Because while medication can sometimes fix our brain chemicals (actually rarely except for the most severely depressed), they do nothing to address our habits of depression. To overcome depression, we also need "to replace depressive patterns of thinking, relating, and behaving with a new and more effective set of skills."
While Dr. O’Connor beautifully addressed some specific actions during the interview, there were many things we did not get to on air. I wanted to point out at least three very practical items from his book. I worry that these may seem oversimplified in this format, but I thought they were worth putting out there.
Hands on activities to help ‘undo’ depression:
- 3 good things: Once you turn off the light at bedtime, think of 3 good things that happened that day. (Even small things like what you had for lunch, an attractive person you saw, or a song you heard.) As you focus on those things, notice where you feel the joy in your body. Hold on to that moment and visualize the neurons in your brain forming new happiness circuits. (Yes, you are actually rewiring your brain with this task, helping to reset your happiness set point.*) Let yourself drift off to sleep with these good feelings.
- Avoid enablers. The people who make it easy for you to perform your self-defeating behaviors.
- Mood journal: When you start to feel yourself spiral into depression or anxiety, write down how and what you’re feeling. Doing so will allow you to start to see patterns in your moods so that you begin to realize they don’t just come ‘out of the blue’. Knowing the the triggers can help us manage them. Seeing a pattern will make us feel less crazy or out of control. Here is a link describing the mood journal in more detail: http://www.undoingdepression.com/livingwell/lwmoodjounal.html
*Likewise, research has shown that negative thoughts destroy these circuits in the brain. See Undoing Depression for more details.
Listen to Dr. Richard O'Connor's interview:
And here's my monologue...a few insights from my days selling psychiatric drugs: