In my book Harnessing Hope I describe a number of strategies which can lift our mood and counter depression. These are arranged under the headings Body, Mind, Spirit as a reminder that we need to attend to each of these areas to maintain balance in life.
Depression can be very isolating. The low self-esteem and loss of motivation that are a significant part of depression can limit contact with others and harm relationships. Feelings of loneliness and abandonment increase depression, which increases isolation, creating a miserable trap.
The following excerpt is from Chapter Seven Spirit: what connects us. A good definition of 'spirit' is 'compassionate connection.' Here are some ideas for reconnecting with the wider world and those around us.
Being mindful, grateful, compassionate and awake will naturally bring connection with the present moment, with nature and with others. Connection with nature can be felt in any environment: walking in a garden, a park, the hills or on a beach, enjoying the company of a pet, tending a house plant. Sitting under a tree to look up through the branches or watching the clouds move across the sky can be calming. If possible, taking a whole day out in the natural world, perhaps hiking or paddling a canoe, lets stress fall away.
Animals can show us how to live in the moment and to truly relax between bursts of activity. Birds in a garden or forest charm us with their graceful movements and lovely song as well as that enviable ability to fly. Farm animals have a social life that is intriguing to observe. Watching fish in a tank or a pond can help us relax. Finding a way to connect with nature reminds as that we are part of the natural world in which processes are working as they should and the cycle of life carries on whether or not we are worrying and striving. A sense of being part of the bigger picture can, at its miraculous best, be a deeply spiritual experience. In an everyday, simple way it can be relaxing and comforting.
Connecting with other human beings is essential for us because we are social creatures whose big brains developed to interact and remember others, filing away their personal details and other relationships. One way to stave off dementia is to meet new people and keep our brains active in this way.
In order to make connections with people we need to reach out and speak with them. In a small way this can happen by greeting the people we see in our daily routine and exchanging a sentence or two. A comment about the weather as I check out my groceries can be a very easy way of finding common ground because we are all experiencing the same thing.
Closer connections come from spending longer together and having more detailed conversations: sharing our feelings with someone trustworthy, talking about hopes and dreams with a partner, planning activities with a friend and enjoying the shared experience both at the time and recalling it later.
It is important to be able to accept help. If I confide in close friends, they may want to do something to show they care. I need to be willing to accept their offer gracefully — it will give them an opportunity to connect and give me a chance to experience gratitude.