Are you focusing too much time on the negative things in life? Do you wish you were happier? You are not alone. Depression affects people all over the world.
There is a high chance that you or someone you know battled with depression. The truth is that many aspects of today's hectic combative, and isolating culture make depression an all-too-common part of modern life.
The main causes of depression have been misunderstood for a long time thanks to partly powerful pharmaceutical cooperation. They claim that depression is primarily due to a so-called chemical imbalance in the brain.
But how to deal with depression and what causes depression?
The real culprit isn't biological conditions but rather unresolved trauma, isolation, misplaced values around money and status, or simply a bad working environment.
Each of these factors can be dealt with and improved, and a life of depression can be transformed into a proposal of hope and goodwill.
Psychologists have developed effective techniques that help people who suffer from depression can use and benefit from.
Do antidepressants work?
Many who experienced depression and went to a doctor may get an explanation that the cause of depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain which can be relieved with a prescription antidepressant.
You can find many drugs on the market that are classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). It claims to raise a person's serotonin level to the "normal" of a non-depressed person.
Patients that take SSRIs for the first time experience some initial relief, but it often doesn't last long. Then the doctor might up the dosage leading to another period of relief followed by falling into depression again and yet another dosage increase.
Some patients might also gain weight and sweat more than usual or experience other side effects. Even after a decade, some are still depressed.
If you ask some researchers, you find that there is very little evidence to support the claim that a chemical imbalance causes depression or that SSRIs are even effective in treating everyone who suffers from depression.
Mid-90s Harvard professor Irving Kirsch took a closer look at the research on antidepressants. He found that the clinical tests being published by pharmaceutical companies were skewed to get their medications released.
For example, the clinical testing for Prozac with 245 patients. But in the published result, only 27 patients were mentioned that experienced positive results. As for Paxil, unedited results on the clinical test showed that patients respond better to the placebo than to the actual medication.
Kirsch researched the claim of a link between depression and neurochemical serotonin. He found the connection to be an ancient history where scientists misinterpreted findings and pharmaceutical companies had used this misinformation to sell drugs.
The Uninvest of London professor Joanna Moncrieff said when it comes to anxious and depressed brains, "There's no evidence that there's a chemical imbalance."
The placebo effect
Drug companies have pushed such false stories on an unwitting public. After countless tests, antidepressant medication has shown to be of unimportant use.
It proves how important a story is in producing a placebo effect.
The power of the placebo effect is well known in medical communities. One famous story is Henry Beecher, a WWII medic who ran out of morphine when he wanted to treat wounded soldiers. He decided to give them morphine when in reality, he gave them a placebo of sugar water. Remarkably, the injection still manages to calm and ease his patients' pain.
An even more amazing story is Haygarth's wand, a metal rod sold to patients in 1799 as a miracle cure. All you needed to do was wave the wand over your aliment and believe you were healed. Many patients believed in the miraculous story their ulcers healed, and their inflammation was soothed for some time at least.
It shows how strong the power of belief can be. When you look at the evidence surrounding antidepressant medication, it seems that drugs like Paxil and Prozac aren't much different than Haygarth's wand. Depressed people get often told they have too little serotonin in their brain and that medication will give them more which should make them feel better.
Similar to the supposedly powerful wand, this results in an initial benefit eventually wearing off.
You might think this misinformation isn't so bad because the placebo effect does provide some relief. But if you consider the long list of antidepressant side effects, including weight gain and sexual dysfunction, the temporary benefits seem even more questionable.
If it isn't a chemical imbalance, then what causes depression?
The real cause of depression
There might be nine primary causes of depression. They are all connected by the fundamental understanding that depression is primarily due to life circumstances.
In the 1970s, George Brown theorized that there might be two causes of depression: Something going on in the brain and something going on in the person's life.
To determine if he was right, he did an extensive study that included 114 women who'd been previously diagnosed with depression and 344 women who'd never been diagnosed with this disorder. The participant came from the same economic background.
If the cause of depression is only serotonin levels, then the result show life experiences of the subject had no significance on their mood. But Brown discovered that 68% of the group diagnosed with depression recently experienced a troubling event in their lives. He found women were three times more likely to have so-called long-term chronic stressors in their lives.
Brown's study also discovered the difference or lack of between those diagnosed with "reactive depression," the clinical term for an event that causes depression. Remarkably the results showed that each group had an equal amount of negative experiences in their past.
He was surprised to find overwhelming evidence that the primary cause of depression was social and psychological, not biological. Brown published his result in 1978, and even other studies by social scientists around the world supported Browns finding much of the medical community has remained stubbornly focused on neurotransmitters.
