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2 Questions that Cure Depression

Depression ProzacI know that I am going to get some angry comments on this one. I get the most “hate mail” when I write posts about depression and creating happiness. It’s okay. I completely understand. It is a very difficult topic and there are many forms of depression. Some are self-induced, some come from hardships in life, and some come from chemicals in the brain getting out of balance. Some forms require medication, some require time alone, and some just require an encouraging word. I know that people who have never had it, could never fully understand it.

The advice I give below comes from years of counseling and giving advice to people who have come to me or e-mailed me asking for help battling depression. I have seen this technique pull people out of depressive and self-destrucive thought patterns and even get people off of medication who thought they would be on it for the rest of their lives.Depression

I am not an expert on depression and I am not a psychologist. My only credential is that I am fascinated with the brain’s ability to overcome difficulties, create new habits, and re-write it’s thought processes. I study happiness and self-improvement constantly. I love it, I try to live it, and I have a deep desire to help as many people as possible.

Now that I have that out of the way…

I have found that there are 2 things that anybody can do that will cure many forms of depression, both psychological and clinical. They are not particularly difficult but they will require you to set some goals and maybe change some routines because you have to be willing to do them every day.

#1 – Do something nice for someone else every day.

One major aspect of depression is a hyper-focus on ourselves and our own situation. We think about how bad our life is, how we don’t measure up, how we can’t see things getting better, how bad we feel, how much we don’t like the way we look, etc., etc.

People who think and talk about themselves every day in only positive ways are considered arrogant and self-centered. People who think and talk about themselves all day in a negative way are considered depressed and, yes, self-centered.

How could I say that someone who is depressed is self-centered? What a jerk!

What I mean is, whether we spend all day thinking about ourselves in a positive or negative way, we Insecurityare still focusing on one thing, “me”. We have placed ourselves, our problems, our hardships, our emotions at the center of our universe. That makes us self-centered. It doesn’t have to be a bad term. It just describes where our focus is.

Many forms of depression revolve around our brain hyper-focusing on ourselves in a negative way. So the way to combat that tendency is to do the opposite: make somebody else the center of our focus for a little while.

I strongly believe in the phrase, “Charity never faileth.”

When I feel down about myself, I know that I can take a few minutes to write somebody a thank you note, and I will feel better. Sometimes I’ll go on Facebook and give a compliment to the first person that pops up on my feed. Once in a while I get to do something bigger and more time-consuming but usually it is small acts.

Our brains cannot simultaneously focus on two opposing thoughts. So if you are focusing on doing something kind for someone else, eventually you will not be able to focus on the negatives about yourself.

graduates givingNot only that, it becomes harder and harder to think you are worthless if you have become the type of person who is doing acts of kindness for others every day. Someone who is doing that is an amazing person in anyone’s book.

Service is the world’s greatest medicine. It is universal. It works both for the person giving it and the person receiving it. It costs nothing but your time and effort. It never runs out and it works every time.

I can’t even count the number of times I have seen a moody and depressed teenager turn into a totally different person when I’ve dragged them to work at a food bank or other charity. Something magical happens when they focus on helping others.

Charity never faileth. Find a way to do it every day.

#2 – Decide to learn or do one new thing every day

Now that we have talked at length of the benefits of helping and focusing on others, let’s talk about “me”. I know this sounds like the opposite advice I just gave above but go with me for a moment.

Many people battling depression feel like they are “stuck in a rut”. Life never changes and they don’t feel like they have the energy to do anything about it. That is a terrible place to be. I say it in almost every post: Life is all about constant, forward progress. When we aren’t progressing, it becomes easy to get down on ourselves and slip into depression.

It can be even harder to fix when you wake up every morning with no desire or energy to put into feeling better. It is almost like you feel depressed about feeling depressed and that combination is enough to keep you from doing anything about it. In fact, for some people it keeps them from doing anything at all. And that can be depressing.

How do we fix this?

We have to force ourselves to move forward by learning something new or trying new things. I Try Something New Dayremember as a teenager, my friend had a car that would only start if we got out and pushed it. Sometimes you have to push yourself to do something in order to get started. This is one of those times.

Set a goal for yourself to learn something new every day. You can try a new food, learn an instrument, pick up a new hobby, learn a second language, watch a documentary on Netflix, click the “Random Article” link on Wikipedia and read the entry, take an online class about something that interests you, etc. There is an infinite number of possibilities.

It doesn’t matter if what you do is big or small, time-consuming or quick. The point is that you do something.

