Doesn’t that salad look good?
Last year I had the fortune of traveling to Marseille, France to work with some friends who are connected to a group that helps people who are relocating.
One night they took me to a local restaurant, La Crepe Au Carre', my friend said, “You have to eat this salad, it will change your life.” His comment threw me off a little because, I thought you go to a crepe place to eat crepes. He insisted that I try this salad, and I did.
Take a look at my image of it. It is a toasted brie and almond topped salad made with fresh, local greens, and local cheese. The dressing was reduced balsamic vinegar with a hint of strawberry. As the waiter placed the salad in front of me, a warm, sweet, aromatics of the dressing, the toasted cheese and almonds stimulated both my imagination and my appetite. As one of my old Georgia friends would say, "That looks almost to eat pretty.
Well, I ate it. And I consumed that delicious blend of cheese, nuts, and greens in a slow, deliberate manner. I felt like I had a Mardi Gras in my mouth. My friend's words were true; it did change my life. That wonderful evening of food and fellowship, a time of savoring food, and hearing about the work that God is doing in people's lives never gets old.
To savor something is to taste or smell it. It means to linger over or dwell on.
Having traveled a little bit in Turkey, Israel, Jordan, and France I get a little frustrated at how fast we live our lives in America. Fast food, constant connectivity, speed dating, always rushing. While I would never trade off the blessings of living in this great country, I am reminded, at least when I travel that there are times that we need to slow down. Times when we need to break bread with friends and family. Times when we can intentionally savor our relationship, our blessings, and yes, delicious food.
One of the easiest tools we use as we continue to look at ways to regain our vision and overcome depression is to savor pleasant memories; past answers to prayer; a meaningful Scripture verse; and positive, meaningful words spoken to you. When we purposely reflect and meditate on these types of good, positive things, our brains begin to move toward health.
Take a few moments and think about it.
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“Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings, see what God has done…” are words from a hymn I remember from my childhood while attending the First Baptist Church of Fort Valley. It is an old song with modern psychological and spiritual implications.
G.K Chesterton said, "Gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder."
“Can you see the holiness in those things you take for granted–a paved road or a washing machine? If you concentrate on finding what is good in every situation, you will discover that your life will suddenly be filled with gratitude, a feeling that nurtures the soul.” — Rabbi Harold Kushner
Gratitude makes your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event. In addition, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.
An exercise called the Gratitude Visit will help you experience relief from depression.
Close your eyes. Imagine the face of someone still alive who did something or said something that changed your life for the better. Got a face?
Your task is to write a letter (handwritten) to this individual and deliver it in person. The letter should be concrete and about three hundred words; be specific about what they did for you and how it affected your life.
Once you have completed the letter, call the person and let them know that you would like to visit them, but be vague about the purpose of the meeting. This type of exercise is more fun when it is a surprise. When you meet with the individual, take your time reading your letter. Notice their reactions as well as yours. If they interrupt you, gently tell them that you want them to listen until you are done. I promise you that you and the recipient will be much happier and less depressed.
Of course, if you cannot hand deliver the note, mail it, but follow up with a call.
Added Monday morning
My pastor, Todd Cook, Senior Pastor of Sagebrush Church in Albuquerque, shared a message Sunday on Psalm 90. One of the quotes I took away was, "If God leads you to it, he will lead you through it. Here is a link to the message, Boom Box if you want to hear it all. It was timely. Warning: this my be a little "out of the box" for you.
You can find this and more tips in my book Get a Grip on Depression. Obtain a personally autographed copy from me. In Albuquerque, you may pick up a copy at the Sagebrush Church bookstore, or order a copy through Amazon/Kindle.
Recapture Your Vision
Work on Balance
Businesses, life, and relationships that are vibrant and productive are powered by a vision. One of the keys to pushing back the negative, building relationship, expanding your business is to keep your balance.
Maintaining balance is critical to breaking the bonds of depression. When I ride a bicycle, which is a sight to behold, I am constantly trying to stay balanced. All of the small and large muscle groups work together to keep the bicycle and me in an upright position and going in the right direction. Balance takes work. You can begin attaining balance.
