“Prevention is better than cure.”
These words are even more truer in mental health cases like depression.
Mental health issues like depression usually do not just happen. Even though it always seems so. The effects are mostly from events that would take time to grow until it eventually erupt suddenly like a volcano.
Our goal therefore should be on taking more preventive measures by being proactive in handling our emotions and any potential trigger to such issues before we become too helpless to act.
Since three weeks now, I have been discussing depression and some shared stories about it. See last week’s post here
As noteworthy as those lessons embedded in the stories are, nothing beats more effectively at combating depression than what we do before we get to that state of helplessness.
My focus today would be sharing one of the preventable methods that can help in proactively taking charge of our emotions before it goes out of hand.
Of the many wonders of this world, gratitude stands out to me as something too amazing that it can be almost indescribable because of its many profound results. But often sidelined for its simplicity.
If we are grateful for what we have, however small that might be, we may never have the time at complaining over what isn’t working so much as we usually do. This is not to make the issues around some of our life’s challenges seem like nothing. But it can help in reminding us of the little things that matters most which we often ignore until we are made to pay the bigger price.
Bad stuff happens to everybody. But some people are better at handling them. While others have argued about how this may be because of the way these people were wired biologically, which I do not entirely disregard, I also do agree that all of us do have a measure of control over our lives. We can within the space of the minutest control choose our response to issues – especially those challenges we do not have the total control over. Which, unfortunately, can be the more reasons for the frustrations often experienced prior to a depressive state.
Resilient people are not super made humans. No. not at all. They are humans like us who made up their minds they wanted the control button of their lives in their own hands. That decision guides how they usually bounce back from some very difficult times.
And one of the most powerful resilient attitude is GRATITUDE.
Being grateful helps our mental wellness. Because gratitude increases the quality of sleep. When we are thankful about our lives, circumstances, whether of those experienced, or of the ones we are still hopeful for, we tend to fall faster asleep – and deep too.
Since enough of sleep remedies anxiety, pains, stress, and depression, it means that gratitude may help us prevent depression before it take its toll on us, and cause us to lose sleep.
The naturally deep sleep from a grateful heart is possible because of the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is the part of the brain responsible for regulating our bodily functions such as sleep, appetite, temperature, growth and metabolism.
Scientific study has since proven that the hypothalamus is activated when we feel or express gratitude for something, or someone.
More so, feelings of gratitude can flood our brains with the “feel good” hormone, called dopamine. When we are grateful for something specific, or because of someone in particular, our brain becomes flooded with dopamine, making us feel good about ourselves. Talk about the natural high!
If we are conscious of these things about gratitude, we can use it to choose how we respond to issues, intentionally, until it becomes a habitual lifestyle of ours.
Part of gratitude, which is a very important aspect of it, is in being grateful for what we do not yet have. But which we hope for because of the steps we had taken at achieving those things.
Important here is that gratitude must be specific in order to be effective. It is not enough to be grateful. You should be able to specify what it is, or for who it is you are grateful for. That way, the brain works better at using gratitude to our advantage by being able to link it to something, or someone specific. That’s the way we can enjoy the euphoric feelings because of the thoughts about the specific thing, or someone.
How can you maximize this in preventing depression?
Since depression is a state of hopelessness and deep sadness, gratitude can help us prevent it by our hopeful disposition to life. That way, we do not have the space at feeding it to grow through negative emotions.
When things are down, don’t be down, yourself. Take the time to pause for some moments outside those events and think of it differently.
You know something I have since observed about life?
It is how the most terrible things may not turn out nearly as bad as we usually think of them.
When I lost my mother six years ago, it was a tough time for me. And even tougher for my family, especially for my dear dad, who’s now late too. It took me quite some time to actually accept the loss.
But you know what has happened since then?
I am more humane. I learnt from that fatal experience to value every moment I have with anyone; because you just never know when they’d be seen no more. I learnt to be present, and gift them with my presence.
This has given me more enriching relationships and deeper meaning to life. Death taught me something life never showed me. As painful as that death was, it has made me a better person, now.
What am I saying?
Time will eventually show you why some of those things had to happen. However, since that “revelation’ would most likely be in the future, take the lessons of the past events and learn from them. Use them to see how strong you are, and how much you have suffered worst cases, but bounced back successfully well.
Don’t allow the unfortunate event make you become resentful and bitter. Therein, lies the bait for the gradual sadness that can magnify into despondency, eventually.
Be grateful therefore.
Because in the end, we are stronger than the circumstances.
Remember the time things were really bad, and you thought you’d not come out alive? What happened, that you are still here, and doing better? But that challenge has since been over! Be grateful.
See what lessons you learnt; the new people you met because of that bad stuff? See how you now have a broader perspective to life? It wasn’t all that bad after all, was it?
This too shall pass, remember.
How about some of the new opportunities now springing up from the experiences in the past which didn’t look good at the time?
See! Be grateful.
Find something good in spite of the unfavourable situation at hand now. Let that spark of goodness you see because of your heart of gratitude hold you to fight until the full measures of the whole goodies is finally revealed in this seemingly bad challenge, too.
Then borrow into the future when that good would happen, and be grateful now. You know the way you worry about what might go wrong in the future? Turn the table around, and express some future thankfulness instead.
When things don’t go too good for you, choose your response. Choose to interpret the circumstances in a way that would leave you in a more empowering state to act. This is the attitude of the resilient souls.
We can do much more if we find the good in a thing than when we look for how bad it could be.
Be grateful: If you can’t find the reason to, create the reason.
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To your successfully evolving life.