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Forums / Staying well / Beating Depression the Vulcan way: With Logic.

Topic: Beating Depression the Vulcan way: With Logic.

6 posts, 0 answered
  1. zailleh
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    16 February 2015

    Please excuse the Star-Trek reference for those who don't like the show!

    I've been using a number tools to overcome depression, stemming from knowledge and understanding of how the human mind works and, essentially, "hacking" my brain into doing what I want. To begin with, there are some basic principles I'd like to highlight upon which my methods are based:

    1. Self-Fulfilling Profecies
    I first came to see this as a tool for hacking my brain when researching motivation. Self-fulfilling prophecies are very useful in terms of increased motivation and performance and can be used to help overcome fears and more.

     2. Turn it arround
    This concept is often used to help adjust negative thought patterns but this method has some specific ways in which you can apply the concept of turning it around.

    3. Data, data, data. 
    I don't have a reference for this, it's just something that I find that I need to do in order to actually make a difference to myself. I record everything I can think of.

     4. Using project management tools on your own mental health to set goals. See: 
    SMART criteria and SWOT analysis
    I was first exposed to these tools in my job and I realised that I can apply them to anything and everything. The benefit of using these tools begins with the simple fact that they make you think more deeply about your goals; that mere fact means you're more likely to succeed! (Also see point 1, Self-Fulfilling Prophecies)

    5. Reward yourself
    Reward system and Anhedonia
    This one is important; when you're depressed things are more difficult to do but you still see them as trivial, like taking a shower for example, so you tell yourself that it's not a big deal it was just taking a shower and then you make yourself feel worse by thinking that it was so hard for you to do such a trivial thing. Rewarding yourself means recognising that the task was difficult for you in your current situation and yet you did it anway, and this is an achievement worthy of celebration and reward. Choose your reward carefully so as to not become dependent on something (don't reward yourself with food, alcohol, cigarettes or anything else that has a negative health impact.)

    1. Self-Fulfilling Prophecies, an example:
    I pretty common self-fulfilling prophecy that I encounter is "I can't do it". Say I set out to go for a run first thing in the morning, that's my goal. In my depressed state I'm going to tell myself, "I can't do it". The problem here is that "I can't do it" comes with reasons why I can't do it. I'm hopeless. I'm a failure. I can't do anything. And thus, when I do fail to go for a run in the morning, I confirm my prophecy that I can't do it and, by proxy, all of the negative "facts" associated with it. I am hopeless; I couldn't go for a run this morning as was my goal, this is proof.  

    2. Instead, we need to "Turn it around":
    Start by asking yourself the questions; "Is it true?", If yes, "Can you know absolutely that it's true?", "How do you react and what happens when you believe that thought?" and "Who would you be without the thought?", then proceed to turn it around. "I can do it." Elaborate on why you CAN do it.

    3.Data, data, data.
    Write it all down. Write down all the thoughts and questions and answers associated with it. The act of writing it will help make it more real, additionally it will help to guide you as a reference. For example, I like to keep a table (I work in IT so I do most of my data on a computer) in Excel with all of the things that make me feel good about myself. I like to keep a list of all of my achievements. Write down my negative thoughts and my turn-arounds; but I don't just list them, I write down my thoughts. How does it make me feel? Why does it make me feel like that? I explore as deeply as I can all aspects of how I'm feeling and I find that I discover things about myself and my feelings that, often times, surprise the heck out of me.

    4. For bigger goals, I've started using project management tools to elaborate on my goals and help give me direction. For example, I want to start running in the mornings. I want to eventually run for 5km every morning. Combining the SMARTER and the SWOT helped me to identify my strengths, weaknesses, obstacles, what I actually want from it, my motivation and how I will actually know when I've succeeded. Most importantly, this knowledge then helps you get off the ground. Clearly it's an arduous task to suddenly one morning get up and run for 30 minutes every day. So how will I start? I'll just run around the block, it's 5 minute run, if that. Motivation? I'll involve my partner. If I don't get up to go for the run, she'll poke me and say hey, let's go -- just that little bit of extra help to get moving. I can come up with these things because I put thought into my goal and how I was going to achieve it. Again, writing all this down helps make it more real; 6 months down the track I can say that for certain I've reached my goal because I wrote it down. It's solid, it's concrete, it's rewarding to tick things off that list.