Disconnection from meaningful work
The Londoner psychiatrist Michael Marmot conducted an in-depth study examining how our work affected our health in the 1970s.
After studying 18,000 British civil servants, Marmot discovered that it wasn't the bosses with the big responsibilities who were prone to heart attacks. Instead, those booses had a heart attack four times less likely than others.
To find out who experienced the most depression and stress, Marmot looked at people with the same status. pay level, and even in the same office workspace. The result was clear those with less control and authority to decide on their own were more likely depressed.
So how bad can lack of control get? Some years later, Marmot was asked to help the British tax office when staff was committing suicide in alarming numbers.
The problem was the work kept piling up, and the employees couldn't do anything to stop it. There also wasn't any correlation between effort and reward. No one seemed to care if the employees worked hard or not. As Marmot saw it, the overall sense of powerlessness became so unbearable that people were taking their lives.
Fortunately, there are ways to reconnect with meaningful work. One answer to the problem of powerlessness is democracy.
A small group of friends became equal partners in a Bike shop. They had weekly meetings where all important decisions were voted on, and they could let their concerns known.
Such an environment can make people feel less anxiety and depression than working for a top-down job. It also helps the close family around the person to feel less stressed and nervous.
Disconnecting from others
There are many books on self-help and slogans that state, "only you can help you." But this individualist mindset tends to ignore the wide range of outside influences that affects our emotional state.
One of the biggest influences on our relationship with others is the second significant source of depression disconnecting from others.
Loneliness can play a big part in feeling stress and depression. Neuroscientist John Cacioppo found out that loneliness directly contributes to increased heart rates and higher levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol. In the 90s, his study showed that acute loneliness causes as much stress as being punched by a stranger.
What makes loneliness even more dangerous is that it can make a bad situation even worse. Withdrawing ourselves when we are sad, the loneliness only adds to the anxiety.
To reconnect with others, we should keep our tribal nature in mind and be part of a mutually beneficial community that shares, protects, and helps one another.
One amazing example of people benefitting from such a community is the Berliner neighborhood Kotti, shortened from Kottbusser Tor, the subway station in the district.
It began in 2011 when the area's rent price was raised. An elderly wheelchair user named Nuriye was facing eviction, so she hung up a note stating her intentions to kill herself rather than lose her apartment. Neighbors discovered the note, barricaded the road in front of their apartment complex, and began protesting against the rent increases.
Conservative Turkish Muslims, punks, and gays all join forces calling their movement Kotti & Co. Once the movement was underway, the neighbors found that rent control was just one way they could start supporting each other.
Among the group members was a homeless Turkish man named Tuncai when the group discovered he had been forcibly taken to a psychiatric institute. The members came together to rescue him from the facility. They knew he was part of Kotti & Co, which had given him purpose, and helped him get better.
Why consumer-minded people are more depressed
You might've heard about these ads showing a slim, tanned woman asking, "Are you beach body ready?" Such ads riled up people, so the campaign was discontinued.
Multiple studies back up such examples to show how consumer-driven society has left us disconnected from meaningful values and, as a result, made many depressed.
There are intrinsic value and extrinsic value. If you play piano for your happiness, you are motivated by intrinsic value. If you play piano only for some money, then you are motivated by extrinsic value.
Both types of values can influence primary goals in your life. Dozen of studies show how advertising pushes us toward extrinsic valued, which are proven to be less rewarding.
Psychologist Tim Kasser has conducted multiple studies that state the more consumed-minded and extrinsic valued people are, the more depressed they become. Meanwhile, those that focus on intrinsic goals such as helping others or becoming better musicians out of peer joy saw a significant boost in their mood.
Some people are obsessed with buying new gadgets or other consumer goods. They usually want to appear cool or impressive to others. It means our happiness relies on outside opinions and factors, which isn't a happy way to live.
Similar to chasing after promotions and more money, we usually do so at the cost of more intrinsically meaningful things like relationships and spending time with loved ones.
To reconnect with meaningful values, you need to be aware of your motivations and keep questioning where you spend your time and money. This will help you focus on what is truly meaningful to you.
How traumas affect depression
When talking about obesity, the discussion focuses mostly on learning better nutritional habits and getting more exercise. What is often unmentioned is the role that depression and trauma play in both weight gain and depression.
There is obesity research by Dr. Felitti that included 17000 people in the San Diego area showed evidence that the more traumatic your childhood is, the more likely you are to be depressed. According to the study, emotional abuse is the most influential factor, even more than sexual abuse.
These were surprising results for medical journals and public health agencies since it is another argument against the belief that depression is a brain dysfunction.
