Summary: Concluding our blog series about the brain challenges that depression brings, today I share with you 3 easy ways to change negative brain chemistry and re-focus your communication skills when you need to most.
Depression seriously hinders your ability to communicate clearly. In fact, it even affects your ability to think clearly, so that often when you're down, you may not know what it is you really mean to say. Consider this scenario:
You oversleep (a common symptom of depression) and find yourself running late to an important work meeting. Because of the negative outlook you have during depressed states, you can't stop thinking about how many times you've been late before and the dire consequences it will have on your career this time. You even focus on a mental list you make of your negative traits, including "laziness" for oversleeping again. Because your brain is preoccupied with all of this, you have a hard time focusing on your routine and wind up running even further behind. To make matters worse, you walk out the door without the important report you need for the meeting!
By the time you get to the meeting—late, of course—and realize your mistake, you know you'll have some explaining to do. But the only thoughts you can muster sound something like: "I'm such a failure. I'm probably going to get fired from this project, and I deserve it, too." And when you're confronted by your supervisor at the meeting's end, it's pretty much those sentiments you share, only even less intelligibly.
Here are three techniques that can help you think more clearly to lessen depression's hold on your tongue and your outlook this winter:
Exercise - Studies have shown that regular exercise changes brain chemistry, promoting "feel good" chemicals like endorphins that can provide a euphoric feeling. (Ever hear of "runner's high?" It's not just a myth!) During depression, these chemicals are generally lacking; so boosting them can restore balance. Start small if you must: The simple act of walking around the block counts.
Meditation - Similarly, meditation promotes harmony in brain chemistry and harmony in the body, too. Pain is another common symptom of the disease, but calming your worry and negativity will help to alleviate some of that. If you've already been exercising, a good time to meditate is right after your workout, when you are experiencing some positivity. Start by focusing on your body first—how it feels as you sit or lie down; what your breath feels like in your chest, lungs, belly, nostrils; any other sensations you notice. Then move into noticing your thoughts. If you practice observing them without judgment, you may further lessen depression's grip on your thinking. This may be hard to start with, but it does get easier. To help, picture thoughts like buses or trains that you watch but choose not to enter.
Affirmations - If you're able to exercise at least three times a week (mornings are best if you're suffering from depression, because you can start your day off with a little clarity) and are meditating at least once a week after you exercise, you're certainly ready to tackle the rest of that negative thinking with some conscious counter-thinking. Affirmations are excellent tools for this. A good, simple affirmation for depression is: "I feel good. I intentionally create my life today."
I've mentioned that I'm prone to seasonal depression, myself. (For more on the different types of depression, click here.) I like to combine affirmations and exercise together by dancing around to music on my earbuds: a mix of songs with "happy" and "feel good" that are upbeat. My favorite mix includes four different versions of James Brown's "I Feel Good!" And it makes me feel just that. Try some of these techniques for yourself and tell me how it makes you feel.
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