Many people suffer from chronic low or negative energy—i.e., from depression. This blogpost describes the five main strategies I utilize as a psychologist who specializes in depression treatment.
My motivation for writing the post came from a poignant comment posted by a viewer of my TEDx talk on lifting depression. Thank you, CP, for sharing this self-description:
"I have suffered from depression since my teens. I am functional, but it is difficult to get by day by day without joy or motivation. I have tried anti-depressants, but the side effects were worse than the depression itself. Though I am not suicidal, living is a struggle. Hard to explain. A never-ending story...."
What causes depression?
Depression usually emerges as a response to something that happened in your life. Unfortunately, for whatever reasons—could be biochemical, cognitive-behavioral patterns, family-of-origin issues, problematic circumstances you've been unable to fix—chronic depression means that your body's energy system did not spring back. Instead, you became locked in depressed feelings, thoughts, behaviors, sleep difficulties, relationship interactions, and/or body chemistry.
Depressed people generally experience what researcher Aaron Beck termed the negative cognitive triad—negative thoughts about oneself, about others, and about the future. Sometimes depression shows up as anger. Chronic low energy, hopelessness, and joylessness, such as CP describes, also signal depression—a form of depression known as anhedonia. In all of these versions, depression robs people of well-being.
So here are five depression-removal strategies, some well-known, others quite new. Use these strategies in any order. Use one, several, or all. Overdoses are not possible. And all are without negative side-effects.
One caution: As people emerge from a longstanding depression, they become at increased risk for suicide if a problematic circumstance again knocks them down. The extreme difference between how good they had been feeling and how bad the renewed depressive state feels can be devastating.
Therefore, before you start the anti-depressant strategies below, promise yourself and at least one other person that you will not take any suicidal actions. Promise also that if suicidal thoughts do emerge, you will discuss them immediately with someone you trust.
1. Re-empower yourself with a 3-P's visualization.
The TEDx talk below explains some of the difficulties with anti-depressant medications and then offers a surprisingly powerful alternative.
To do a 3-P's visualization:
- Pinpoint what originally triggered the depression.
- Power-up, enabling you to re-address that situation from a position of strength.
- Problem-solve to create new solutions.
2. Discover new options with a Best Possible Light visualization.
Close your eyes, then ask yourself two questions:
- "If I look at this depression in the best possible light, what is my depression intended to accomplish?"
- "What might be a more effective and less self-harming way of accomplishing this same goal?"
3. Re-fill your energy tank with AGGRESS-N: 8 natural anti-depressants.
The following eight actions all stimulate your body's production of what PT blogger Loretta Breuning refers to as "Happy Chemicals."
- Attitude. Instead of taking a victim stance by focusing on what others or circumstances have done to you, focus on what you yourself can do differently to make your life better.
- Gratitude. Appreciate what you do have instead of focusing on your life's negatives.
- Giving. Helping others yields upbeat feelings in the giver.
- Relationships. Social isolation drains energy. Connecting with others stimulates positive feelings. Even casual talk with neighbors when you walk your dog or chatting with the person next to you in the grocery line are mood-boosters.
- Exercise. Vigorous movement increases your energy.
- Sleep. Fatigue drains positive emotions, inviting irritability, and fostering depression.
- Sunshine. Get outside. Viewing natural greenery as you soak up the sun adds to the benefit.
- Newness. Anything new re-energizes—so try a new sport, find a new craft, eat new foods, meet new friends, explore someplace different.
4. Change your brain by shifting energy from your right to your left prefrontal lobe.
Dale Petterson, an innovative energy therapist, created this surprising intervention when he read that MMRI brain imaging has found that energy is higher in the right than the left prefrontal lobe when someone is depressed.
To utilize this intervention, search via the internet for an energy therapist or muscle kinesiologist near you (or who works remotely) who does the muscle testing explained in the above video. Ask if they would be willing to watch the video above to do the short procedure it illustrates.
Most clients with whom Dale Peterson and I have used this technique responded with a significant lifting of their depressed mood. Some felt the change almost immediately. For instance, one man in his 30s, within five minutes of the frontal lobe energy-shifting, smiled strangely: "I haven't felt this good, this normal, this positive since I was a little kid, maybe 8 or 9 years old!" Others notice a change only several days after the procedure, sometimes with the thought, "Was I really depressed? I'm feeling quite normal."
Frontal-lobe energy-shifting needs to be repeated, initially perhaps every few days, then gradually over longer intervals. No problem. With repeated frontal lobe energy-shifting, brains learn.
5. Eliminate depression-inducing relationship interactions.
In an earlier PT post, I explained how relationship interactions can trigger depression. When couples criticize, blame, demand, or listen oppositionally, depression thrives. When couples make decisions with a winner and a loser, the loser feels depressed. Anger too invites depression in the receiver.
Cooperative dialogue, decision-making, and win-win conflict resolution, by contrast, strengthen well-being for both partners. The do's and don'ts for these skills that I explain in my Power of Two website, book, and workbook are powerful anti-depressants when depression has been triggered by problematic ways of talking together.
What if you want to make these upgrades, and your partner doesn't? Anytime that your partner talks in critical, deprecating, or demanding ways, exit the conversation immediately to shield yourself from their toxicity.
Depression is a disorder of power.
The above interventions all recharge your batteries. With renewed energy, life becomes lighter and brighter. Go for it!