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The Big BlueŚ..and how to rise above it?  05.09.2007

Life is …………….?

The way we answer this question is more important than many of us realise. Some say life is wonderful. Some say life is unfair. Others say life is like a rollercoaster ride. How would you answer this question? What does life mean to you?

The very answer to this question can have a huge impact on the quality of our life.

It is true that life is full of ups and downs. As Frank Sinatra's song 'That’s Life' goes: “One moment you are riding high in May, and the next moment you are shot down in flames.” We never know what tomorrow is going to bring. We do know that some people are happier more than others and that some people seem to cope with life’s challenges better than the rest. Why is that?

Depression is an ugly word which affects many people around the world. Ironically, in the 'lucky country' of Australia, we have one of the highest youth suicide rates and reportedly the highest use of anti-depression medication per capita in the world. Having worked with highly disadvantaged teenagers and the long-term unemployed (87% of which it is estimated suffer from depression) I have seen my fair share of people caught in the debilitating web that depression can cause. Like a fly being caught in a spider’s web, it can be very difficult for someone who is depressed, to break free from “the big blue” and rise above it.

The truth is life is not always fair. We do not have equal opportunity. We don’t all have genes which make it easy to stay taut, trim and terrific. We are not born with an equal amount of emotional and intellectual intelligence. We are not all born into functional, loving families either.

Some people are born with gross deformities; some are born into families where both parents are in gaol; some are born into a world of complete darkness because of a crippling eye disorder; others are born in a war-torn country where fear and violence rule supreme.

Regardless of our situation, we always have a choice. We can feel down and stay down because things are not the way we would like them to be or we can rise above it. After all, we don’t drown by falling in the water - we drown by staying there.

There are numerous people who have overcome depression, despite life being ‘grossly unfair.’ These 4 people I truly admire for their courage and determination.

  • Christopher Reeve – Many people would have given up on life when an accident left him a quadriplegic, needing a ventilator to survive. He chose to live. He chose to be an inspiration to others.
  • Oprah Winfrey – Sexually and physically abused at a young age, Oprah’s downward spiral included having a stillborn child at the age of 14. Her courage to overcome this and to make a difference has been something very special.
  • Helen Keller – A fever before the age of 2 meant she would never be able to see or hear anything. Her ability to rise above her tremendous obstacles is quite amazing. She finished a university degree and has inspired millions.
  • W Mitchell – 2 separate accidents left him with 70% burns to his body and left him a paraplegic as well. Now confined to a wheelchair, he is a brilliant motivational speaker and writer who travels the world with his message: ‘It’s not what happens to you, it’s what you do about it that matters’

The happiest people in life are not the ones where everything is hunky dory all the time. It is those who respond in a positive way to the many challenges that life throws at them. Oprah Winfrey once said it is through struggle that one finds strength. In other words, challenges in life are what enable us to learn and grow.

We might have multiple reasons to feel down. There are times when we feel like saying things like: “Why me? Why now? Why did this have to happen? It is not fair.” And most of the time it is not fair. However, this way of thinking does not help you feel good again. In fact, depression stems from a number of negative thoughts that have built up (a negative thought virus). It is what we allow ourselves to focus on and give our attention to that determines how we feel.

If you focus on how much better things used to be in the past and how unhappy you are now, naturally you will feel down. If you focussed on the fact that you can’t lose weight or that you don’t have enough money then again you will feel down. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We each have the power to choose what we focus our attention on. We have the power to choose our thoughts, which is the one of the greatest powers we possess. Therefore, we have the power to rise above depression.

Victor Frankl, whilst a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps, said that they could do whatever they wanted to his body, but he always had total control over his mind.

It isn’t rocket science. In fact, it is something that just about everyone already inherently knows. However, too few change their focus and thinking patterns to reflect a more positive and empowered existence. It is this positive mindset that has the power to avoid depression despite life circumstances.

Old conditioning and negative thoughts can continue to weigh us down – if we let them. A sick brother with cancer taught me that life is too short to stay in depressive states. The real truth is: No matter how bad things get, there are always people worse off in the world than we are. Being grateful for what you do have and focussing on the things you can do is a path towards happiness and fulfilment.

So here are some simple strategies on how to beat 'the big blue' and feel better:

  • Keep active – the more active you are, the harder it is for your thoughts to spiral into negativity.
  • Schedule time to see positive friends (if you don’t feel that you have many positive friends join a club, society or charity group to meet new people and make new friends)
  • Exercise – Daily exercise produces mood elevating hormones known as endorphins.
  • Control your thinking – A great way to gain control of your mind is to clear your mind of any thoughts for 10 – 20 minutes meditating each day.
  • Stop justifying depression – People say that they are depressed because it is genetic; it’s a chemical imbalance or any other version of the same theme. This is definitely true for some people -  it's not like people want to be depressed let's face it, . However, justifying it does not help you overcome it – in fact it tends to keep you there. If you change your thinking - you can take the power back and change your life. To start with take some small steps towards changing your thinking and gradually your mood will improve as you regain control. Remember, what you focus on grows.

I wish you the very best in beating the 'big blue.' Feel free to pass this on to anyone who you feel might benefit from its contents.  

“It is hard to see the sunshine when you are staring at the dark clouds.” Blake Beattie

Copyright www.blakebeattie.com 2007