Transforming Depression – How Using Courage and Thinking Skills Can Ch…

Transforming Depression – How Using Courage and Thinking Skills Can Ch…

Mark Twain once said that “Life doesn’t consist so much of facts and events. Instead, it consists mainly of the storm of thoughts blowing endlessly by my mind”. What thoughts do we allow to blow by our minds? Some people feel like they do not have a choice when depressive, negative or intrusive thoughts arrive without invitation. It is our belief that we all have a choice in how we relate to our uninvited thoughts, emotions and pain. Most of us are simply doing what we have learned to do to survive dark moods, but we can also learn the tools to help us relate to them differently.

Neuroscientists have shown us by their research that we can truly rewire our brains. Traditionally it was thought that the brain was hard-wired and consequently the impact of accidents, strokes and other medical conditions were seen as long-lasting and untreatable. Now we know that the brain is truly malleable. Neuroscience calls it “neuroplasticity”, which method that our brains have the capability to form new neural pathways. For example, a stroke patient can be rehabilitated by another part of the brain which adapts by taking over the functioning for the affected limb. Dr Jill Bolte Taylor’s (a Brain Scientist herself) experienced of a stroke and by her amazing rehabilitation went on to proportion with people all over the world her courageous recovery course of action.

We can also rewire our brains by what we choose to focus on, what we tell ourselves, how we see ourselves and others. In this same context we can attempt to rewire our own brains. We all know that when we practice a sport or a musical instrument, we get better at it. The physical structure of the area of the brain responsible for the skill we practice truly changes. The more we practice, the more the brain changes and the better we become at each skill.

Although this is something we are very familiar with in such activities as sports or musical skills, it is not as easily recognisable in day to day thinking. For example, people who suffer from depression often consistently compare themselves to others resulting in negative feelings about themselves. They often only observe people who can do things better than themselves, hence their thinking results in a negative attitude about themselves. We all know that there are people who are better than us at many things, but some people forget that they are better at many things when compared to others.

If this sounds familiar, it is incumbent upon you to aim your brain to think more positively about yourself by consciously observing others who are not as competent as yourself in certain areas. In doing this, you will see how fortunate you are and how capable you are. Like learning any new skills however, you must use time on using your new skill. When you practice thinking constructively and positively, you develop a skill which can aim your mind to control your brain.

We can also apply this to children who have neurodevelopmental disorders. When we teach them new skills by repetition and rehearsal there are changes that occur in the functioning of the brain. Jeffrey Schwarz, author of The Mind and the Brain: Neuroplasticity and the strength of Mental Force, discovered that his patients were making lasting changes in their own neural pathways by actively focusing their attention away from negative behaviours and toward more positive ones. Norman Doidge author of The Brain that Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumphs from the Frontiers of the Brain Science, has many examples of how exceptional achievement involving courage, skill, or strengths can change brain rewiring. His book describes the used areas of the cortex growing disproportionately large. (E.g., a study of London cab drivers’ brains showed that they tended to have a larger hippocampus-important for navigation-and a study of violinists’ brains showed that the four fingering digits of the left hand get a disproportionate amount of neural space).

There has been much written about neuroplasticity. Sharon Begley discusses this form in relationship to the treatment of depression and for recovery from stroke and other traumas. Children, teens and adults can rewire their brains to decline and diminish their depression and fear to form new brain connections that guide them to joy, passion, well-being and accomplishment. It is helpful to visualize Mark Twain’s image of the wind blowing though the mind. One might extend his metaphor to see that we truly have the strength to change the weather forecast. We might focus on soft, warm tropical winds, emotional and voluminous clouds and sun that warms us and keeps us safe. We might imagine feeling vibrant and complete of exuberance like this turtle here swimming in the sunlit clear waters. In doing this we protect ourselves from harsh winds or tornadoes that might swirl and confuse us.

This course of action involves the imagination and our thoughts instead of the physical experience of improving a skill to change and enhance the way we think about ourselves. In other words, we are using internal stimuli instead of external stimuli to cause the changes. A known story of how powerful visualization can be is the story of Muhammad Ali when he fought and knocked out Sonny Liston and became the heavy-weight champion of the world. Muhammad Ali was quite young and although he was showing great talent, no one expected him to defeat such an experienced boxer at such an early age. When he was asked about what he thought helped him to unprotected to this momentous moment, he said that he had visualized himself winning, that he had boosted his own confidence by positive thinking and imagining himself strong and nimble in the ring with his “mind games”. Likewise, Olympic athletes often use just as much time visualizing their performance as they do practising. They know that we can aim the body by the mind, once again responding to internal stimuli in addition as external stimuli.

As we work on these new patterns in our minds, we are in a sense reinventing ourselves. We are working towards letting go of our old patterns and changing our direction towards something that opens up new worlds before us. If we don’t use the old negative connections in our brains, they will ultimately disappear from without of use. We can continue to use and develop those connections that rule us towards a healthier existence.

character provides a good example of turning something negative into something valuable. When a grain of sand gets inside an oyster’s shell, it causes irritation and pain. The oyster’s response is to form a protective inner of material to insulate tender tissue from the source of pain. The consequence is something beautiful, the pearl.

JK Rowling is a person who reinvented herself. She suffered from a harsh depression, and she has publicly stated that she has “never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. I went by a really rough time and I’m quite proud of the fact that I got out of that”. The characters that she wrote about in Harry Potter and The Prisoner Of Azkaban were called the “Dementors”. They were based on her dark feelings during her episodes of depression. They were dark hooded creatures that suck out their victims’ personalities by identifying their secret fears. She described her depression as a “numbness, coldness and an inability to believe you will feel happy again. All the colour drained out of life.” She turned to writing where she made a pearl out of her pain.

Prosocial Psychology sets provides many free articles on parenting. Visit our website to find out how we can help you use mindfulness skills in your parenting, help children with depression, and raise emotionally intelligent children.

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