Everybody is talking about gratitude these days, and there is a reason why. I really does help make people feel better. It's easy to focus on what you don't have or don't like in life. I'm asking you to challenge your thinking and change your mindset.
Maybe you weren't expecting this but I'm going to talk about depression in this article. Depression affects many people. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 19 million Americans suffer from it. At some point in their life, 10%-25% of women will become depressed and 5%-12% of men will become depressed. Depression isn't fun and it can be debilitating. Here are five signs that you are depressed:
- You laugh and cry at times that don't call for it. In psychology this is also known as "inappropriate affect." This is when you over-react to insignificant sadness, and ignore major league bad news. Laughing when you lose your job is a good example of this.
- You have trouble accepting praise or goodwill. Martin Seligman, the psychologist that changed our thinking about depression. He studied the behavior of dogs that were given electrical shock. Eventually the dogs would just lie there. They wouldn't even respond to tugs on their leashes that could lead them to safety. The human paradigm, when you find yourself ignoring or discounting compliments, chances are you're depressed.
- You feel nothing. Many people choose to ignore that they feel sad. It's easy to get stuck in neutral when you ignore your feelings. This can create a zombie-like approach, which creates anxiety in those around you and alienates those that care for you.
- Conflicts quickly escalate into fights. This is an easy way to dull the feelings of depression. You want to show everyone that you aren't any one's doormat. If someone runs you off the highway, then run them down. When someone attacks, you defend yourself. That'll show them and hopefully distract you and everyone else from the emotional pain.
- You can't concentrate. We all feel scattered, now and then. When your depressed, it's easy to get caught up in fantasy or daydreams. So, how do you distinguish healthy daydreams from unhealthy ones? Healthy dreams involve changes in your life, that you can put in a handful of reasonable steps. Unhealthy ones, take you from rags to riches overnight.
So, how does this relate to gratitude? That is a good question. When you start practicing gratitude you actually start to change your brain. This is where the root of depression lies. Think of 25 things you're grateful for, and write them down. Tell the people in your life how much you appreciate them, and be specific about it.
The good news is, that if you're depressed you can get help. Don't hesitate to reach out. Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Depression is nothing to be ashamed of, but it's also nothing to be reckoned with either.
Lianne Avila is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. She has helped many people with depression. If you're looking for help with your depression in the San Mateo area, please call (650) 892-0357.