1. Break out of your rut.
a. Take 100 percent responsibility for yourself. You and I hold the keys that can unlock the lock and release the chains that hold us back.
b. Think, dream and write down how you will feel better in the future.
c. Move more – even a little bit of exercise has positive benefits.
d. Read books and listen to teaching and training that put good, healthy thoughts in your brain. Try more self-help and Christian living and less fiction.
2. Remember and repeat past joyful, fulfilling experiences. Begin by remembering, looking at photos, and reflecting on good things. Read through and work on the Experience Gratitude section.
3. Re-embrace your relationship with God. Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, and He specializes in working with people who feel messed up and disconnected. Take a moment; ask Him to draw you close. Then don’t be surprised when He does.
4. Don’t overplay the negative. Overthinking the past does little to improve it. The rest of this resource is designed to give you practical, biblical tools to help you move toward hope and a renewed sense of purpose and intentional living.
From Get a Grip on Depression, by John Thurman
By John Thurman
Reggie had struggled with his severe, recurrent depression and his ten-year battle with alcohol abuse. He consistently complained about how lonely he was but minimized how much he was drinking by himself. He tried church support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, going to the gym with friends, but each program seemed to fail miserably. Alcohol kept him from overcoming the isolation. Reggie eventually dealt with his addiction and then he began to recover from the depression.
Isolation is the double-edged sword of depression as it is both a cause and outcome. Isolation complicates depression in some people.Individuals begin drinking, gambling online, using pornography, or beginning other addictions to treat their depression.
So how do you move out of isolation?
For people with significant depression, the mere thought of getting out of the house can seem daunting. Here is an action plan that you can begin using today.
1. Connect Intentionally
Get up and get dressed. Go outside; take a walk. Let the sun kiss your cheeks. As you walk, observe people, children, and pets.
Nod your head and say, “Hi,” on purpose. The point is not to start a conversation but to make a brief moment of connection. Stepping out of your house or apartment and intentionally speaking are two fundamental ways of changing your perception. You will see that you are not a zombie-like presence in the world. Try this action plan daily.
2. Connect Online
Reaching out via email or some limited posting can be helpful in re-establishing contact with others. Be careful to safeguard your personal information and keep your expectations real. Start small.
3. Join a class, join a small group, or go to church.
In your community there are numerous organizations that center around a common goal. Perhaps you enjoy photography, sports, games, exercise, biking, writing, reading, poetry, animals, or genealogyThe connection with others will help relieve the pain of isolation.
4. Plan to Meet with One or More Persons.
As you connect with others, take a risk and invite one person to meet you at a local coffee shop or restaurant. When you arrive, smile, make eye contact, shake hands, and ask the person questions about his or her life. As you learn about and connect with others person, your feelings of isolation will go away.
Isolation is not your friend, but you can get trapped into being alone. Instead, embrace your responsibility to take action and push through isolation. #getagripondepression
From: Get a Grip on Depression by John Thurman pp 108-109.
Recapture Your Vision by Pushing Back Depression and Negative Thinking
Have any idea what this photo is? It is actually a hood ornament with clouds and sky in the background. Your perspective can mess with your head from time to time.
I love being an entrepreneur, it can be a bit chaotic at times, but one of the things that keep me going is vision. Whether you have a job, are self-employed, in school or involved in a vocational quest you need a vision. An idea of what you want to end up with when you have done the work.
I was reviewing some notes from reading I have done over the years and came across a great definition of vision. Hopefully, it will help you. You see, where there is no vision, no dream, no hope, there is little life. When you are depressed, the vision can become muddled.
Here is a definition: Vision is a precise, clearly defined goal with a detailed plan and timetable for achieving that result.
Just to be clear, you can have a vision for your business, your body, your relationships, your health, pretty much anything. One of the problems is that most people have wishes, but no vision-based plans.
