Let's talk about happiness. Most of us want to be happy, all the time, no matter what is going on around us! It's plain and simple. But, being happy, how do you do that, get there, be that?
Maybe happy is not really what you are looking for. After all, happy is just like any other emotion... it comes and it goes. Perhaps what you seek is the ability to feel joy. Not just alive and surviving, but energized, excited, and living the life of your dreams. Imagine feeling joy beyond your wildest dreams as you live in your body, glad to be you, putting energy into your life's work, and creating stimulating experiences. Joy also means accepting your human emotions, experiencing the ups and downs of life, while learning to breathe and let things pass in their own time.
So how do we gain this feeling of joy? As paradoxical as it may sound, perhaps for some of us the path to joy leads us first through depression.
What does depression look like?
Let's imagine we have a friend named Jane. Lately Jane just doesn't feel like herself. She lacks energy and doesn't have enthusiasm for much of anything. Jane lies around a lot, feeling empty and not sure which way to go. Decisions seem overwhelming. She often cries although nothing in specific is wrong. Jane feels shame, wonders what is wrong with her, and thinks she must by crazy. Everyday she asks herself, "why do I feel this way?" and "why can't I make this go away?" She musters up enough energy to make it through the day and creates a happy facade so people will not see the pain she is in. Jane is depressed.
Depression is not the same thing as feeling sad, blue, or down. Most of us have our ups and downs, our good days and bad. Everyday events, and our reactions to them, sometimes interfere with our peace of mind. Some unhappiness, the blues, or an occasional low mood is common when disappointed. This sadness is all part of life.
In contrast, depression affects the entire body, not just the mind. It can lead to an imbalance in the delicate chemistry of your brain and affect your emotions, feelings, thoughts, behaviors, physical functioning, and health. It can also affect the way you eat and sleep, the way you feel about yourself, and the way you see the world. With depression, the misery can be so great, and persist for so many weeks without relief, that a person may begin to think that life is not worth living anymore.
Symptoms of Depression
o Depressed mood for most of the day
o Persistent sad or "empty" feelings
o Loss of appetite or loss of weight
o Eating more than usual and gaining weight
o Trouble sleeping, insomnia, or oversleeping
o Feeling tired all the time or finding everything is an effort
o Not caring anymore about work, hobbies, friends, or sexual activity
o Difficulty concentrating or thinking clearly, or indecisiveness
o Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism
o Feelings of worthlessness
o Excessive or inappropriate guilt
o Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Other problems people experience during a clinical depression may include:
o Frequently feeling on the verge of tears
o Waking up early in the morning, with difficulty returning to sleep
o Feeling worse in the morning
o Feeling anxious or irritable
o A gloomy view of the future
o Physical pain or headaches
o Cravings for certain foods
Overcoming depression is extremely challenging and not something that happens overnight. But overcoming depression is do-able. It is entirely possible to move beyond the dread and sadness of each day and reclaim a peaceful, fulfilling, and meaningful life. Below are some enlightening insights that will help you view depression from a higher perspective and some tips that will help you through your journey.
If you are struggling with depression, you may have tried countless therapists, psychologists, psychiatrists, energy healers, self-help books, and programs. You may have practiced the power of positive thinking, studied the law of attraction, practiced meditation, or looked into religion for you answers. Through all these strategies, you have been at war with your depression, doing everything within your power to get rid of it. Pharmaceutical companies convince us that depression is an illness caused by an imbalance in brain chemicals. If we simply take medication, we can quickly get back to feeling better again. If only the answer were so simple. Perhaps there is a gift beyond depression that can only unfold if you dare to first accept your experience as important and valuable instead of trying so hard to make it disappear.
Depression and Personal Growth
An easy start to shifting depression is to entertain the idea that depression is not dysfunctional, not a mental illness, but instead deeply meaningful. Consider that depression may be a naturally arising expression on your journey of evolutionary growth. Yes, depression is dark, and a time of misery and suffering. Yet, it also a time when we ask deeply personal questions:
Who am I?
Why am I alive?
What does it mean to be me?
What makes my life worthwhile?
Should I continue to live?
Why should I continue to live?
Is depression really something that we should avoid, or an illness that we should 'cure' with drug therapy alone? Should our profound questions be pushed down into silence with medication and drug therapy?