Most people in the world, whether they suffer from depression or not, do not have a plan for continued learning. By the time they are a middle-age adult they just level off with the things they already know and the things they already do. How depressing is that?! You’ve not even lived half your life and you just stop learning. What a waste of a perfectly good life!Kids Goals 2

Keep learning. Force yourself to do it. When the demons inside try to stop you and tell you to stay in bed, or take away your desire to feel better, tell yourself that whether you feel like it or not, you are going to do it anyway.

There is no stopping in life. We talked about it in my last post. You are either moving forward or going backward. Up or down. Make the choice to move forward in spite of how you are feeling. It will get easier and easier the more you do it. When you aren’t progressing, a feeling of internal discontentment builds and your self-worth starts to drop. Many people become accustomed to that feeling and let it overtake them. That is why you have to force yourself to do something to better yourself every day.

The 2 Questions to Ask Yourself Every Morning

Whether battling depression or not, there are two questions you can ask yourself every day that will help you feel better about yourself and help you create an amazingly rewarding life. They are:

#1 – Who will I do something nice for today?

#2 – What will I learn today?

They seem like pretty small and simple things to do but I won’t pretend that this will be easy for everyone. Many people battling depression have spent many years and thousands of dollars on counseling and medications. So for me to come in and say that there is a cure that is free and not very time-consuming will sound ridiculous to some.

All I would ask is that you give it a try. I have seen it work many times. And what is the worst case scenario? At worst, you have brightened the lives of other people and you have learned some new things along the way.

I would love to hear your comments on this or your experiences as you have tried it. This blog is designed to be a forum where we can give each other tips, encouragement, and advice. If you know someone who could benefit from this, please share it with them or share it using the social media buttons below.

Kris

21 comments

  1. I’m going to try this & see what happens

  2. Kris,
    I have been reading your stuff for a while and you speak clearly to a place in me that only very few people can reach, please, please, please answer this burning question for me, a question that therapists, life coaches and even some published writers have not or cannot answer for me, even if you have no idea, please respond to me with “I have no idea” but I have come to respect your take on things and for this very negative, formerly depressed person is a tough call, here is the question: in the path of seeking the truth of trying to grow me as a human being it occurs to me: Is this life balance, this happiness, this joy REALLY meant for everyone? in this huge Universe of ours, isn’t variety a thing? aren’t some people’s normal set up point, role if you will, to be sad, down, negative, drug addicts, criminals, failures? Aren’t some to be Ghandi’s and some to be Hitlers? or do you truly believe that EVERYONE! is equipped to be balanced? I mean there are millions of drug addicts and alcoholics that hard as they try, go to their grave without achieving sobriety…are they failures? or is that just who they were supposed to be? I would love to hear your thoughts as uncensored as you possibly can. I can’t hardly wait to read what you have to say. If you want to answer it in private, you have my email

    Thank you
    T.

    • Wow T! Great question!
      I’ll comment here in case it is of benefit to anybody else. But let me start by saying that these are just my opinions and they may dive into my religious beliefs a little. I usually don’t bring religion into my posts so that they can be universally applied but I think this will take me there a little.
      I truly and honestly believe in free will. I believe people born on this earth do have an ability to choose what they become. Everybody can choose their attitude every single day. Does that mean everybody will have a situation which allows them to succeed? No. Some kids are just born into situations which means their life will be difficult. Because of family or social examples, they will struggle with addiction from an early age. Some will be born with deformities or mental issues. Some will be born into abusive homes. Some will be raised to think that it is okay to hurt others or to be hurt by others. Some will enter this world into situations that make us ask, “Why?”
      And yet, many of them will go on to great things and find happiness and peace. Many will break the destructive cycles in their family or their social group.
      By the same token, many will be born into the “perfect situation” with a stable family, affluence, safety, etc and yet they will end up with addictions and all kinds of troubles throughout their whole life.
      So it seems to me that external circumstances are an inaccurate predictor of a person’s happiness in life. Those things must come from the inside.
      Here is where I get a little religious. I, personally, believe there is a God that has placed us on the earth. I believe He has given every one of us the potential to create a beautiful life and the freedom to choose how to do it. He does not force us down one path or another. I do not believe that He would create someone who’s role it was to be depressed or to be a homicidal maniac. I believe that He loves us.
      Back to the more secular approach. Everything I have seen as I have worked with people, both in the U.S. and in my travels to impoverished countries, leads me to believe that everyone has the opportunity to design the life they want. If they make some poor choices early on and pick up some bad addictions, the journey back out can be almost impossible. But we can’t forget that in 99% of those cases, they chose to go down a road that they may not be able to return from. It was still a choice. The sad thing is that it was a choice that later took away many other good choices they could have been able to make.
      I feel like I’m all over the place with this reply so forgive me if I’m rambling. I’m trying to string together a lot of thoughts in a short amount of time and I’m just not that smart to pull it off articulately.
      In a nutshell, I believe everybody was sent here with an opportunity to be happy, I believe that everyone was allowed to choose a path that lead to what they think is happiness, and that people are not predestined to be bad. Everybody has a choice.
      Hope that wasn’t too random. Thanks again. I’d love to talk more about it.