So the proper question to ask is not "What's wrong? but rather, "what happened?" By acknowledging and talking about past trauma, people can reconnect with troubling events in their lives and start to move past them.
Once someone begins to acknowledge the past trauma, stop blaming themselves, and think the person deserved it can help with the healing process.
Why wanting status and respect can lead to depression
Baboons are not only fun to watch. These animals are also our primate cousins and can teach us plenty about human nature.
There is an issue of how important status and respect are to our well-being. And how these can lead to depression.
Baboons live in a strict hierarchy; the alpha male can take food from everybody, number two from number three, and so on until you get to the fellow at the bottom.
By testing baboons' cortisol levels, researcher, Robert Sapolsky found that those on the bottom rung had extremely high-stress levels. They also found that the alpha male had a larger amount of stress when being challenged by another male
For humans, there are many ways we can feel inferior, including being exposed to ads that promote we are nothing without burning and the perfect body.
Another cause of depression than can be discovered in primates is the disconnect from nature. People in greener neighborhoods experience less stress and despair. Being in nature also reduces obsessive thought and boosts concentration
Having a sense of security
If you have been through a period of depression, there is a good chance you felt it wasn't going to end. It is one of the traits that makes depression so powerful you can't see past it. The inability to see a future goes hand in hand with a disconnection from feelings of hope and security.
We feel hopeless about the future because we disconnect from a sense of control over our destiny.
In Canada was an epidemic of suicide in Native American communities. Physiologist Michael Chandler found that the suicides were communist, where the government controlled the school and forced laws to give no control to residents.
When people were in control of their destiny, such suicide epidemics didn't occur.
Disconnecting from a sense of security is another powerful factor that influences well-being. An automatic minimum wage can help people reconnect with their future and with meaningful work.
Is there a gene that causes depression?
While there are strong arguments against the story of depression which is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, it doesn't mean there aren't any biological factors involved in depression.
Your brain is always changing; scientists refer to this as neuroplasticity. The brain might change in such a way that supports depression.
There is evidence of neuroplasticity around us. For instance, if you are a cab driver in a big city who has to memorize every road, the area of your brain related to spatial recognition will grow stronger.
Likewise, if you are more engaged in thoughts of fear and despair rather than joy and pleasure, the area with positive feelings will weaken while the one with negative emotions will strengthen.
You may have heard that depression runs in the family. What if it's in your genes you are doomed to suffer the same fate as your depressed relatives. But it overstates the true nature of genetics.
Researchers found a variant of a gene known as 5-HTT that can make you more exposed to depression. It is similar to a gene that makes you more affected by weight gain. It is notable, but it isn't causing the weight gain.
There are multiple reasons why people use the idea of there being biological causes for depression.
To having depression, there is still a stigma attached. When someone confronts you about it, it's often simple and easier to respond you are suffering from biology rather than a combination of factors in your life.
Social prescription against depression
There is also reconnection for nine disconnections that cause depression: reconnecting to other people, meaningful work and values, a hopeful future, and acknowledging and overcoming trauma.
There are two final reconnections to combat depression. The first is through something called social prescribing.
As an example, Lisa quit her job as a nurse in a hospital. The reason was she complained that her fellow nurse mistreated the nation and Lisa's co-worker turned on her making her job unbearable. She already grew up in a household where she had been aggressively bullied, so she couldn't take it anymore and stopped showing up to work.
Around this time, Lisa started using Prozac, which made her gain weight. She proceeded to feel horrible for the next seven years and only left the house to buy junk food.
One time, she visited a clinic where the doctor gave Lisa a social prescription instead of prescribing more drugs. It involved a small group of other disconnected people turning an abandoned wasteland into a healthy garden. The thing started with people being a little hesitantly around one another.
But they all agreed to take on the challenge and learned the basics of gardening and how to fix the abandoned lot. By doing so, they opened up to one another and saw they had a lot in common.
They received great satisfaction from getting their garden bloom and receiving thanks from people in the neighborhood. Lisa dropped 62 pounds and moved to another country to open up her own gardening center. All this would never have happened had she not received that social prescription from the doctor.
How to let go of your ego and jealously
Often we can't see a way out because we are self-absorbed and blinded by our ego or sense of self-importance. To dissolve the ego and begin seeing things differently, many depressed people benefited from psychedelics.
While this drug can help people acknowledge and over past trauma, let off their ego and see past their problems, it also has its downside. One issue is that the benefit of the treatment needs to be actively sustained. When people return to daily life, they can also lose the advantages listed above.