When you lose that vision, the joy of living becomes replaced with the mere act of surviving or just getting by. You move from joy to subsistence to depression and ultimately to despair. Personally, I do not know anyone who aspires to despair.
The good news, gaining a clear picture, a vision of what you want and what you are willing to do to get it can be a tremendous energizer. Particularly if it honors the Lord and serves man.
So, if you are having “Vision Issues,” here are some things you can do to push back the negative thinking and depressive feelings,
One of the things that happens when we experience set back is a tendency to suffer from the “paralysis of analysis,” which can be a vision stealer.
Step Back from the Problem
When Thomas Edison felt stumped by a problem, he removed himself from the work area, lay down, and took a little nap. Years before the research on power napping was available, he understood the importance to stepping back from a problem to get a better perspective. Taking a break from the problem can lead to a fresh perspective.
There are ways to put this principle into practice.
1. Stop. Quit putting needless energy into solving a problem that isn’t getting solved. Dr. John Gottman, relationship expert, says that we need to focus on what is fixable, not on past failures.
2. Do something completely different. Choose to swim, go for a walk, take a break, call a friend, pray, read the Bible. It should be a repetitive activity that gets your undivided attention and absorbs, redirects, and gives you energy. Ten to twenty minutes is usually enough time to reset.
3. Observe what happens about the issue when you return your thoughts to it.
Here is a question for you. Are you caught up in the "paralysis of analysis" or are you Stepping Back from the Problem to clear your head? I would love to hear from you. #getagripondepression #AskJohnthurman
Push Back Depression Tip # 5: Re-energize
Depression is an energy eater. If you have ever struggled against depression, you know that it can suck the life right out of you. It drains your energy, heart, mind, body, and soul.
The good news is, you can fight back, and you do not have to let the darkness pull the life out of you.
One of the best ways to re-energize yourself is to monitor your mouth. Depressed people tend to talk depressed using sad words and sad tones--much like Eeyore.
Using negative language when you talk to yourself, especially when you consistently feel helpless and hopeless, is a sure-fire way to keep feeling depressed. Multiple studies on negative self-talk show how gloomy and unhelpful words and thoughts increase depression and anxiety. Making small changes in the way you verbalize can have an enormous, positive impact on the way you feel. And the best thing about this idea, it doesn’t cost a penny. Here is a couple of examples.
You can feel better if you drop the phrase “I can’t.” Instead, try saying, “I won’t.” This tiny shift in language, changing one four-letter word for another, can have a huge positive impact on your mood. Learn to say it loud and proud.
Instead of saying, “I can’t get out of bed,” say, “I won’t get up in the morning.”
“I can’t feel enthusiastic about my business,” becomes, “I won’t become enthusiastic about my business.”
These small shifts in your verbiage will have a powerful impact on how you feel. When you do this, you move from a position of impotence and powerlessness into choice, which opens up possibilities. When you make this subtle shift, what you are saying is, “My thoughts and my actions are under my control.” That is a powerful statement.
Proverbs 18:21a says “The tongue can bring death and life…” (NLT)
My challenge to you is to be intentional about re-energizing yourself with your words.
John is a Licensed Counselor, Speaker, Publish Author, and International Crisis Response Specialist who lives in Albuquerque.
Last summer I was in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a some training as a Crisis Response Specialist. I stayed over a couple of extra day to experience Lake Michigan. My friends told me to check out Grand Haven Beach and I did. What a delight to see people enjoying a day at the beach. Walking out to the light house I noticed a group of local teens jumping off the pier. They were having an absolute blast. You can check out some of my shots on my flickr account.
One thing was for certain, they were having a blast.
As we continue to look at ways to beat the blues, to push back depression, to overcome the negative things in
One of the practical things you can do to push back depression is to bump up your positive experiences
Sasha had been volunteering as the women’s ministry director in her church for the past three years. She led the ministry through the ups and downs including power struggles and emotional drama. She spent hours in prayer and in personal study. The other night she told her husband, Leo, that she thought she was done.
