner clichés. If you can track one back to an episode like George and I did, imagine yourself back there, and examine that young person's plight with tolerant adult love and sympathy.

Getting in its way

   When a habit annoys you, develop and invariably use a competing habit.

Dealing with secondary gains

   Observe other people you know or suspect are depressed, and look for secondary gains they receive for specific behaviors. There is absolutely no need to tell the other person about this, unless asked.

   Pluck up your courage, and ask people in your life to help you to find rewards for the various symptoms of depression.

   Once either of these activities have helped you to identify a secondary gain, set up an ABC diary to track it. For example, you might notice that “whenever Tim has his room tidy, Mom expects him to help with the housework. When his room is a mess and he sits around with a hangdog face, she tidies it for him and lets him get away with not helping. OK, does this apply to me?” So, you'd have the ABC diary for when Mom eases off on you about helping with chores. What behavior of yours is this associated with?

Rewriting your story (Narrative Therapy)

   From now on, think about yourself, and everyone else, in externalizing language. That is, when someone does something you find hurtful, separate the person from the act. And isn't this the Lesson of all the great religions?

   Identify your inner monster, and learn to distinguish that invader's thoughts from your own. A formal or informal ABC diary is very helpful for this.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

   Write a funeral oration you want one of your grandchildren to deliver when you've died at 93.

   Taking a lot more time, write a film script with no plot for future events yet, but a hero who shares your appearance, circumstances and history, but ACTs in a way you wish you could. Do it in sufficient detail that a Hollywood star could step into the role -- then be the actor yourself.

   If you find ACT to your liking, read The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris.

5. Cure

Don't like your world? Change it

   Read my essay How to change the world.

   With your family, do some brainstorming, separating wants from needs, and get rid of the wants as far as possible. This can be a gradual process, and there is no need for any heroics. It'll help you to read the transcript of a speech I made in 2002.

Processing trauma

My recommendation is that you find a person with relevant expertise to be your guide in processing trauma. One option is someone certified to practice Traumatic Incident Reduction. Another is a psychologist trained in hypnosis, or EMDR, or other evidence-supported forms of exposure therapy.

   As I did, you CAN do it for yourself, but if you do, ensure that you repeat the recall a sufficient number of times to reduce the level of distress to trivial.

Loving the inner monster

   If you've gone to a therapist to process trauma, ask for age regression to visit a critical time in your youth. If not, you can use guided imagery and do it for yourself:

The resilient mindset

   Do read my short blog about my charity walk.

   Read, or reread, Viktor Frankl's Man's Search for Meaning.

You get what you send

   I'll describe ways of improving your contentment, sense of wellbeing, acceptance of the bad and celebration of the good in your life.

   Instead of reading on, do your best to invent a few. As I've said before, anything you come up with from within yourself works better than copying someone else. No need to take too much time on this, since I've just given you several solid hints.

Moving hedonic adaptation

   Every day, even every instant that you remember, do something that will help move your long term mood.

   You don't need to stick with the above list, but rather use it as a guide. Adopt those practices that seem most natural to do, and use them, though always in a varied way. Over time, switch to others, or add more techniques to your daily list.

   Using these recommendations as a template, make up your own. Always, the tool you invent is more powerful.

   Celebrate yourself whenever you do any of these things.

   I use a mixture of deliberate rituals and intuitive, occasional flashes of action.

Flow

   Read Flow by Mihály Csikszentmihályi, and use the regular activities of your everyday life in the way I used running and reading as a boy; the way that young man performed his factory work. For those still in the grip of depression, flow gives holidays from misery. For those who already enjoy long periods of contentment, it is a tool for living far above the “normal.”

Reincarnation

    Look up Videos of Peter Ramster's work.

   Read one or both of Jim Tucker's books, Life Before Life and Return to Life.

    Regardless of whether you accept reincarnation as true or not, work on these questions: “Suppose it is true. What are my chosen life lessons? How have I reacted to them in the past, and how will I do so the next time I have the opportunity?”

Equanimity

   Especially if you have severe, chronic pain, but even if you don't, get hold of Jon Kabat-Zinn's two-CD set, Mindfulness Meditation for Pain Relief: Guided Practices for Reclaiming Your Body and Your Life. You'll find it beautiful. Apply it to the worst pain in your current life.

   By now, you should be highly skilled at detecting all the thoughts and automatic reactions that drag you down. Accept them with equanimity instead of buying into them.

Depression in the Family

Caring for the carer

   You may never have been depressed. All the same, reading the preceding chapters of this little book will improve your life. You might even enjoy the journey! If you have already done so, continue using the tools that lead to contentment, because they help you to rise far above “normal.”

Inducing change and growth

   Remember the three Rogerian virtues of empathy, genuineness and metta. Practice them with everyone, as far as you can. You only need to do the best you can, in this instant.

   Don't do anything immediately, whatever the age of your loved one, or the relationship between the two of you. Think about the issues, and go gently, with empathy and metta.


   I will be delighted if you contact me, on any matter relating to this book. I am here for you.

   Please review this book when you have completed it. The book's page on my psychology site has links to all the places where a review will help me. Please post.

   If you have bought this book, on any venue, in any format, you have qualified for a second title (in electronic format) for free. You can inspect the offerings here. All you need to do is to email me proof of purchase. Naturally, a review will qualify, and I'll publish it in the next issue of my monthly newsletter Bobbing Around.