Depression is one of the most debilitating states we can find ourselves in. In our society, sadly, we tend to accept “being depressed” as somewhat of a normal state. After working close to a half-century as a marriage and family therapist based in California, I’ve had the opportunity to help people relieve themselves of depression. In working with my own self, using what I have learned about emotions and depression, my last 25 years have actually been depression-free. Others with whom I have worked have had similar experiences. It can be a new state of being for you. Rather than talking about “easing” depression, let’s consider sending it packing!
Over the years, I’ve learned three things that contribute to depression
First is diet. A significant potassium impairment can leave you depressed—feeling listless, having difficulty taking action, and with making decisions a difficult task. While it can take a bit of time to correct, eating potassium-rich foods can help this depression to life.
According to Webmed.com, here are fruits and vegetables rich in potassium:
- Bananas, oranges, cantaloupe, honeydew, apricots, grapefruit (some dried fruits, such as prunes, raisins, and dates, are also high in potassium)
- Cooked spinach
- Cooked broccoli
- Sweet potatoes
- Leafy greens
Juice freshly-made from these potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is also effective.
Second, certain mental illnesses or mental conditions are accompanied by depression. Most notable is bipolar disorder. Before deciding to “lift” depression you feel, especially if it has persisted for a while, visit your doctor for a referral to a psychiatrist, to make sure you’re not wrestling with a powerful mental disorder that may require therapeutic help or medication.
The third cause of depression is the one I want to emphasize, particularly because you can have such an impact on releasing yourself from depression if you work with it yourself. A lot of depression is created by anger. Depression is seen as anger, turned inward on the self, which you are afraid you’ll get into trouble for expressing. Think on this. Consider that when you feel depressed, you’re really feeling angry about something, and holding that anger inside of you is creating the depressed state!
When I first encountered and worked with this definition, I couldn’t find anything in me that I felt afraid of getting into trouble for expressing. Further examination revealed this: it is often not a fear of getting into trouble for expressing the anger today, but is a fear I had as a child—that I would have gotten into trouble for expressing during my childhood!
Here’s an example. Years ago, I worked with a man who was plagued with depression. He was one of the nicest, kindest people ever. Exceptionally thoughtful and polite, he’d grown up in the Deep South. After a year of psychotherapeutic work together, he was living mostly depression-free; we were working to help him change damaging habits, instead. I left for a three-week vacation. When I returned, he was once again massively depressed!
“What happened? What could you feel angry about?” I inquired. Shortly before I left, a college roommate had contacted him, asking if he could stay a week with him, as part of a potential move to California. My client agreed to share his one-room apartment for that week. After nearly a month of sharing, the roommate showed no signs of departing. Of course, as a person from the Deep South, the man would not think of telling his guest to leave. In therapy, we created a kind way to ask the roommate to move. He left, immediately. My client came in for his next session, depression-free!
Getting depression to lift can be quite easy. When you notice you’re depressed, ask yourself: What could I possibly be angry about? Check all through your life and you will find something that will “click” for you—perhaps something you had no idea was angering you.
Once you find anger, do the “I’m Angry” exercise
Sit by yourself and repeat, in a cadence, “I’m angry, I’m angry, I’m angry.” Keep repeating until something comes to your mind. Say that aloud. “I’m angry that I have to take time from my day to deal with anger and depression.” Then, return to your repeated phrase. Keep going until you notice relief—the anger has departed, causing depression to lift!
Sometimes doing this exercise will cause you to feel even angrier. This is a sign that the anger is “old anger,” from your past. You can complete this anger on your own, but it’s usually better to get help from a therapist, coach or counselor. Old anger, held inside, has had the opportunity to grow in power. It can be a crafty adversary!
Most depression involves anger we could not recognize or express as children. Even with the other forms of depression, doing this exercise can offer relief. When you repeat the phrase, “I’m angry,” you Face Fact, i.e., look squarely at what is happening. Facing Fact sets us free. In this case, it will set you free from depression.
(Use this exercise with every emotion, such as hurt, jealousy or fear. Face the Fact of what you are—or might be—feeling, and you will soon feel better.)
For all of us, certain times of the year offer us more opportunity to become depressed than others. Holiday-times, such as Christmas or birthdays, are rife with opportunities for depression. We miss departed loved ones, don’t get treated the way we want, can’t find the presents we want to give, feel slighted in our interactions, run into old family patterns that have driven us mad for years, over-indulge, and burn the candle from both ends, leaving us tired and depleted. If this occurs in your life, you can recuperate from depression by looking for what might be angering to you and releasing it. The tool offered here will work for you during these particularly difficult times.
It’s my mission to show you how to become a Master of Emotions. My new book, Emotions in Motion: Mastering Life’s Built-in Navigation System, has more information, techniques and support for moving toward Emotional Mastery. Find it at my website emotionalmasteryforlife.com in September 2019.