How To Get Over Depression
Stop Setbacks From Draining Your Energy

How to get over depression  Caution! If your mental state causes serious problems in relationships with others, day-to-day work, or in social activities, you suffer from clinical depression. Clinical depression can improve only with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two. This website deals only with normal behavioral problems. 

Overcoming depression is about overcoming your primitive instincts. Scientists have uncovered the mechanisms of the lateral habenula, LHb, a pea sized organ in your brain, which manages these instincts in the context of depression. It assumes that mistaken enthusiasm caused your current misfortunes. To prevent you from making further mistakes, the LHb uses all the defeatist resources of your mind to question your competence, while diminishing your energy levels.

A major part of your inner resources are conspiring to convince you that your efforts are doomed.  Do not underestimate the hard work needed from you to bring back your mind to its normal state. You need to shift from a dismal lack of energy and motivation to a settled, open, energetic and reward seeking state of mind. You need to take 6 pivotal steps to overcome depression.

The first step is to understand the insidious mechanisms used by LHb. The second is to recognize the situation and decide to overcome it. The third is to still those negative emotions, which trouble you. The fourth is to uncover your untapped opportunities. The fifth step is to use mindfulness living to prevent desolate thoughts from pitching you into despair during your daily routines. The sixth step is to adopt a few breathing exercises to retain your balance. Even if you are under considerable stress, these 6 steps can gradually overcome your slide into depression.

  • Understand how LHb generates depression. 
  • Make a decision to get over depression. 
  • Come to terms with the troubling issues in your life. 
  • Discover your untapped opportunities. 
  • Use mindfulness to energize the routines in your life. 
  • Use breathing exercises to maintain vagal tone.

How to get over depression - Step 1 - Know Of LHb
Too much spirit and energy can cause an animal to ignore the presence of a predator, or consume poisoned food with gusto. The LHb was designed by nature to reduce your optimism, if you misjudged the reward value of your activities, or if you were expecting trouble. LHb activity makes your world view distorted. It subdues forebrain activity, blinding your view of your opportunities. The LHb also activates your negative emotions, escalating your vague fears into dismal emotions. You expect trouble. You feel scared even without a real threat. Your guilt emotion overcomes your common sense and punishes you with self criticism. Losses appear more probable.

Researchers discovered that LHb activity was directly related to a pessimistic view of life. When a monkey did not receive an expected reward, the activity of LHb neurons increased. So also, when there was an unexpected reward, LHb neurons became inhibited, automatically releasing dopamine and raising the energy and enthusiasm of the animal. By continually stimulating inhibition of the LHb, a patient, suffering from therapy-resistant, severe major depressive disorder, is reported to have achieved sustained remission of depressive symptoms.

The negative effects of LHb activity are
enhanced by a neural phenomenon, Long Term Potentiation  (LTP). Generally, a single pulse of a signal to the presynaptic neuron of the LHb will cause excitation, along with a subdued response, in its postsynaptic cells. But, when the negativity of LHb heightens, the postsynaptic cell will continue to be excited for long periods on receiving just a single pulse stimuli from the presynaptic cell. LHb will keep driving you deeper into depression even when it receives only faint negative signals. With even minor setbacks, LHb will cause every situation to appear disastrous.

How to get over depression - Step 2 - A Purpose
The second step is to understand that a simple purpose in life can help you overcome depression. The famed psychiatrist, Frankl has assisted thousands of suicidal patients around the world to return to normal life. He suggested that a simple decision to survive grants life energy. Having encountered the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps, he lived to narrate the dreaded moment, when a fellow prisoner ceased to struggle for life. Usually, the prisoner refused to go out on to the parade grounds. “He just lay there, hardly moving. No entreaties, no blows, no threats had any effect. He simply gave up. There he remained, lying in his own excreta, and nothing bothered him any more.” He had lost the energy for life. Such people died soon thereafter.

But, Frankl submitted that, despite the capricious torture and beatings, thousands of inmates still had the spirit to struggle against all odds to eke out a life. They had a purpose in life, whatever it was, which helped them to survive. But, these were not ambitious goals. It was just a hope of meeting a son after the war. Even a decision to harden oneself against suffering was a sufficient purpose. After the war, Frankl established the acceptance of a purpose in life as a major field in psychiatry. You may have become unhappy with your workplace, with the future possibilities of your career, or even with yourself. The second step in overcoming depression is to decide to overcome your pessimistic viewpoints. Make recovery a purpose in your life.


How to get over depression - Step 3 - Identify The Setbacks

Each setback in your life activates the LHb. Low self esteem, dissatisfaction and pessimism continually trigger negative impulses, which activates the LHb. This website suggests how such impulses can be overcome. Overcoming
low self-esteem will not make you an extrovert. But, all those troubling self doubts will not assail you at parties. When you overcome dissatisfaction, you will not be attacked by persistent messages of discontent. Pessimists wince with each negative turn in life. “It is all my fault.” “These things always happen to me.” “Why did this have to happen to me?” When you overcome pessimism, your mind will comfortably accept the usual setbacks in life. “What can I do now?” will become your response to such events,

Finally, to bring balance, use the
Self Improvement Plan
to list both the negatives in your life and the actions you can take. If you can do nothing about a difficulty, write down the consequences of failure. Putting down that inevitable possibility will make you realize that, whatever happens, the sun will rise again. The process will help you to come to terms with failure. As negative feedback to your LHb reduces, it will become quieter and the slide into depression will abate.