A less risky approach that is effective involves meditation. It takes discipline and practice, but meditation can help cultivate joy, another solution to depression.
Sympathetic joy is about being happy for others removing yourself from jealousy and envy, and becoming open to joy by improving your feelings about the people around you.
This can be archived through regular mediation sessions where you imagine feeling the same joy and compassion for loved ones toward strangers. You can progress even to feel joy toward people you dislike or envy. With some training and repetition, you can experience greater joy and peace.
To Practics sympathetic joy mediation, you can do the following:
- Closer your eyes and imagine something wonderful happening to you, like falling in love. Experience that joy.
- Imagine someone you care for experiences that joy. Again let the joy flow.
- Now imagine someone that you don't know very well. Let the joy flow.
- Finally, imagine this happening to someone you really don't like, someone you envy and let the joy flow.
If you do this for 10-15 minutes every day, feelings of jealousy will start to disappear, and a new capacity for feeling joy will start to flourish inside you.
How filters affect our beliefs and values
The images of the world you perceive are first turned upside-down by the lens in your eyes and flipped again by the visual cortex in your brain.
Your visual cortex act like a filter which your brain has many of. But sometimes, these filters can do more harm than good.
Mental filters affect how we perceive the world and the reason why everybody has different life experiences.
Imagine two friends, a man and a woman walking in a park. Suddenly a dog runs up to them. The man had a traumatic experience with a dog in his childhood. He becomes terrified as the dog approaches. However, the woman grew up with dogs, so she knows the Labrador has just come to say hello.
The filter has an important purpose. They enable us to make sense of a complex world. Filters break down information to help us understand and recognize patterns in everything from news stories to the behavior of friends and family. These filters affect our views and values, from personal ethics to politics.
Mental filters can also malfunction and distort our perception of reality. We often view the world through a lens colored by our beliefs ignoring anything that differs from those beliefs. If you see people as untrustworthy, for example, then you will see more bad than good in people in general.
This is called by Psychologist the Velcro/Teflon effect. Anything that backs up your beliefs sticks like Velcro, and anything that conflicts with those beliefs slides off like nonsticky Teflon.
We form many filters as children by paying attention to those around us. Because of this, it is a good idea to inspect your beliefs and see whatever you need to update them.
When you see the worst in every situation
Imagine a car driving circles in a large field. After many loops, the circular grooves in the soil become deeper, making the driving easier but making any departure from the track almost impossible.
Thought patterns are like this. We can get stuck in loops with thoughts and feelings, and once stuck; it is a struggle to move beyond them.
If you hold negative beliefs about yourself, often it takes is a minor incident that starts a downward spiral
Let's say you are going to a party. You don't see anyone you know and feel you are getting unfriendly looks. Then you see your old friend Tom telling a story to a small crowd. You go up and say hi, but you suddenly feel you annoy everyone by interrupting the story Tom included.
The evening is becoming a disaster, and you quickly leave, blaming yourself on the way home for your lack of social skills.
However, if Tom was asked about the incident, he would say that he was happy to see you, but you just built up the punchline when you said hello.
This story is a prime example of the most common types of thought fallacies.
Over dramatizing. People think negative experiences are more significant than they are. Even if you interrupt the flow of a story is not going to turn the room against you.
Mind reading. Believing you know what others are thinking. By misinterpreting people's body language and expressions, you can easily judge them falsely.
So if you feel you see only the worst in every situation, remember to question your thought patterns and think of alternative explanations.
How to deal with depression
Psychologists were focusing only on what was broken, and mental disorders were the industry's bread and butter. The relatively new field of positive psychology represents a radical departure from the tradition. Its techniques focus on increasing individual happiness.
Simply writing down a list of positive and negative activities in your life can give you a roadmap to recovery.
Take a paper and draw a horizontal line in the middle. In the top half, list all the activities that bring you joy, like playing music or spending time with friends.
Once you write down everything, you can think of turning to the bottom half. There list all people and negative activities that drain your energy and worsen your mood.
This paper shows you the things that influence you daily. In the next week, keep the list nearby and make an effort to find things to do or experience from the top and not the bottom of the sheet.
You will soon discover you automatically choose activities that match the kind of positive life your desire.
Another powerful tool to reduce depression is to express gratitude daily.
To do this, you can keep a diary. There write down all things you are grateful for, from the support of a friend to the warmth of spring sunshine. Write in your diary for the next two weeks any differences in how you feel daily.
Practicing gratitude works because doing so helps you shift your focus from what you feel is lacking in your life to the valuable thing you already have.
Research shows that a gratitude journal can significantly boost the moods of people suffering from depression.