    5. Reward yourself.
    Finally, stop comparing yourself to everyone else. You wouldn't beat yourself up because you couldn't run as fast a Usain Bolt, especially if all you've ever done was jog on a treadmill for 20 minutes 3 times a week. It's an entirely different field; wait until you're on the track next to Usain Bold before you start comparing yourself to him. Realise that what's difficult for you is just that, difficult for you. If running for 20 minutes on a treadmill is difficult for you, it's an achievement when you do it, and even more so when you exceed it. So reward yourself for the small victories, give yourself a pat on the back, congratulate yourself on a job well done and move on to the next goal. Write it down as a victory!

    Extra: Be positive about things when you're writing them down even if you don't believe it at the time. Associate positive feelings with things. It can be another one of your goals to associate a positive feeling with everything that's good even if you don't necessarily feel it!  

    Disclaimer: Applying these things to yourself is obviously an individual thing and these things are all based on my own experience. Additionally, depending on where you're at with depression it can be a near impossible task to think of things logically like this; I still struggle to do it on my really bad days.


    7 people found this helpful
  2. Beltane
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    18 February 2015 in reply to zailleh
    Awesome thread and first post Zailleh! I'm really loving some of those ideas that you've put up!

    I cant go through every post cos i'll be here forever, but i loved each and every single idea. Each one had fantastic points, and i'm not sure you know this, but many are common therapy techniques used by actual therapists. For instance, the "recognition and reward" thing. You know, recognising each achievement, whether its showering or getting out of bed, and congratulating and rewarding yourself (instead of the opposite: beating yourself down all the time).

    Another good one is the "self-fulfilling prophecy". This was a massive thing for me when i was fighting severe panic attacks. I had fully bought into the beliefs like "if i go, i will have a panic attack. i will vomit in front o everyone, and i'll shake, and i'll feel awful and sick and sweaty, and everyone will think i'm stupid and silly". this took ages to fight, and i eventually beat it using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. I didnt like CBT because the therapist who did CBT with me was always trying to get me to debate the "i will have a panic attack" belief. But by that point i'd had panic attacks solidly in every conceivable situation for a good DECADE, there was literally no way i could debate the belief with something like "i wont have a panic attack" because, as i said to her, i always HAVE. There is no proof or data to make me think there is another possibility.

    Instead i switched therapists to someone who did ACT, which is more about accepting "ok yeah i might have a panic attack." the whole idea is that the fear of the panic just causes my anxiety, you end up in an anxiety spiral where you're anxious about being anxious about being anxious....". It was amazingly easier to just go "ok lets accept for now that i'll have a panic attack. What can i do WHEN i have the panic attack to make it more bearable. How about we learn some relaxation techniques, some coping skills, all that so if/ when the panic attack does happen, i'll be in a far better position to be able to deal with it.

    This strategy meant when i did panic, i eventually learned to deal with it. This reduced my fear of the panic attacks, because they were no longer these terrible awful things- i could deal with them. then gradually i the panic attacks just got less and less. now my panic attacks are so rare, and so mild, and so easily beaten. my techniques are so well-learned now it takes me mere minutes to get in control of a panic
    5 people found this helpful
  3. zailleh
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    18 February 2015 in reply to Beltane
    I just looked into ACT in more detail, it's amazing. In fact, it's quite funny because it's so similar to so many spiritual/enlightenment kind of principles. The first example that comes to mind is a guy by the name of Eckhart Tolle and, in particular his book "The Power of Now"; it's all about living in the present, being aware of your thoughts but not letting them control you - just acknowledging them and moving on.

