Push Back Depression: Tip # 2

Picture

Bear Canyon Bicycle/Pedestrian Bridge (c) 2013 John Thurman

The Second Tip for Pushing Back Depression is:

Quit Comparing

Depression, by its nature, fogs up your sense of self. When you are struggling in the negative swill of depression, it can be easy to find other people who are doing better in nearly every area of life. 

For just a moment, I am going to reach way back into the vault and link you to a clip that is so old, you can probably find it on the RFD Channel, no offense to my farming and ranching buddies. It is a clip from a segment of Hee Haw which is an interesting look into how we can get caught up in the game of comparison when we are depressed. Give a 26 second listen to Gloom, Despair, and Agony

To combat this darkness, you stop comparing yourself to others. There will always be someone with better looks, more money, and greater status than you, but you do not have to be sucked into the trap of comparison. 

Instead, choose to catch yourself the next time you begin to compare yourself to others. When one of those comparative thoughts starts, stop it, and replace it with one or two positive things about yourself.

Be deliberate about noticing what is good. “And now dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8 NLT).

A new friend of mine, Holley Gerth has some comforting thoughts in her blog, When You’re Tempted to Compare.

1 of 7 Things You Can Do to Push Back Depression

Picture

Robin Williams entertaining troops in 2003

Robin Williams’ memory, his acting, his stories and comedy sketches will live on through video clips and the internet. Hopefully, we will take some lessons from the loss of this extraordinary actor, comedian, and exceptional communicator.

Depression can be a quiet killer. It is a disorder that is widely experienced and yet few people seek treatment for it. 

According to the CDC, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death for all ages in 2010. The CDC report also states that there were 38,364 suicides in the U.S—an average of 105 each day. 

In looking at gender issues, the same report stated that males are four times more likely than females to commit suicide, and represent 79% of all U.S., suicides. 

While suicide prevention and intervention programs are a must, we can take better care of ourselves and others if we know how to push depression back.

The next several blogs will give you tools you can use to battle the blues, to push back depression. These concepts are found in my book Get a Grip on Depression. It is also available on Amazon/Kindle and can be ordered through your local bookstore.

Depression robs you by making you feel inadequate and worthless. As bad as robbery sounds, you and I always have choices in how we respond to what life throws at us.

Suggestion # 1 Stop saying bad things about yourself. 

There is a great line from Kelly’s Heroes, a Clint Eastwood anti-warwar movie where Donald Sutherland’s character does an excellent job confronting the negative ways-check out this clip.

One of the things you can do for yourself is to focus on what you appreciate about your life, yourself, and your situation. While this is a simple concept, it may be a difficult task, particularly if you have been under the heaviness of depression. Part of getting better is to begin to stop speaking the nagging, negative thoughts that so easily slip into your mind when you are depressed.

In the place of negative thoughts and words, try noticing what you do appreciate about yourself. No matter how bad you feel, there are good things about you.

Try this assignment. Make a list of at least three things that you appreciate. Here are a few suggestions to consider adding to your list:
A good listener
A loyal friend
A fresh, warm chocolate chip cookie

The purpose of this exercise is to help you begin to push back the dark, consuming, negative thoughts and focus on the good around you.

I love the line from Kathryn Stockett’s book and movie  The Help, “You is smart. You is kind. You is important.” These are keeper phrases because you are all of those and more. Here is the clip.
Monday, I will have the next tip for pushing back depression.

John is a licensed counselor with over 35,000 in the people helping business. He is also a speaker, author, and crisis response specialist.

Thoughts about Robin Williams Part #2 


Laughter, Joy, tenderness, and passion are things that come to mind when I think of Robin Williams. Another attribute I admired was his ability to be vulnerable. For years he talked about his struggle with addictions, depression, and open heart surgery.

He had struggled a great part of his adult life with a brain disorder which included severe depression, which in many cases co-exists with addictions. Even with treatment, support from friends and family and remarkably successful career, mental illness can still end up killing a person.

As a Christ follower, I have been somewhat discouraged by some of the “faith-based” blogs I have seen about suicide. As a seasoned professional, I have come to see that individuals who come to the edge of the black hole of suicide are not in their right mind. Isolation, depression, and hopelessness steal the individual of their ability to look forward to the possibilities of hope and relief. I believe in a God that is at His core Compassionate, one who weeps with those who weep, one who feels sadness, and one who mourns with those who mourn. 

