Seven Ways To Avoid Depression

Notes on the Sunday address by Dr Francis Macnab, 18 October 2015.
By John Abbate.

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“Whenever I see a person struggling with their depression, and I see them discover a few tiny seeds of inspiration and hope, I’m amazed—I’m amazed that such possibilities walk around all of us, every day.”

There are many kinds of depression, each with its own symptoms and possible treatment options. For this address, Dr Macnab focussed not on the myriad diagnoses and treatments of depression, but on prevention. Why do some people struggle with depression all their lives, while others get over things quickly? What do we need to do to avoid depression?

Seven Things

  1. Develop a sense of harmony in yourself. An inner sense of harmony allows us to rise above the resentments and disappointments of life.
  2. Find ways to keep alive a good and secure sense of self. Strength of self helps to cope with the stresses of life and to neutralise the toxins that surround us; that can build up within us. Sustain good self-energy.
  3. Identify those things that make us feel good about ourselves. “It’s a mood issue. People have very little understanding of their own moods. […] Even among trained professionals, there is a strong acceptance that moods just happen to us, and very little commitment to the belief that moods can be controlled,” said Dr Macnab. Bear in mind that our mood states can be well-established, learned from early childhood, and any change is often resisted and resented.
  4. Two F’s:

F1: “We need to learn how to fence-off those feelings and behaviour that are waiting to join the cause of depression.” Fence-off anger, negative memories, and fear. Learn to keep those fences in good repair.

F2: Check your fantasy of the future; keep alive a positive view of the future—not just how long it will be, but also how enriching it can be.

  1. Cultivate effective support people that will sustain your belief in living a worthwhile life.
  2. According to the Canadian psychoanalyst Dr Norman Doidge, people are not mere passive objects on which depression plays havoc. “Each person can be encouraged to be more active in their self-management,” he wrote. We need to find ways to release the healing powers of the brain. Having a “valued therapeutic talker”—someone with a belief in that healing power of the brain—is a good start. Another way is to tap into the curative powers of art and good symbols, of “paint and poetry; statues, symphonies, stories and song.”
  3. Sustain contact with the comforts, consolations and stimulants of life. Some have suggested that music can function as a replacement for the rhythms, melodies and flow of the lost mother’s voice. “We can avoid depression by being in touch with the moods and melodies, the elevations and expansiveness, of the symbolic ‘good mother,’ discovered again and again in music,” said Dr Macnab. “We neutralise the poison by putting something good into the pot.”

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