How You Can Fight Depression
“IF YOU could get all the people who are depressed just to exercise,” said Armand DiMele of the DiMele Center for Psychotherapy, “three-quarters of them would find their mood lifted.” Others agree when it pertains to a person’s having the “blues” and not major depression.* Proper rest and sleep also are vital.
Some mildly depressed persons are helped by setting aside some time for activities they especially enjoy. One woman who loves to make clothes said: “It’s hard to be depressed when you’re being creative.” At times, all that is needed is a change of pace—perhaps eating in a restaurant one evening or a short vacation.
Pouring out one’s heart to a trusted friend is a big help. But, be careful of your associates—either in person or through the TV/movie screen. Avoid like the plague gloomy complainers and shows that can corrupt a person’s morals or defile his conscience.—Prov. 17:17; 1 Cor. 15:33.
Yet, what if the depressed mood lingers?
Is It Your Food?
Take a careful look at your diet. The chief probation officer in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Barbara Reed, explained to an Awake! staff writer that many of the offenders assigned to her office complained of depression. She examined their diet. Many lived on “junk food” and ate no breakfast, and some went for weeks without eating green vegetables. A better diet—regular balanced meals—and exercise helped many to have an improved mood. “One depressed 20-year-old with a deep lack of self-worth, arrested for criminal damage, lived on ‘junk food,”’ reported Mrs. Reed. But with an improved diet and proper counseling his depressed mood lifted and his behavior improved.
Authorities disagree as to whether a person’s diet causes depression. Even with the finest of food some still get depressed. Others are not helped by an improved diet. Each person is different, and some are more sensitive to substances like sugar and caffeine than others. But eating balanced meals, coupled with moderation when it comes to consuming such things as pies, pastry, chocolate, candy and soda pop will often pay dividends for depressed persons.
Because severe depression could be a symptom of physical disorders it is also important to get a complete medical checkup.
Are You Thinking Correctly?
While not all cases of depression result from a wrong outlook, a recent 10-year study showed that depressed persons often interpret situations incorrectly. “The depressed person feels sad and lonely because he erroneously thinks he is inadequate and deserted,” explains researcher and psychiatrist A. T. Beck. The Bible also shows that how you feel at heart can color your thinking about external matters. It states: “All the days of the afflicted one are bad; but the one that is good at heart [in a cheerful frame of mind] has a feast constantly.” Whether a person has ‘all bad days’ or ‘every day like a feast’ depends in large measure on his frame of mind.—Prov. 15:15.
So depressed individuals must work hard to correct their thinking and guard what they ponder on. This can be far easier to say than to do! Some damaging thoughts common to many depressed persons are listed in the box. Each one is faulty. When these come into mind, quickly dismiss them. Dwelling on them will lead to low self-esteem and deeper depression.
Excessive guilt feelings usually accompany depression. But realize that everyone makes mistakes. “If errors were what you watch, O Jah, O Jehovah,” said the psalmist, “who could stand?” Nobody! Yet genuine forgiveness for our blunders and sins can be found with Jehovah God.—Ps. 130:3, 4.
The Value of Accomplishment
Grieved over her husband’s death and disappointed with others’ unfulfilled promises to repair her home, one widow became deeply depressed. But then she thought, ‘The repairs couldn’t be that hard.’ She got busy and soon retiled her kitchen floor. Though it was not a perfect job, she was pleased. Her self-esteem soared; her depression melted away.
Not everyone could do this, but one research study showed that while some severely depressed patients felt that they could not accomplish certain tasks, they actually performed these as well as the nondepressed participants.
The accomplishments a depressed one could reach out for might involve more than just housework. For instance, they might include cheering up someone by a visit or a phone call, or doing something nice for one’s family.