We need to respond to hurting friends, neighbors, and relative with compassion.

Here are some facts about suicide and depression. I trust that you will find this helpful.

The following is from my book Get a Grip on Depression:

Over 90% of people who commit suicide have clinical depression or another diagnosable mental disorder. Many times, people who commit suicide have a substance abuse problem. Often they have that problem in combination with other mental disorders.

Adverse or traumatic life events in combination with other risk factors, such as clinical depression, may lead to death. But suicide and suicidal behaviors are never normal responses to stress.

Other risk factors for suicide include:
• One or more prior suicide attempts
• Family history of mental disorder or substance abuse
• Family history of suicide
• Family violence
• Physical or sexual abuse
• Keeping firearms in the home
• Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
• Incarceration
• Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others

Warning signs that someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide include:
• Always talking or thinking about death
• Clinical depression (deep sadness, loss of interest, trouble sleeping and eating) that gets worse
• Having a “death wish,” tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death, such as driving fast or running red lights
• Losing interest in things one used to care about
• Making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless
• Putting affairs in order, tying up loose ends, changing a will
• Saying things like, “It would be better if I were nothere” or “I want out.”
• Sudden, unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy
• Talking about suicide
• Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
• Prior suicide attempts (According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, between 20 and 50% of people who commit suicide have had a previous attempt)

What you can do if you have suicidal thoughts:
• Talk with trusted friends, family members, or others you respect who can assist you
• Talk with your doctor, mental health professional, or pastor. Many times, talking eases or removes suicidal urges. In some cases though, hospitalization is necessary until a sense of balance can be restored.

Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or a local hotline to speak with a crisis counselor.

John is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Speaker, and Author.

Here is an ancient thought that could provide encouragement.

Psalms 40:1-3 I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.

Click this link for a Free Depression Test

Thoughts About Robin William’s Life.


My first recollection of the zany comedy of Robin Williams goes all the way back to his guest appearance as Mork on “Happy Days.” Over the years, I followed him mainly through television and then through his movies. I have to admit, I rarely missed his late night appearances on Jay Leno because I knew it was going to be a roller coaster ride. 

He did touch millions of lives through his art, his kindness, and the multitude of characters he played throughout his career. There are thousands of tributes to him on the internet. As a result, many bloggers are talking about things individuals can do if they are struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts.
  
This is where I want to jump in.
As a therapist with over 35 years of experience, I was thrown off guard when I heard the news of Robin Williams death. I began thinking about this three part series as a result of this incident and have thought long about what to say.
 
In following several blogs and conversations, I have only heard one commentary about some other possible issues that may have been going on William’s life. In addition to the impact of drug and alcohol abuse, which he’d been successfully treated for, and based on reports, he had maintained his sobriety, Williams had also had open heart surgery.
  
Dr. Drew Penski, in responding to the news of Williams death, reminded listeners that Williams had struggled with depression as well as the addiction issues. Penski reminded viewers that Williams had also undergone major heart surgery a few years ago. Dr. Drew spent several minutes talking about the psychological risks of having your chest opened up. He stated that for many people, this procedure, though life-saving can increase the chances of major depression. If someone is already “at risk” this surgery can make them even more prone to depression.
Williams had also been diagnosed with the Parkinson’s. This could have been another another factor that could have pushed him over the edge.
 
The loss of any life to suicide is tragic. Understanding depression, developing tools to help hurting people, and being present with friends in their tough times can go along way in helping people have hope and a future

My purpose in this three-part series is to look at what you and I can do for ourselves and for others who might be depressed or even suicidal.
I will close with a couple of important thoughts from two writer’s
Andrea Lennon has some thoughtful reflections that I wanted to share:

  1. Everyone has a struggle. 
  2. Our words matter. As wise man once said, when you go into a situation that is full of grief and pain, pray twice and speak once.  

Cliff Williams, author of a thoughtful article, “When Christians Contemplate Suicide”,  closes with a powerful reminder.

Philo of Alexandra wrote that we should always “be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” Everyone we meet is, indeed, fighting battles, many of the same battles, in fact, that suicidal people fight—difficult circumstances, mood swings, a sense of unworthiness, dejection. Some of the people we meet, including some of the people we know well, are fighting such big battles that they want to give up entirely. Our kindness can help them fight these battles. It can encourage them and strengthen them. It can save their lives.

