Depression: The Brain's Way to Keep You Safe
We all get the blues in life, we have up times and down ties and it spreads across a continuum with some of us having extremely high ups in the form of mania and some with extreme lows in the form of major depression. One thing that we know about the lows is that no one is experiencing any pleasure, but that doesn’t mean the brain isn’t using depression as a way to keep us safe from a perceived danger.
There is the school of thought that at times depression can be the brain’s effort of shutting our systems down to avoid something it perceives to be much worse. If we’re weighed down we can’t go after those jobs so we get to avoid the risk of failure, or we can’t hang out with others so we get to avoid risk of rejection or shame, or maybe there’s a deep sense of unworthiness that arises in the face of love.
It’s a worthwhile thing to be curious about when we get depressed. Is there something that we’re benefiting from? Is there a good reason for our depression? Is there something we’re afraid of?
Whatever we find, we also know that one of the antidotes to depression is engaging in activities that provide some of the good in life whether that’s compassion, altruism, gratitude, or a caring embrace. Psychology professor from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Barbara Frederickson, Ph.D. has done research supporting her claim that improving positive emotions allows an individual to have a broadened sense of coping resources. This broadened sense of coping allows the person to take on more challenges, experience the feeling that s/he can do it (self efficacy), and therefore build more positive emotions. In essence, the spiral goes up.
So think about what has been a source of these good things in life to you in the past, or where the good has been in today! Create a practice of looking back on your day when putting your head on your pillow and trying to think of what things occurred today that were good.
Some days the list may be very short, others a bit longer.
As always, please share your thoughts, stories and questions below. Your interaction creates a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.