Unlocking the Prison of Depression – Paul Templeton

Contrary to a widely held view within the medical profession, depression is not an illness or a mental disorder but a defence against pain and fear, which we can use whenever we suffer a disaster that our life is not what we thought it was. It is an unwanted consequence of how we see ourselves and the world. When we lack a sense of inner safety and security, the resulting chronic anxiety can spill over into depression. Anxiety and depression are the defences that prevent us taking risks that would leave us open to further hurt.

It is typical that someone experiencing depression sees themselves as a bad person and unacceptable to others. Therefore, he or she has to work hard to be a good person in order to be safe and earn the right to exist.

If, on the other hand, you learn to see yourself as valuable and acceptable, then if you choose to do good it is simply because it pleases you to do so – you do not expect the world or anyone else to reward you for being good. You are no longer frightened of others, and so you no longer hate or envy them. You recall the pleasant things from your past and reconcile yourself to the hurtful things. Also, you no longer fear your anger and can deal sensibly with your own and other people’s anger. You are able to forgive yourself and so also to forgive others.
To achieve this you need to learn to judge yourself less harshly and relax the ludicrously high standards that you set yourself – and put in their place a few reasonable demands and some achievable goals.

A useful exercise when you struggle to find the words to describe your despair is to imagine or draw what you are feeling. This will often be a picture of isolation or imprisonment.
And what is the key to this prison? By understanding how you have interpreted events in your life you can choose to change your interpretations in order to create for yourself a happier and more fulfilling life. This will not only unlock the prison of depression but bring a new sense of freedom to be simply you in all your richness.
You may learn that you control little of what goes on in the world, but you do control how you interpret events, realising that they result from a complex interaction of many influences.

Making such changes in how you see yourself and your world can be difficult, but with the right kind of help and support they are achievable. Having the opportunity to express and explore these feelings with someone who you can trust to receive them with understanding and empathy, you will find that what seemed like a life sentence becomes a necessary and transformative experience from which you will emerge as a more resilient and confident person.

What is Wellbeing? by Rosie Andersen

There have been attempts, over the last few years, to measure our happiness and wellbeing, including a government ‘happiness guru’ giving us advice on how best to live our lives.  Regardless of guidance from lofty places, most of us simply aim to create a more relaxed way of living, lead healthy, happy lives, and be at peace with ourselves.  We are, in fact, no happier than we were 50 plus years ago, and it seems that stress, tension, anxiety and depression are actually on the increase.  Happiness means more than being just ‘cheerful’ – what we want is to find meaning in our lives.

Although many of us know how we would like our lives to be, we struggle to achieve balance and to create space and quality time for ourselves.  We lead ever faster and busier lives as we are caught up in a spiral of crisis management.  This is all within a world of modern technology that is designed to make our lives easier.  Yet still we seem unable to find that inner peace and fulfilment.  We suffer from sensory overload as we are bombarded with noise and other environmental pollutants. Unrealistic images are presented to us by the media, which influence and affect our thinking on how we should be.   We increasingly believe and invest in these images, thinking our lives are somehow incomplete or that we are not good enough.  Despite having an abundance of information at our fingertips through the Internet, self-help books, courses, workshops and seminars, all promoting ways to find and improve ourselves, we continue to look elsewhere to solve our problems.  When the latest trends or philosophies don’t live up to our expectations we become more disillusioned and disappointed, adding further to our stress levels.

It has been shown that many things influence our sense of well-being, for example:

  • Our physical, mental and emotional health
  • The home we live in and its location
  • Whether we have a sense of fulfilment in our lives
  • Whether our relations with others are harmonious
  • Our hopes and aspirations
  • Knowing how to live our lives with meaning and purpose

So how can we help ourselves on the road to improving our well-being?

Taking care of our bodies – a simple but often overlooked practice is to pay attention to the quality and quantity of what we eat and drink, and correcting any underlying nutritional deficiencies.  It has been shown that poor nutrition affects not only our physical health but also our moods.

Exercise – regular exercise has immense benefits for the body and our overall well-being.  It maintains health and makes us feel more energised. Beneficial exercise can come in many forms from brisk walking to the gentle but effective disciplines of yoga and tai chI.

Helping others – making time to help and give to others. It has been shown that helping others activates the same part of the brain as when we treat ourselves.