      • I would love nothing more than to dig deeper with you into this subject. For whatever is worth, the fact that you gave me ANY! response and took your time and energy to do so, is invaluable to me. I deal a lot with duality in my internal life and I tend to question the whole of the Universe as I perceive it from my limited stand point. The fact that you dug in and went there with me makes me feel less alone with this brain of mine that seems to not want to stop questioning EVERYTHING! On a lighter note (but we will go back to the main question soon, if you’re up for it) your post for today on depression was spot on, what seems to take down melancholic propense people like me, is this obsession with the self. In my opinion you hit that one out of the park. Perhaps not nice to hear for somebody currently depressed, but in the end the truth we think hurts us, truly (hopefully) sets us free! On your previous post, you ended it with these words: :”Like Dory said in the movie Finding Nemo: “Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.” I printed it and added to the graphic your words “Life will never be fulfilling for you unless you are moving forward. You can run, walk, crawl if you need to, but keep moving forward.” I have to tell you it has kept me from drowning into myself. You also replied to me on that post “Keep your head up and keep swimming. The best things come to those who are persistent and they usually come just when you are about to give up. Keep at it! Life consistently rewards persistent effort!” and today I have to tell you that after over 60 days of tossing and turning and applying and not knowing where would I end up, a job that I had applied for a clerical position, an interview I almost didn’t go, because I feel very tired, hired me as an assistant manager. SPEECHLESS!

        With much gratitude for putting your truth out there
        T.

        • T,
          Thank you for sharing that with me. I got tingles when I read that you had gotten the job. I don’t know what you’ve been through in the past, or really much about you at all, but from our limited conversations, it seems like you are doing the things that are going to lead to a really happy and successful life. Great job!

          • Thank you Kris, I had to share that with you, because I think you are part of a whole that is keeping me from drowning, I don’t know much about you either, which is great because it keeps my tendency to judge at bay. Biologically I am a woman of 48, but emotionally I have ways to go , I think I’m still at 4 years old. You know, growing up, dysfunctional family, hyper religiosity where the word God was used as a weapon,not intentionally as I have come to understand, it is just the way they were raised. Generational stuff and so forth and so on. But I don’t want to monopolize your blog so I am signing off for now. Please keep on writing, honestly and without apology, you are helping a lot of people, maybe that’s why you are not depressed.

            Much thanks and appreciation
            T.

  3. I am suffering badly with depression and have just in the past week been rejected by a man I have supported for the past 18 months through serious illness as he has told me he met someone else. He has thrown me away (another in the list). So it’s a great idea to do something for someone else but I think the key is to do it with NO expectations at all as even the slightest bit of hope for respect or care is pointless. This is a great challenge and I’m thinking I am too giving of my care of others with no care back. I guess I need to learn how to care for myself more.

    • I am so sorry to hear about this. And I like your insight about doing it without expectation. I think so many of our great disappointments in life come from unfulfilled expectations. I think you are on the right track. My advice would be to write down a goal to do those two things every day. I have some other ideas for you that might be too long to type out here, could I e-mail you some ideas?

    • Kchcgc

      I relate so much to the space you occupy and as a fellow human being can only tell you that after decades of let down, and disappointments and a few stints on the couch my lessons are as follows (perhaps they can help you some): That expectation is a precursor for disappointment, that there isn’t another man or human being for that matter than can fill that whole in my soul, that the common denominator in all of my disappointments is ME!, That I have to learn to respect me, to love me, and to care for me and only when I do that, will I start attracting people who do not want to use me. I am still single and getting older, so that tells you also, that I am a work in progress. I had to learn and continue to do so the difference between Caretaking and Caregiving “caretaking is a hallmark of codependency and is rooted in insecurity and a need to be in control. Caregiving is an expression of kindness and love.

      Hope it helps to shed some light on your path and as I have been told many, many times before, when I’m feeling sorry for myself….
      “This too shall pass”
      T

    • To T,

      You are amazing! Keep Swimming!