    I'm definitely going to look into ACT some more on my own, see if I can develop some tools using what I already know to help achieve the principles of ACT.

    At the moment I'm working with my psychologist on identifying thoughts/behaviours; we've only had two sessions so far, so I'll talk to her about this as well.

    Thanks for sharing your experience, Beltane!
    1 person found this helpful
  4. JessF
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    19 February 2015 in reply to zailleh

    I'll chip in an say that I have found the ACT techniques to be the most useful for me too. It felt to me like accepting the evidence of things that are happening, rather than trying to 'wish' it away, which I think CBT can sometimes trap you into, even if that isn't how it's supposed to work. Maybe I just found ACT easier to work with, because I like to think of myself as one of those logical, pragmatic people too. (I don't have pointed ears though)

    I eagerly await your next post Zailleh, which I hope will be Beating Depression The Doctor Who Way!

    2 people found this helpful
  5. Beltane
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    19 February 2015 in reply to zailleh

    yes Zailleh!!! i found it very akin to some spiritual ideas, particular Buddhism. Buddhism has a philosophy something like "suffering is part of human nature, it is how we related to the suffering the affects us"

    I've fallen in love with ACT, infact i just went and brought a lovely new physical copy of "The Happiness Trap" by Dr Russ Harris, i love love love this book... I also have a lovely copy of "Opening the Door of Your Heart- and other Buddhist Tales of Happiness" by a Buddhist monk called Ajahn Brahm. Its not a therapy book but its full of such amazing, thought-provoking and moving stories I love it....
    I'm quite a fan of Buddhism, which must be why i love ACT so much.

    I did CBT for 2 years and felt like it just got me more stuck into trying to, as Jess said, "wish" my depressive/ anxious thoughts away.
    The psychs would ask questions like "but what proof do you have that you'll have a panic attack" or "is the depressive thought true or false"? It just didnt work for me, because i either constantly debated myself, or tried to talk myself out of my emotions. I often felt like i was lying to myself, trying to tell myself that i wouldnt panic, when i'd had a VERY SEVERE panic disorder for my entire 27 years of life. 27 YEARS. I literally didnt understand what life was like without anxiety!!

    I literally, no joke, cried with relief when my new psychologist told me about ACT. I thought, thankyou! Im sick of trying to debate or wish away my emotions, lets just accept my thoughts and emotions for what they are and just deal with them.

    ACT doesnt ask if our thoughts are true or false, or realistic or unrealistic. It only asks if thoughts are HELPFUL. We are taught to think more helpful thoughts, to find solutions to our barriers so that we can achieve our goals. We focus on self-compassion, self-forgiveness, celebrating our achievements and sucesses no matter how "small" we might think them.
    Instead of debating, ignoring or arguing distressing thoughts, we are taught instead to "diffuse" their power. Basically see them for what they are- are though, and not a helpful thought. We acknowledge and thank the thought, and then think a more helpful though. If the distressing though continues, we continue to simply acknowledge it, diffuse it, and work on the helpful thought
    ACT was my life saver, its my miracle, i have lots of ACT apps on my iPhone (ACT Companion; ACTCoach, and a set of ACT apps by a company called SomatIQ called things like ACT: Context, ACT: Values etc).

    3 people found this helpful
  6. zailleh
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    20 February 2015 in reply to JessF

    Hey Jess!

    I'm not sure that I could come up with any realistic content for defeating depression the doctor who way; sonic screw drivers and time travel don't lend themselves to realistic solutions. Hahaha.

    I was going to add though that I've found that using OneNote through Microsoft OneDrive to be a helpful way to keep track of how i'm going, lists, thoughts, goals etc. You can get OneNote for mobile or use the online version on the computer so I can take my notes with me anywhere and update them any time. It's been quite useful for keeping track of everything that I've got to remember to do to keep myself on track; it's a lot of work when it's not all automatic behaviour, but it's definitely helping!

    1 person found this helpful

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