One depressed Christian woman visited a young woman who had just been viciously beaten, raped and stabbed. The Christian, though depressed, tried hard each week to visit and comfort her. The result? “Gradually I no longer felt depressed,” reported the Christian. “Trying to encourage her in time made me forget my own problems.” She found true what Jesus said: “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
“Be Angry Without Doing Wrong”
Another factor in depression is coping with anger, says psychologist DiMele. “What usually happens is that a person feels anger toward some person, probably for some seemingly irrational reason. Yet the person believes the anger is not good because he’s been taught ‘Anger is bad.’ So you start blaming yourself for feeling angry and you get angry at yourself. This, combined with a sense of helplessness, brings depression.”
However, to vent anger uncontrollably on others not only is dangerous but, as studies have shown, does not relieve the depression either. The Bible cautions: “Be angry without doing wrong; let not the sun go down on your wrath [or, “with you in a provoked state”].” (Eph. 4:26, The Bible in Basic English; compare New World Translation.) By being willing, not afraid, to express their feelings and being candid but kind, depressed ones can communicate their feelings in a way that promotes peace. Especially is such open communication vital between marriage mates.
However, something excels all these suggestions. Because the suicide rate among depressives is 25 times as great as it is among the general population, this can make the difference between life and death. What is it?
Prayer and a Relationship with God
“The only thing that kept me from pulling the trigger and ending it all,” confessed one mother suffering with major depression, “was the relationship I had with God. I had the gun in my hand, and at that moment Jehovah God really helped me to put it away.” Yes, this woman found strength “beyond what is normal” to endure until her condition responded to medical treatment. She had developed real faith through her study of the Bible and attendance at Christian meetings where she found real friends. This faith saved her life.—2 Cor. 4:7, 8; Phil. 4:13.
One of the ways that God helps is by providing his Word, the Bible, which shows how to make one’s family life better; how to get along with others; how to avoid conduct that can create anxiety and guilt; and how to choose worthwhile works and goals in life. Following this information can help relieve many stressful situations that bring depression.—Col. 3:5-14, 18-21; 1 Tim. 6:9, 10, 17-19.
Even with strong faith one who is suffering from depression may have doubts, perhaps feeling that God has abandoned him. But never stop praying! “I prayed daily—five and six times intensely,” said one mother who was so depressed that she could barely get out of bed for months. “I begged and begged for help. I pleaded that Jehovah God would give me the proper direction to find a doctor that knew what was wrong and could help me. I prayed for strength just to keep going and keep things straight enough so I wouldn’t do any more damage to my family.” Such persistence paid off. She endured until appropriate medication relieved her major depression.
“The most important advice I can give is, ‘Prevent it,”’ said one sufferer. But how? There are no easy or sure answers. Some authorities suggest:
1. Don’t build your sense of worth on love, money, social position, power or drugs. The failure of these could be devastating if you do.
2. Set realistic expectations. Aim to do the best you can, but not to be a perfectionist.
3. Recognize the early symptoms (anxiety, panic, inability to concentrate). Check to see if your daily schedule is reasonable. If not, adjust it. Learn to say “No” when necessary.
However, millions of persons, despite many personal pressures, have found one of the greatest helps in preventing depression to be the gaining of an accurate knowledge of the will and purposes of “the Father of tender mercies and the God of all comfort.”—2 Cor. 1:3.
A future issue of Awake! will describe various modes of treatment that helped people who had major depression.
[Box on page 8]
THOUGHTS THAT CAN INCLINE ONE TO DEPRESSION
□ In order to be happy, I have to be successful in whatever I undertake. If I’m not on top, I’m a flop.
□ To be happy, I must be accepted by all people at all times.
□ My value as a person depends on what others think of me.
□ I can’t live without love. If my spouse (sweetheart, parent, child) doesn’t love me, I’m worthless.
□ If somebody disagrees with me, it means he doesn’t like me.
□ I should be the perfect friend, parent, teacher, student, spouse.
□ I should be able to endure any hardship with a calm disposition.
□ I should be able to find a quick solution to every problem.
□ I should never feel hurt; I should always be happy and serene.
□ I should never be tired or get sick, but always be at peak efficiency.
Based, in part, on “Cognitive Therapy and the Emotional Disorders,” by A. T. Beck, M.D.