Monday, February 14, 2011

Breaking the Downward Spiral of Depression

Why do we sometimes find ourselves in a downward spiral of depression? Can it be prevented or at least interrupted and reversed? Tonight, while watching  Happiness by Design on Hope TV, I received some insight on what seems to be an epidemic of our times.

The moderator described the limbic system of the brain and its role in dictating our emotions. He explained how the thoughts we think originate in the frontal part of the brain, which is concerned with the emotions. When we think a thought, the frontal part of the brain sends it to the back of the limbic system, which "considers" that thought and sends back a response. This, in turn, increases the intensity of the original thought. That is relayed to the emotional center, where it intensifies even more, and so on. What we focus on creates a spiral of thinking and emotion. For example, if we watch a commercial of someone breaking into a house, a concern is raised in our mind, which is sent to our emotional center.  Before we know it, we might be convinced that someone is about to break into our house at any time.

The cycle of thoughts and emotions occurs with positive thoughts as well as negative thoughts. One suggestion the host gave for counteracting depression was to make a list of what we are thankful for. This exercise will stimulate that frontal part of the brain to send positive messages back to our emotional center and begin a spiral of good thoughts and emotions.

Hope is another factor in living life positively. The example was given of prisoners during World War II who thought they were going to be liberated by Christmas. When New Year's Day had come and gone,    some of them had died from hopelessness and despair. One prisoner who survived was asked what kept him hopeful. He answered that he had decided he needed to share his experience with the world and that motivated him to hold on.

As someone who once struggled with negative thinking, I have learned the importance of prayer and thankfulness to counteract depression. The information shared on Happiness by Design helped me understand the physiological connection between our thoughts and emotions and reminded me of the importance of focusing on the positive. I appreciate more than ever the words of Philippians 4: 6 - 8, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus...whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things." (NKJV)

                                                                                                              Laura Allen Nonemaker

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