Friday, March 24, 2006

Practical Spirituality—Dealing With Depression IIIB - By John Gilmore

In Practical Spirituality IIIA we discussed ways to improve your social life. We mainly focused on how you could find the right group of people. We explored choosing to interact with friends and peer groups with the right qualities, instead of just engaging with any group, especially those who considered themselves the in group. We also spoke of letting go of groups that might be damaging to your psyche. In this entry we will explore ways that you can use to prepare yourself to interact with you new found group. Are you a quiet contemplative person, or a shy person, are you a person with a lot of anger or one who is very confrontational? Does this get in you way sometimes?.

In our journal on Dealing With Anger, we addressed ways that you can change anger to a more positive and productive type of energy. You can stop being confrontational and become a loving person through the exercise of Tang Lin as described in that previous entry. Tang Lin can also be done to change fear and shyness. The main idea here, however, is that you can take control of your life and your behaviors. When you see a person that is very likeable and socially active, someone that you would like to be like, look at the way that they interact with other people.

Study their behavior; that person can be your model for behavior.

You will probably notice how relaxed they are. You will probably notice they have the gift to draw other people out in the conversation, and they know when to disclose information about themselves. In order to be this way you have to fully accept yourself. If you don’t think your own life is interesting you won’t say much about yourself. If you don’t think that other people’s lives are interesting you will talk too much about yourself and won’t allow them to say anything about their lives. I guess the main point in interacting with others, therefore, is to really care about the person with whom you are speaking and yourself.

You can work on doing things like smiling, practicing the behaviors that connect you with other people, and developing a more positive social aura. Here is something concrete that you can do. If you would like to say, increase the amount of time you smile, what you do first is take a baseline of the behavior. Try to be aware and notice when you are smiling. Take a small pad with you and make a check mark each time you smile. Do this for about 3 days to a week. You can even make a chart with the time of day on it, or the type of place you were in so that you can track that too. After you have completed this baseline take a look. You will probably be surprised at how little you smile.

Look for the places and circumstances when you were smiling and when you weren’t. Next you work at increasing your smiling behavior. Go in front of the mirror and smile daily. When you exercise, watch TV, or engage in any activity habitually, smile throughout the activity, even if it is something that is grueling and unpleasant.

Smile as much as you can purposely. Make a contract with yourself. Measure the baseline every week and give yourself something really great each week if you smile the right amount of times, or the right length of minutes per week, depending on your baseline and contract. Make yourself earn something that you really like to do, like going to the movies, or taking a walk at the beach. If you don’t get the right amount of smiles that week, don’t do it.

Smile, smile, smile, especially when you are in nervous situations. You can even set up a series of exercises, or meditations where you smile throughout the exercises. If you can learn to smile naturally through grueling exercises or during nervous experiences, when you first meet a person and you are a bit nervous, you will smile automatically.

As you do more meditation, if you are meditating, you will become more aware of the thoughts and feelings that rise up and create awkwardness in your relationships. You can then work to change those behaviors by recognizing them early, before they manifest themselves. Until then this is a good model to use, along with the meditation. This model can also be used to decrease behaviors too.

Meditation, however, is most crucial in taking control of your life. It may seem boring to you, or tiring, or difficult, but meditation is the medicine for the psyche and the soul. It is worth struggling in order to reach the place of peace that only meditation and prayer brings us too, especially if you have a tendency to move toward depression. Some psychologists think that depression comes as a result of a chemical imbalance. As long as you take you medication, they say, things will be all right.

Other psychologists think that depression comes as a result of horrible external situations, or because we have learned to be helpless and to give up on life. Some mystics and spiritual counselors think that depression comes from the fact that more attuned people realize what the world can be, but when they look around and see all the pain and the suffering that is created by human beings and have to live in that world themselves, they feel empty and trapped.

Depression, in this case, is a hunger for connection with the Divine.

Whatever you believe, these tips will be helpful. These articles come primarily from the mystic point of view. They are not meant to take the place of psychotherapy, but to compliment it. If they are not working for you, however, there is always help from mental health professionals. Do not discount them, because they do a great deal of work and depression can be a very serious problem.

In our next journal entry we will write our final article on depression. We will discuss how we can find the core of the problem and then begin to deal with it. Until then, keep going in and looking up, because the same beauty out there in the heavens is inside of you at the center of your own being.

Dr. J. W. Gilmore is a Writer, Spiritual Director, Anti-oppression Consultant and Wellness Consultant. He is a Certified Massage Therapist and Reflexologist, a Reiki Master Teacher, a Martial Arts Instructor and a Spiritual Coach living in Costa Rica. For our practical spirituality journal visit:

On Being Love´s Warrior: A Warrior´s Manual on Becoming the Compassionate Warrior Within, Dr. Kendall Ronin.

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