No matter what kind of depression you have, the pain is the same-caused by a chemical imbalance in your brain. No matter what you’re depressed about, or even if you don’t know why you’re depressed, there are some simple things you can do to reduce your pain and anxiety, and get yourself feeling better.
Simple cognitive behavior techniques and exercises can lessen pain and stimulate more productive thinking. Low-key physical and mental activity can also speed recovery.
1. Relax your shoulders, take a deep breath and don’t panic! Millions of perfectly normal people have struggled with all kinds of depression and learned how to get out of it. You are not alone. You have options.
2. First, why do you feel so bad? It’s not because of your problems. It’s because of your brain chemistry. There are two main parts of the brain, the thinking part (the neocortex) and the emotional part (the subcortex). When you’re depressed, your subcortex is reacting to stress chemicals, and producing excruciating pain and panic.
3. To add to your misery, your subcortex sucks up additional neural energy from the neocortex until it is practically non-functioning. So you can’t think straight, plus you’re in agony.
4. You feel helpless, but there’s a lot you can do. Your body is experiencing a perfectly normal reaction to the over-supply of stress chemicals in your brain.
5. You need to reduce the neural energy in the subcortex and re-power the neocortex. You can do this with cognitive behavioral mind techniques that will spark up neural activity in the neocortex. With a little practice you will be able to do this any time depression hits you. A few facts about how your brain works will also help you cope.
6. Your first task is to free yourself from the kinds of negative and downer thoughts that power the subcortex and support the pain of your depression. Get rid of thoughts like:
• ‘I’m depressed’
• ‘I feel terrible’
• ‘What’s the use’
• ‘I can’t stand this pain anymore’
7. Switch your Thoughts! To get rid of any depressive thoughts, simply switch out of thinking them. Since the brain is basically a ‘yes brain,’ it’s hard to not think something. The way to not think a negative or depressive thought is to think another thought instead of it.
8. The best way to think another thought instead of a depressive thought is to use the simple cognitive behavioral technique called ‘brainswitching.’
Choose any neutral or nonsense thought, in advance, to have ‘at the ready’ to substitute for any depressive thought that pops up. When you’re depressed, you’re in too much pain to think one up.
• Make it a thought that will not stimulate any negative emotional association. It could be
• a silly song or rhyme fragment like ‘Row, row, row your boat’
• a mantra like ‘Om Padme’
• a neutral or nonsense word like ‘hippity-hop, ‘green frog,’ or ‘yadda yadda’
• a prayer like the 23rd Psalm.
9. It may seem silly to suggest that saying ‘green frog’ over and over to yourself can get rid of depression, but there’s a scientific reason for the exercise. Thinking a neutral or nonsense thought interrupts the depressive thought pattern and weakens it. How? See #10.
10. The brain always follows the direction of its most current dominant thought. When you make your neutral or nonsense thought dominant by thinking it over and over repetitively, it automatically kicks the depressive thought out of its dominant position and the brain ceases tracking it so actively. It turns toward the neutral thought.
11. Brainswitching will automatically increase neural activity in the neocortex, and reduce neural activity in the subcortex. It will continually interrupt the message that you are depressed from one part of the brain to the other.
12. Brainswitching distracts your attention from your emotional brain and directs it to the thinking part of the brain. Depression only happens in the subcortex. There’s never any depression in the neocortex.
13. You can brainswitch for a few seconds the first time you try it. With practice you can do it longer. You may be surprised to know that, even in the worst depression, your neocortex always remains calm and immediately available to you. And you can always brainswitch to it.
14. Keep choosing your neutral thought again when you lose concentration. You must actually do this exercise to activate the neocortex. It’s not just an idea. Ideas don’t work for depression. Only behavior works. A thought is just a thought but thinking a thought over and over again is behavior!
15. Always brainswitch to break the continuity of depression’s grip on you. Depression, like any other anxious emotion or feeling, can’t maintain itself unless you think it repetitively. Think something else instead-like ‘green frog.’
16. Do not think a depressive thought twice. No depressive thought can, by itself, turn into depression if you continually refuse to think it. A depressive thought is over as quick as any other thought. Don’t choose to think it again. Depression hits you with a first thought but you can refuse to think the second thought. For depression to ‘take hold,’ you must continuously think it.
17. Move into Action! Always brainswitch whenever a depressive or stressful thought threatens to ‘ take over.’ An unhappy thought is just a thought. It can pop into your mind at any moment. It is an event that happens to you. Choosing to think an unhappy, anxious or depressive thought over and over is behavior. It is something that you do and you can learn not to do it.
18. Be aware of the ‘early warning’ sad or negative feelings that usually precede a full-blown depressive episode. Confront your depression right away. ‘Okay I know what this is. This is depression coming. I have to side-step it with a neutral thought.’
19. Get out of depression at earlier stages by checking out the passive thinking that happens when you just let your mind wander. Passive thinking can often ‘go negative’ on you. When it does, switch to on-purpose thinking before negative thinking becomes dominant in your brain. The way you do ‘on-purpose’ thinking is to choose a specific thought to think, or by deciding to do some task which then directs your thinking in line with the task at hand.
20. Pry yourself loose from being fused with the pain of your depression before you disappear into it.
Find a small thinking space between you and your pain. Yes, you feel agonized and hopeless, but you can also focus slightly aside from your agony and hopelessness. You are not hopeless, you are the observer of your feeling of hopelessness. Accept some discomfort in a more detached way. Depression is a horrible feeling. It is not you! YOU are you! You are not a feeling. You are a person who is having a feeling.
21. Focus your mind on some low-key physical action:
• Brush your teeth.
• Clean your desk.
• Swing your arms in circles.
• Jog, or take a walk, and keep on walking until you feel tired.
• Smile! -not because you’re happy, but to relax your tense face muscles.
22. Get yourself up and going with any kind of moving-around exercises. The more you move into physical action, the less depression has a chance to settle in on you. Put on some music, dance around the room. Not because you will feel like dancing, but because depression hates you to dance. Do something your depression hates.
23. Distract yourself from the pain of depression with small chores. Do them while thinking your neutral or nonsense thought. Do your chore. Think your thought. Ignore your depression by thinking objectively about what you are doing not subjectively about how you are feeling. Your stress and pain will begin to lessen.