      We are ALL made for joy and love, that is our base instinct. We have an unlimited source of both and more inside of us.

      Congratulations on your new job. Praying you will be blessed and be a blessing in it.

      Juju

      • To Juju,

        Thank you for your kind words and perhaps someday I’ll join you in thinking that I am amazing too. The part I left out in sharing about my new found job is that the night prior to getting that job, I got a call from a relative in New York telling me that our gorgeous, studious, with a scholarship to go to Los Angeles to study acting in August, 20 year old nephew Brian, was just killed crossing the street.The end.
        And so I find myself back at zero, trying to understand how to reconcile my relief and joy of finally having found a job and trying to find the words to tell his mother it is ok to cry, it is ok to stop starring blankly at a wall, it is ok to allow yourself to feel the Tsunami of pain you are unconsciously trying to hold at bay. The truth is Juju, at 48, I don’t know how to do life on life terms. At the same time, Kris himself has suggested gratitude and I am thankful that he has created this platform for all of us to meet and have the space to share and that perhaps in that sharing some understanding and acceptance will sip in.

        Thank you

  4. Simple but good – thanks for the reminder!

  5. Depression is fairly new to me…but I’ve been battling it the last few years. The death of my mom, menopause, marital problems, combined with a change of ownership at work (to one who doesn’t appreciate my value to the company), have taken a heavy toll. I tried counseling, but while she listened, she didn’t really give me any proactive advice that I hadn’t tried before seeing her. I’ve talked to the boss about feeling disrespected, I’ve talked to the husband and tried marriage counseling – but when THEY don’t really care about how I feel then there isn’t a lot I can do about that. I know a lot of people have it much worse than I do, but I’m not getting much joy out of life these days. I know that trust issues with my husband are a big part of it (due to his past behavior), but again, if he isn’t willing to be open and transparent with his actions then rebuilding that trust isn’t going to happen. I have kids at home (and in college) and a mortgage – and with my job situation the way it is, I can’t risk trying to make it on my own at this point. I basically feel trapped by people who don’t love, respect, or appreciate me. I’m just waiting for my kids to finish school and get out on their own before I figure out what to do with the rest of my life. Thank you for reaching out to those who are struggling and trying to give sage advice to help them through it all.

  6. We have not begun to understand the depths and breath of the human mind.

    I too have studied the human mind and its many layers of complexity. I have a degree in Behavioral and Social Studies/Communication.

    Any Rx regime must be paired with cognitive therapy (some of which would be covered by your two simple steps).

    However, often Happiness and Joy are confused. Happiness is an emotion whereas, Joy is an internal state of being. What one wants to create is that internal joy that is NOT dependent upon any outside circumstances. This is done by knowing that our souls are perfect and that we are perfectly made to take on the task of life. Our soul is the ageless/ timeless part of our being that carries forth after this life.

    It has always fascinated me the results of that good up bringing vs. bad and likewise life experiences that color who we are. How does one person become so positive and kind and another become so full of hate? I agree with you that it is a choice.

    Yet, some can not move forward on their own. They need some sort of support and healing. One of the most powerful types of healing work that I have participated in is Spirit Rescue where those broken and shattered parts of one’s spirit are restored. This is done on an energetic level to restore wholeness. This reintegrates the person’s complete self for moving forward with love and joy.

    This work can be done in person or at a distance. I have seen people restored in one session.

    Then that whole person can go out and give and grow whole heartedly.

    If you would like to know more please feel free to contact me via my page or my email at whisperofangels@live.com

    Juju

  7. To Kchcgc,

    We can not out give God and the universe so know that your gifts are never wasted. The universe is abundantly waiting to give to you. So give as much as you can and take as much as you want. There really is a never-ending supply of love.

    Been there done that- living and loving on the other side of all that.

    Sending you love and angels.

    Hugs,

    Juju

  8. I would add to write a gratitude list daily. depending on your level of depression 3 to 10 things. Does not have to be earth shattering. My pen is not running out of ink will do.

  9. It looks like you practiced what you wrote about, by writing what you wrote about. LOL. I think these are words of wisdom.

    Therapy helped me to understand the source of my depression, which was ADHD, and the anxiety that goes with that. I use therapy, meditation, medication and awareness to keep my depression and anxiety under wraps. I gave my boss a gift this morning. I know it will help. (It was a 15 foot iphone charging cable). Tonight I will meditate on my back porch just before dark. I am not so good at it but I hope to get better with time. As far as learning I have taken a look at Class Central, with free on line learning. I just started but may take a free class or two.

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