How to get over depression - Step 4 - Identify Opportunities
Depression shifts the goals of your mind to the fearful avoidance of problems. Actively oppose the LHb activity, which convinces you of troubles in the future. Begin a persistent search of your world for opportunities. Professor Wolfram Schultz discovered that it is the presence of a reward, which promotes the release of dopamine by neurons in the early reptilian (approach or withdraw) part of the human brain to the forebrain. Increased dopamine intensifies forebrain activity, bringing clarity to objectives, making the mind feel more energetic and elated. Heightened prefrontal activity also inhibits the LHb.

But, it is not the reward, but the expectation of a reward, which releases dopamine. Schultz noted that the release increases, if the reward is greater than what is expected. It continues only for the predicted time period, when a reward can be expected. The release reduces at the end of this period. The releases stop if the rewards have become a matter of routine. Moment by moment, your system needs to look forward to a reward to feel focused and energetic. But, it is not easy to find rewarding work. Even as you search, make your daily routines into rewarding tasks through mindfulness exercises.

How to get over depression - Step 5 - Mindfulness
The LHb reduces your energy and escalates your anxiety. Breathing becomes constricted and the chest tightens. Each small setback sends more glutamate and your mood dips. The heightened sense of dismay leads to increased expectation of future letdowns. While moods don't have specific signals, the triggered emotions indicate the moods. Normally, you are unconscious of this effect.  You can stop this autonomic action in its tracks through mindful self awareness. Learn to become aware of the setback-depression-chest tightening activity in your body, which finally dumps you into a pit with a distressing world view. Self awareness will change the nightmare into merely the unpleasant experience of a weight on your chest. Each act of self awareness will stop the escalation of your stress reactions.

While you attack the bouts of depressing impulses, which assail you, you can add interest to your daily routines by paying "mindful" attention to them. The average person may spend his time in one of six focus areas - sleep, human interaction, daily routines, meditation, problem solving and entertainment/satisfying curiosity. You sleep, interact with family, friends and colleagues, brush your teeth and eat your food, solve problems in the office, watch movies and read books. During all these activities, LHb will initiate negative emotions. Memories from the past, problems of the world and hopes for the future will distract you from your focus areas. Mindfulness exercises can free you from this distraction, help you to powerfully concentrate on “the now” and improve the quality of your life.

How to get over depression - Step 6 - Breathing
A poor state of the vagus nerve is also linked to depression, inflammation and heart attacks. Stress causes under-activity of your parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the presence of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA. Low GABA activity occurs in anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, epilepsy, and chronic pain. The vagus nerve is the command central for the parasympathetic system. It communicates the state of your viscera to the brain and signals your organs to “rest-and-digest” during times of safety. The mind opens to opportunities in the environment. As opposed to this, the sympathetic nervous system resorts to “fight-or-flight” responses, inhibiting reward seeking behavior.

In 1921, Otto Loewi discovered that stimulating the vagus nerve triggered the release of acetylcholine and GABA, lowering heart rate and blood pressure. Deep diaphragmatic breathing with a long, slow exhale stimulates the vagus nerve, shifts guidance to the habitual controls by the cerebellum, creating fluidity in thoughts and actions. Strength training, with an emphasis on a robust exhale, as you push the weight is also known to stimulate vagal tone.

A higher vagal tone index is linked to physical and psychological well-being. Well conditioned athletes have higher vagal tone. Healthy cardiac function is directly linked to stimulating the vagus nerve. Deep diaphragmatic breathing—with a long, slow exhale—is key to stimulating the vagus nerve and slowing heart rate and blood pressure. You can consciously tap the power of your vagus nerve simply by taking a few 
deep breaths with long exhales. Use breathing to reduce the LHb impact on the daily setbacks you face in life.

This page was last updated on 12.04.2016



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NEED MORE?

For my peace of mind, I earmarked 20 minutes for meditation on the terrace. With my eyes closed, I sense my hands on the chair and feel the numbness in my feet.

I feel my breath flowing through my nose, my throat, my chest and my stomach. I can hear the chirping of birds, the phut phut of auto rickshaws, the occasional roar of a truck and the insistent hooting of horns.

When I open my eyes, I see a pale moon over two hundred thousand miles away. I see the nuclear fires, blazing for millions of years in the pale globe of the setting sun. A star millions of miles away in space.

I can see green shoots coming up on a tree, watch the dives and swoops of birds, the great circles of the hawks and flocks of birds flying home for the night.

Diffused light from the sun reflects off a parrot on the tree and enters my eye through a pinhole opening. I sense the bustling mood of the bird, even though it is smaller than a drop of water in my eyes.

All these things are seen and felt by me in a few brief minutes. In the distance, is the head of a man seeming to be no bigger than a pea. Yet, that head too sees and feels such things. Ten million people in this great city see and feel in ten million ways.

My mind wanders to a misty view of postwar London; an exciting glimpse of Disneyland. An awed view of Tiananmen Square. The looming Himalayan ranges. My mind takes me to distant galaxies.

It carries me into the heart of millions of invisible neurons, where electrical charges flash thousands of times a second powering my contemplation. I see the campaigns of Julius Caesar and Alexander. I feel the longings of Jehangir.

Already my mind has taken me to palaces, battlefields and even the stars. And yet, the 20 minutes hang heavily on me. If I lost everything, but can just see and feel, in just a few brief minutes, my mind can travel the world, or imagine the cosmos.

Life has already blessed me with over twenty million waking minutes. I have an infinity of time on my hands. Have I a right to expect more from life?

COMMENT:
I really loved the self improvement plan post. Its great food for 
thought and the steps are actually actionable as compared to many other self help sites out there.
Joe Glen USA.

COMMENT:
As a clinical therapist, I have found your site very useful!
I love it. ...
Andrew Montgomery USA.