Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Depression Hurts: The Happy Wall Can Help

Depression seems to be turning into an epidemic in America. Some say depression affects as many as 1 in every 8 Americans. With so much abundance and creature comforts in this country why are so many suffering? What can be done about depression? Many turn to antidepressants but does this help, or just cover up the underlying cause of the depression?

About 10 years ago I was one of those 1 in 8 Americans suffering from depression. I didn't understand why I was depressed and didn't really know what to do about it. I knew many people who had found relief with anti-depressants, but then had to deal with the side effects. I also noticed that two people could experience similar struggles in life and one would end up depressed and the other seemed to come out a stronger person. I wanted to be like the people who came through the storms of life and ended up better than before. But I didn't know how to do that. I was going through the storms of life and ending up depressed.

As I was searching for answers I had the opportunity to listen to one ladies story. She didn't claim to be a professional counselor, nor an expert on depression, but she had learned to overcome depression and wanted to share her story. It was a story of hope and one that taught me about the Happy Wall.

The Happy Wall changed my life. What is the Happy Wall? Let me start by explaining that there are two walls in our life that can we can choose to focus on. They are on opposite sides, therefore you can only focus on one at a time, and to do so you must turn your back to the other. One wall is the Happy Wall and the other is the Sad Wall. Anyone who has struggled with depression knows the Sad Wall well. It's the one that has pictures of your struggles, your weakness, your imperfections, all the injustices you have suffered and all the bad things that have happened, are happening, or may happen. This wall is dark. It's negative and is full of despair and sadness. On the opposite side is the Happy Wall. This wall is full of things that bring you joy, or that have brought you joy and happiness in your life. It contains uplifting quotes and encouragement. On this wall are the faces of people who are there to encourage you, hug you, and help you find the beauty inside yourself and inside others. This wall is full of light, hope, faith, gratitude and happiness.

These two walls are present in all of our lives. You may think that what will make you happy is to be closer to that happy wall, but that is not the case. Your happiness is not determined by which wall you are closer to rather than which wall you are focused on. Which wall are you looking at and paying attention to? Those who are focused on the sadness in their lives suffer depression, anxiety, sadness, and all of that makes the sad wall look even darker and fills their soul with more despair. Those who choose to focus on the happy wall live with hope. They expect good things to come their way and for life to be filled with more good days than bad days.

When I realized it was my choice what I was going to focus on and that this could be the cause of my depression I decided to give it a try. No more focusing on my imperfections, my son's chronic condition, the lack of money, all the people who made me feel like garbage. It was time to focus on the people who loved me. It was time to love myself and forgive myself for my imperfections. It was time to start laughing again, and I was the only one who could make that happen.

I was tired of being depressed. I didn't like what it was doing to me, or my family. What did I have to lose by focusing on the Happy Wall? Things couldn't be much worse. I already hated myself. If this really worked I could be happy again. I could enjoy living again.

At first it wasn't easy finding things to laugh at. I tried to read the comics, I loved them as kid. I would force myself to laugh. I found funny videos on You Tube. I started watching funniest home videos. At first it was really hard, but it started to work. I began laughing again, and feeling better.

My next step was overcoming criticism. I realized I was very critical and that kept me focused on the Sad Wall. Every time I realized I was being critical I would find 10 good things about the person or thing I was criticizing. If I couldn't then I would change my focus and find 10 good things to focus on. I was amazed at how quickly my life turned around.

It didn't take long to start feeling good again. After years of feeling depressed I was amazed at how quickly my life changed. The key was to change my focus. The Happy Wall works. Now when I see myself about to fall into that dark abyss of depression I check my focus. Am I criticizing and complaining? Am I listening to negative talk? Then I focus on gratitude, blessings, and find something to laugh about. It works every time.

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