For the next half hour she cried, complained, and released all the frustrations that had built up. Leo was wise that night. He said, “Do you need a hug?” The next morning Sasha asked Leo what she should do. Once again he wisely said, “Call a couple of your girlfriends and go have some fun.”
She did. She and two of her girlfriends spent some Kohl’s bucks and then went to Starbucks.
One of the classic effects of depression is stealing your sense of pleasure. Without some pleasurable experiences woven into your life, you can descend into the dull grayness of depression.
Being intentional about having pleasurable experiences is one way to overcome the low motivation that can be a part of depression.
Here is one proven plan for boosting your pleasure.
1. Record every activity you do for the next three to five days.
2. Answer the following question for each activity: Was it pleasurable? Yes or No?
3. For each pleasurable activity, rate it from 1 to 10 -- 1 being the least pleasurable and 10 being the most.
Robin Williams’ memory, his acting, his stories and comedy sketches will live on through video clips and the internet. Hopefully, we will take some lessons from the loss of this extraordinary actor, comedian, and exceptional communicator.
Depression can be a quiet killer. It is a disorder that is widely experienced and yet few people seek treatment for it.
According to the CDC, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for all ages in 2010. The CDC report also states that there were 38,364 suicides in the U.S—an average of 105 each day.
In looking at gender issues, the same report stated that males are four times more likely than females to commit suicide, and represent 79% of all U.S., suicides.
While suicide prevention and intervention programs are a must, we can take better care of ourselves and others if we know how to push depression back.
The next several blogs will give you tools you can use to battle the blues, to push back depression. These concepts are found in my book Get a Grip on Depression. It is also available on Amazon/Kindle and can be ordered through your local bookstore.
Depression robs you by making you feel inadequate and worthless. As bad as robbery sounds, you and I always have choices in how we respond to what life throws at us.
Suggestion # 1 Stop saying bad things about yourself.
There is a great line from Kelly’s Heroes, a Clint Eastwood anti-warwar movie where Donald Sutherland’s character does an excellent job confronting the negative ways-check out this clip.
One of the things you can do for yourself is to focus on what you appreciate about your life, yourself, and your situation. While this is a simple concept, it may be a difficult task, particularly if you have been under the heaviness of depression. Part of getting better is to begin to stop speaking the nagging, negative thoughts that so easily slip into your mind when you are depressed.
In the place of negative thoughts and words, try noticing what you do appreciate about yourself. No matter how bad you feel, there are good things about you.
Try this assignment. Make a list of at least three things that you appreciate. Here are a few suggestions to consider adding to your list:
A good listener
A loyal friend
A fresh, warm chocolate chip cookie
The purpose of this exercise is to help you begin to push back the dark, consuming, negative thoughts and focus on the good around you.
I love the line from Kathryn Stockett’s book and movie The Help, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” These are keeper phrases because you are all of those and more. Here is the clip.
Monday, I will have the next tip for pushing back depression.
John is a licensed counselor with over 35,000 in the people helping business. He is also a speaker, author, and crisis response specialist.
Laughter, Joy, tenderness, and passion are things that come to mind when I think of Robin Williams. Another attribute I admired was his ability to be vulnerable. For years he talked about his struggle with addictions, depression, and open heart surgery.
He had struggled a great part of his adult life with a brain disorder which included severe depression, which in many cases co-exists with addictions. Even with treatment, support from friends and family and remarkably successful career, mental illness can still end up killing a person.
As a Christ follower, I have been somewhat discouraged by some of the “faith-based” blogs I have seen about suicide. As a seasoned professional, I have come to see that individuals who come to the edge of the black hole of suicide are not in their right mind. Isolation, depression, and hopelessness steal the individual of their ability to look forward to the possibilities of hope and relief. I believe in a God that is at His core Compassionate, one who weeps with those who weep, one who feels sadness, and one who mourns with those who mourn.
We need to respond to hurting friends, neighbors, and relative with compassion.
Here are some facts about suicide and depression. I trust that you will find this helpful.
