Depression

<em>Here’s a Simple Tool to Help Fight Off Depression During the Holidays</em>

Here’s a Simple Tool to Help Fight Off Depression During the Holidays

There was a time when I walked around depressed and angry—an internal default setting that never seemed to move. Very few times do I remember being at peace or truly laughing because of joy or happiness.

Small things would send me over the edge.

My mind would cloud, darken like a moonless night, and the anger would be a quick, harsh scourge.

The after effects of such would pummel me deeper into despair because I would deal with remorse and regret over my stupid actions over such scourge.

This would almost always lead me, and way too quickly I might add, to thoughts of suicide.

And ever since I can remember, I’ve also been able to maintain an outward appearance that everything is great. All is well. I got my life together.

Yet, all the time inwardly, this internal swirling mass of dark ick tainted everything in my life.

***

Life is a tough business, and it’s almost unbearable for some.

And(!) during the holidays, this becomes more acute: the internal pain, confusion, depression, and anger of such.

Couple that with the media blitz that everyone should be happy and smiling and cheerful during the holidays, when in fact a person in real life may be dealing with a divorce, separation, recent death of someone close, financial problems, or a big career change (either intentional or forced), just compounds the already dark ick swirling around inside.

That comparison of how we should be versus how we really feel during the holidays is too much pressure.

The paradox in all of this is that as a law enforcement officer—career I retired from—I dealt with many situations during the holidays that involved suicides, homicides, and those who wanted to commit suicide.

I can’t even explain the bewilderment in my own head when I wanted to help these people all the while I had no answers for myself!

For some reason, Thanksgiving seemed to be the worst time of year; more so than Christmas.

Toward the end of my career, I began to search for ways to get better myself because the days and nights were becoming darker and gloomier and there was nothing that brought joy to my life outside of a few spots of relief from time to time.

***

As I’ve mentioned before, It’s never just one thing.

As I searched, one path led to another path that led to one item that I still do to this day…

Practicing Gratefulness.

It’s like a superpower!

Notice I did not say, Being Grateful, but Practicing.

There’s a difference…you can’t become unless you begin and practice being the thing you want to become.

Much of this depends not only on the choices we make but the habits we develop in our lives.

Habits are strong ropes that bind us to our core beliefs and transform us, either good or bad, to the thing we give ourselves to.

Gratefulness is no different.

***

The University of California, Berkley, has made a long study, and science, out of Gratefulness.

In an article published * in June of last year, they determined that individuals who incorporated practicing gratefulness every day had a significant improvement in mental health, sense of well-being, AND they had greater activity in the region of the brain associated with learning and decision making.

Practicing Gratefulness, in a sense, reprograms the brain. There are more studies out there that suggest the same, but the point is that this is what I began to do.

I started a Grateful List.

Every day, I would write down one or two things during the day I was grateful for.

It was a deliberate act that took a bit of effort. Remember, I didn’t see a whole lot of reasons to be wahoo happy for.

But, those little things I found to be grateful for—the amazing designs on a leaf, a sunset, or the colors on a grasshopper—seemed to me, at the very instant I was practicing gratefulness, my negative emotions seemed to cease.

That! Was a miracle to me.

And just like any new habit started, I didn’t really do it every day. Some days I’d forget. Those days were a repeat of the same old horrible dark ick I’ve experienced my whole life.

Gradually over time—the past few years—I started practicing gratefulness every day. Today, I think of at least 10 things, every day, to be grateful for.

I also make sure that each day I practice gratefulness, I don’t think of the same 10 items I used the day before.

This one practice I’ve incorporated into my life has truly helped my whole mental outlook. Healed if you will.

I still have off days but nothing like I had, and I’m quicker to practice gratefulness now that I’m aware of how to bring my head out of the pits when it does tank.

***

Yesterday evening when I left the office after a long, busy day that made my head numb, I happen to look up to see a jet trail.

The sun had just gone over the horizon, and the trail reflected a pinkish hue as the jet streamed overhead.

I thought, Wow! What a sight. I’m so grateful to see—

Then, before I could finish, a brilliant reflection of the sun bounced my way from the plane’s tail. It shimmered, flashed, and the plane seemingly disappeared behind the dark pink trail it left behind.

Again, Whoa! I thought of how lucky I was to be able to see such a sight.

The numbness was driven from my skull that instant and I had a smile on my face before I reached my vehicle.

May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

***

* Here’s the link to Berkley’s site. Worth the few moments to read through.


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Posted by Christian Martin Jr. in Change, Depression, Life Hack, Living Better, Reinvention, Self, Self-Improvement, Suicide