How to calm yourself down
Most people can only think about one thing at a time. This limitation can be used as an advantage as it can help banish negative thought patterns.
If you change your thought patterns, you can improve your mood.
When you feel spiraling downward, use a mantra to reverse the freefall.
A mantra is a repeated sound phrase or work that works by interrupting the negative flow of thoughts.
You can use many words and phrases as a mantra, for example, "strength" or "This will pass,". A mantra is most effective when you come up with your own.
First, decide in which situation you use your mantra. If you find yourself in a stressed situation like being cut off in heavy traffic, you might get more "calm" in such a moment.
To make this mantra even more calming, link the word to a picture of a beautiful lake or the soothing sounds of waves against the shore.
Another way to reduce tension is to rate situations on a catastrophe scale. Doing this will help you put daily worries into a larger perspective. The scale goes from 100, where one is the most trivial scenario, and 100 is a true catastrophe.
Use this scale every time something upsets you. If you didn't get the job, is it really the worst thing that could happen to you ever? Does it even deserve to be ranked above ten?
By realizing most setbacks are relived minor, you can avoid the pitfall of over-dramatizing events.
How to hypnotize yourself?
Have you ever seen someone being hypnotized? Many people think hypnotizing involves one person taking control over another person.
For hypnotism to work, you have to want to be hypnotized. A hypnotist only acts as a guide, but really people hypnotize themselves.
Behind the mystery, there is a well-defined rationale procedure for hypnotism. When you are hypnotized, you enter a trance-like state, however, remain conscious and aware of your soundings. In this state, the mind is more suggestive, and making positive changes to your thought and behavior patterns is easier.
Self-hypnosis is like technology. When you are hypnotized, you can interfere with your brain's operating system and modify programs running in the background the subconscious thoughts. Self-hypnosis is an effective way to change deleted and upgraded thought patterns.
How can you hypnotize yourself?
The best method is to create a soundtrack you listen to regularly. A soundtrack is a script that will help you reprogram your brain words or sentences to emphasize beliefs and behaviors you wish to change.
For instance, your soundtrack could include phrases like "I am becoming healthier and healthier" or " Every day I worry much less and sleep for better." You can make your own soundtrack or search on youtube as well as buy pre-made ones.
When you are happy with your script, listen to it in a relaxed environment. You need to listen to your soundtrack multiple times as it takes time for change to happen. At this stage, your soundtrack has the power to make you calmer stronger, more confident, and healthier.
You may already hypnotize yourself without even knowing it. Everytime you say to yourself you can't archive something, you reinforce thought patterns and affect your behavior.
How visualization helps with depression
Your mind doesn't always distinguish between what is real and what's not. This is why thinking about a tarantula crawling toward you might make you break out into a cold sweat.
Visualization can be a powerful thing. Some people have even increased muscle mass simply by lifting imaginary weights in their hands.
You can also practice visualization to help prepare for important moments in your life.
Close your eyes and picture a movie screen. On the screen, you are watching an important upcoming event in which everything is as good as it is possible can be.
If you prepare for a job interview, picture yourself sitting in the interview. Create vivid details like hearing the sound of office chatter and the smell of filter coffee. Then see yourself bursting with confidence at the table, winning over interviewers with your charm and knowledge.
Then flash forward to when you accept the job and shake hands with the interviewees. Notice how good it makes you feel. Finally, imagine yourself on your first day please work in the new position.
Visualization can help you archive general goals like becoming a specific type of person.
Picture your ideal self as a singer on stage. Add as much detail as possible to the sock color you would wear!
Follow this version of yourself and notice the differences between the "real" and the "ideal" you. Do you feel less stressed? Do you laugh more? Picture a full day where everything is the best it can be.
In the next stage, step into the shoes of your ideal self and visualize what you would say and think. Do this for a week and see if you notice any changes in your real life.
If the technique work builds it into your daily routine for better health and happiness.
Music can also bring an immediate effect on your mood. A tune doesn't necessarily need to be upbeat to hear you up; however, there are times when a positive pop song is the right chode. But the music that makes you sad or angry can also help release your emotions until you are ready to take steps to overcome obstacles in your way.
Pharmaceutical complaints sell the public a story that a chemical imbalance causes depression in the brain. But research shows there is little evidence to support this claim.
There are nine remaining causes of depression, ranging from loneliness and trauma to disconnection from meaningful values and nature. While the depth of depression varies greatly among individuals, there are many practical steps everyone can take to make their life more positive.
You can help yourself by acknowledging your disconnection and rethinking your values. Also, using simple methods like hypnotism and visualization to live a happier, more fulfilled life.