The following is from my book Get a Grip on Depression:
Over 90% of people who commit suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental disorder. Many times, people who commit suicide have a substance abuse problem. Often they have that problem in combination with other mental disorders.
Adverse or traumatic life events in combination with other risk factors, such as clinical depression, may lead to death. But suicide and suicidal behaviors are never normal responses to stress.
Other risk factors for suicide include:
• One or more prior suicide attempts
• Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
• Family history of suicide
• Family violence
• Physical or sexual abuse
• Keeping firearms in the home
• Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
• Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
• Always talking or thinking about death
• Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
• Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
• Losing interest in things one used to care about
• Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
• Saying things like, “It would be better if I were nothere” or “I want out."
• Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
• Talking about suicide
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
• Prior suicide attempts (According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20 and 50% of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt)
What you can do if you have suicidal thoughts:
• Talk with trusted friends, family members, or others you respect who can assist you
• Talk with your doctor, mental health professional, or pastor. Many times, talking eases or removes suicidal urges. In some cases though, hospitalization is necessary until a sense of balance can be restored.
Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or a local hotline to speak with a crisis counselor.
John is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Speaker, and Author.
Here is an ancient thought that could provide encouragement.
Psalms 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.
Click this link for a Free Depression Test
My first recollection of the zany comedy of Robin Williams goes all the way back to his guest appearance as Mork on “Happy Days.” Over the years, I followed him mainly through television and then through his movies. I have to admit, I rarely missed his late night appearances on Jay Leno because I knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride.
He did touch millions of lives through his art, his kindness, and the multitude of characters he played throughout his career. There are thousands of tributes to him on the internet. As a result, many bloggers are talking about things individuals can do if they are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
This is where I want to jump in.
As a therapist with over 35 years of experience, I was thrown off guard when I heard the news of Robin Williams death. I began thinking about this three part series as a result of this incident and have thought long about what to say.
In following several blogs and conversations, I have only heard one commentary about some other possible issues that may have been going on William’s life. In addition to the impact of drug and alcohol abuse, which he’d been successfully treated for, and based on reports, he had maintained his sobriety, Williams had also had open heart surgery.
Dr. Drew Penski, in responding to the news of Williams death, reminded listeners that Williams had struggled with depression as well as the addiction issues. Penski reminded viewers that Williams had also undergone major heart surgery a few years ago. Dr. Drew spent several minutes talking about the psychological risks of having your chest opened up. He stated that for many people, this procedure, though life-saving can increase the chances of major depression. If someone is already “at risk” this surgery can make them even more prone to depression.
Williams had also been diagnosed with the Parkinson’s. This could have been another another factor that could have pushed him over the edge.
The loss of any life to suicide is tragic. Understanding depression, developing tools to help hurting people, and being present with friends in their tough times can go along way in helping people have hope and a future
My purpose in this three-part series is to look at what you and I can do for ourselves and for others who might be depressed or even suicidal.
I will close with a couple of important thoughts from two writer's
Andrea Lennon has some thoughtful reflections that I wanted to share:
Cliff Williams, author of a thoughtful article, "When Christians Contemplate Suicide", closes with a powerful reminder.
Philo of Alexandra wrote that we should always “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Everyone we meet is, indeed, fighting battles, many of the same battles, in fact, that suicidal people fight—difficult circumstances, mood swings, a sense of unworthiness, dejection. Some of the people we meet, including some of the people we know well, are fighting such big battles that they want to give up entirely. Our kindness can help them fight these battles. It can encourage them and strengthen them. It can save their lives.
My next blogs will focus on identifying depression, as well as practical tips you can use to push back depression.
Depression can be treated and symptoms managed. The National Suicide Hotline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.
John is Licensed Counselor, Speaker, and Author. His book, Get a Grip on Depression, is a faith-friendly guide to understanding depression. You may purchase this resource on Amazon/Kindle. To purchase an autographed copy directly from John, click here
John is a Counselor, Author, Speaker and Photographer that helps people "Get a Grip on Life."