Celebrating life – through pursuing interests and taking part in activities, events and celebrations that ‘lift our spirits’. We are never too old to learn new things, to play, laugh, have fun, and get involved in the wider world.

Connecting with others – being part of your local community and having a network of social connections has been shown to increase our immunity to infection, reduce mental decline and lower our risk of heart disease.  Conversely, not having close personal ties has been shown to pose significant risks to our long-term health.

Taking a positive approach – positive intention has a powerful effect on our psyche.  It gives us enthusiasm for life and motivation to achieve goals.

Spending time in nature – it has been shown that there is a strong link between our mental and emotional states and being in nature. Visiting and spending time amongst naturally peaceful and beautiful settings is a powerful mood-enhancer putting our daily concerns into perspective.  This, combined with periods of planned silence, gives us strength and resilience when dealing with daily challenges.

However, despite our good intentions, we go through demanding periods in our lives that we cannot foresee or plan for, e.g. chronic stress, illness, divorce, bereavement, redundancy, where we are just not able to cope with life and where we are unable to help ourselves.  This is where professional help can be vital to assist in bringing our lives back into balance, and to achieve that sense of well-being.

Why Listen to Your Body? by Paul Templeton

We each of us have a body that we inhabit and on which we rely every moment of our lives.  We mostly give little more than a passing nod to this miracle of creation that works to maintain our health regardless of how we treat it. If our bodies could talk, might we be surprised at what they told us?

I believe that our bodies do speak to us all the time, and in a language that we can grow to understand if we give the time to listen.  I therefore suggest that you take some time to listen to your own body, as I was invited many years ago to listen to mine.

With the help of those who specialise in working with the body and its relationship to the self, I learned to bring attention to what I’m feeling and sensing as I go about my daily activities.  I became more mindful of my body: how it breathes, how it moves, habitual postures when standing, sitting or walking, and the chronic tensions developed over a lifetime.  I began to notice more of the sensations, of all kinds, that my body was giving me. By making subtle adjustments I found that I could let go of unnecessary tension, using my muscles more effectively when active, and fully relaxing when not.

Over time, I have noticed that: I have greater stamina and vitality; my joints no longer ache; the niggling pain between my shoulder blades has disappeared; my piano-playing has become more fluent; and, as I feel more comfortable within my body, I have found a greater ease and confidence in many aspects of my life.

By developing the skill of bringing this kind of attention to ourselves we gradually become more ‘embodied’.  This means that we have a greater connection to ourselves, the people around us, and our environment, and thus develop a sense of belonging and being at home, no matter the situation or the place.

Biodynamic massage and psychotherapy are primarily concerned with cultivating the art of listening to our whole being through our bodies and so expanding our sense of what it means to be ‘me’.  Their aim is to gradually build our strengths and soften our defences, and so help us to become more effective in all aspects of our lives.

It’s All About You by Aiden Higgs

Research shows that the reasons for more than 75% of visits to doctors are related to stress, including anger, depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, poor concentration, chest pains, sexual problems and breathlessness.

Whether you are a busy executive, a pressured employee or a stretched-to-the-limit parent, stress is a ‘normal’ part of your day.

A situation which triggers stress is known as the stressor.  This immediately puts you into ‘fight or flight’ mode and in less than two seconds your body changes in a number of different ways.

Adrenaline and other chemicals flood into your system causing raised heart rate and blood pressure and your gastric functions begin to shut down.  This is how your body is designed to react to danger and is, in itself, very good for you!

Once the perceived danger is gone, your system will naturally move to restore your balance by feeding opposite chemicals into the body.  This is the relaxation response, and, in contrast to the ‘fight or flight’ response, it takes at least 30 minutes to happen.

But with our demanding lifestyles, a new stressor confronts you, and you go back into stress mode before having a chance to relax, causing your body to remain in partial shutdown.

You may then experience abnormalities in your digestive system, blood pressure, clarity of thought and memory.  So what can you do?

It’s not practical to think you can remove stressors completely, so here are a few ways to help you to relax:

  • Exercise – Walking is great
  • Deep, slow breathing
  • Listen to relaxing music
  • Try yoga, Reiki, aromatherapy, hypnotherapy, reflexology or massage
  • Drink plenty of water because dehydration contributes to stress
  • And, laughter is one of the most important ways we can relax