The distress you feel is real, the suffering immensely painful, and there is a very real risk of ending your own life. However, what if you are in emotional suffering but yet not ill? When you look inside, do you really believe, on a soul level, that your pain is simply due to a chemical imbalance - or might there also be a meaningful spiritual component to your journey through depression?
Why Does Depression Occur?
Depression often occurs when we are at the edge of personal and spiritual growth. In some ways, depression can be compared to a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. You once lived life as a caterpillar and everything was fine. Then it was time to change and become something new. During this transition, you offer yourself an opportunity to throw off old heavy energies, outdated perceptions about life, self-doubt, and self-limiting beliefs. It's a time when we entertain a spiritual desire to be more than we were in the past. We wish to be more alive, more self-confident, and more authentically engaged in life. During depression you are going through an expansion process, an unfolding, a readiness to release certain agreements you made in the past.
Depression, however, is the middle ground between here and there. Old tried and true ways of living are now outdated and limiting. They create stress, emptiness, avoidance of being in touch with your own authenticity, and narrow ways of dealing with life's challenges. On the one hand you are ready to come out of your cocoon and adopt new ways of being true to self, but on the other hand your logical mind tells you that you are already doing the best you can and no other alternatives are possible.
Depression, and thoughts of suicide, happen when we are in turmoil, caught between the end of an old way of living and a terrifying desire to live in a new way. In this transition, we cannot feel the joy of being alive. Internal anxiety rises and there is nothing we can do to run or hide from the conscious realization that we feel alone. We feel lethargic, powerless, and trapped. It seems as if the pain exceeds our capacity to deal with it.
One Step Forward
If you have feelings of depression, you have those feelings for a reason. Accept that your depression is real, that you feel miserable, and that you are questioning whether you choose to continue living in the same way that you have always lived. Remind yourself that there is no mandate that you must be happy and content. Even though you would rather not be experiencing this part of life, it's okay. You may eventually discover that your depression was more profoundly necessary that you can yet consciously imagine. Depression deals with a deeper relationship issue of becoming more true to self, the transformation of your physical body to become more alive, and a deeper connection to your spirit.
Depression Runs Its Course
If you are depressed, it is natural to want the pain to end. However, consider the idea that perhaps your pain is necessary. You feel the heartache, the loneliness, the despair of your life. For a while, perhaps your pain needs to run its course. It may just be a natural outcome of wanting to evolve and live your life differently, but at the same time being terrified, uncertain, and grieving for what you must let go in order to move forward.
At some point during your depression you will arrive at a decision making point. You can decide to release certain beliefs, adopt new ways of believing, and move forward with the new experiences your life will bring. Alternatively, you could decide to remain in your suffering for a long time. A third choice exists and that is to end your life as a way of ending the painful conflict. There is no right choice to make. It is your life and you must choose what feels right for you, not only in your mind and emotions, but also in your heart and soul.
Do You Choose Life?
During your time of depression, you are considering whether you choose to take the next step in your evolution. Do you decide to let go of self-doubt, move beyond the limitations of your former beliefs, and bring new balance to your mind, body, and spirit? Do you consciously choose to be alive in a new way? If so, for what purpose and meaning? When you accept that your depression is a time of change and release, you can begin to see that you are asking yourself to live in a new way. You are making a choice to release formerly held beliefs and discover what lies beyond those beliefs. Offer yourself compassion as you see that heading off into unknown territory is frightening.
What to do if you are depressed? Breathe. If you can accept that your depression has deep personal meaning, if you can accept the experience in which you find yourself, and if you make the conscious decision to remain alive, then the best therapy is to consciously breathe.
You don't need any fancy breathing techniques. Just breathe more deeply than you are right now. Breathing helps move the heaviness of depression. Breathe with intention to fill up with life. You already know that depression does not hold much light, not much energy. Breathing will arouse energy. You can't just wait for energy to flow into you. You must decide to choose life, breath, and energy. If you can, get up and go for a walk outside. Get some fresh air and sunshine. Breathe. If you just arouse a little bit of energy, it will help you to generate a bit more energy, and that uplifts you and gets you moving one more step further out of the depression.
Depression involves the very real emotional despair of living day to day with real hopelessness. There is no one right way through depression. Your life is very important, including those times when you are in transition or depressed. Use the ideas above to help support yourself as you choose to bring new meaning into your life.
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