My next blogs will focus on identifying depression, as well as practical tips you can use to push back depression.

Depression can be treated and symptoms managed. The National Suicide Hotline phone number is 1-800-273-8255.

John is Licensed Counselor, Speaker, and Author. His book,  Get a Grip on Depression, is a faith-friendly guide to understanding depression. You may purchase this resource on Amazon/Kindle. To purchase an autographed copy directly from John, click here


10 Steps for Surving a Rough and Tumble World: Part #3


This is the third and final blog of the 10 steps for Surviving a Rough and Tumble world. Here is a quick review of the first seven.

1. Practice optimism.
2. Find a resiliency model.
3. Develop a moral compass and unbreakable beliefs.
4. Practice generosity and kindness.
5. Develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility.
6. Face your fears and learn to control negative emotions.
7. Build an ever-expanding tool chest of active coping skills to manage stress
  

8. Establish and maintain a supportive social network to help you.

Dr. George Bonanno’s research, in his book The Other Side of Sadness, points out one of the ways that people and cultures move beyond trauma, depression and other life events is through community, family, and other networks of people that give us courage, motivation, and shared history to move forward. His research also reveal how important family, friends, and community are in dealing with depression. Learn more about this is my book, Get a Grip on Depression. 

Hebrews 10:23-25 – “Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now…(NLT)

9.  Stay physically fit. One I need to work on. Dr. Oz suggests starting out with walking 30 minutes a day. It is a start.

1 Corinthians 6:19 – 20 – “Don’t you realize that your bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body.” (NLT)

10.  Laugh deep and often

Whether it be some “Old School Comedy” like the Three Stooges or more modern comedians like Steve Harvey or Robin Williams, be sure to find something or someone that can help you keep life on the light side. 

As sad as the loss of Robin Williams is, his humor and zany impressions, and his care for people will live on through the volume of work that he created over his life. 

Proverbs 17:22 – “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” (NLT)

Author Ben Sherwood, The Survivors Club, was surprised when Dr. Charney shared the most-surprising insight of his career is “the hidden capacity most people to rebound from adversity.” 

One ancient Latin phrase says it best, Plus estem voius.” There is more in you than you know. Lean into life today.

My next three part series will include some thoughts about depression in men, Robin Williams, and practical things you can do to help someone who is struggling with depression.

10 Steps for Surviving a Rough and Tumble World: Part # 2

Picture

(c) 2014 John Thurman

As I begin this installment of 10 Steps, I wanted to let you know that on I will send out the third installment of 10 Steps Thursday evening and the next three to four blogs will be be very focused on depression, and things you can do to help yourself and others get better. Growing up watching  Robin Williams, I am 62 and he was 63, it was very sad to hear about his suicide. While I strongly disagree with how some media outlets went into the gory details of his death. This sad story reminds us of the power of depression. The blogs will not be negative, but will contain principles out of my book, Get a Grip on Depression and out of 35 years of counseling.

Now back to the 10- Steps for surviving, which by the way, are key to pushing back depression and moving forward in life.

4.  Practice generosity and kindness – unselfish concern for others, being kind-hearted, philanthropic.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (NLT)

5.  Develop acceptance and cognitive flexibility, meaning the ability to learn and adapt your knowledge and thinking to new situations.

The Apostle Paul illustrated the importance of this principle in Romans 8:38-39.
“I’m convinced that nothing-living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable-absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” (The Message)

6.  Face your fears and learn to control negative emotions.

2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (NLT)

Philippians 4:6-8 – “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus…Fix your thoughts on what is true, honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (NLT)

7.  Build an ever-expanding tool chest of active coping skills to manage stress.

2 Peter 1:5-7 – “So don’t lose a minute in building on what you’ve been given, complementing your basic faith with good character, spiritual understanding, alert discipline, passionate patience, reverent wonder, warm friendliness, and generous love, each dimension fitting into and developing others. With these qualities active and growing in your lives, no grass will grow under your feet, and no day will pass without its reward as you mature in the experience of our Master Jesus.” (The Message)

I’d love to hear what you think. Feel free to comment.

10 Steps to Surviving a Rough and Tumble World: Part # 1

(c) 2014 John Thurman
By John H. Thurman Jr., M.Div., M.A. Adapted from The Survivor’s Guide, by Ben Sherwood

Ever wondered what you can do to increase your odds of winning the race of life?

Dr. Dennis Charney is the dean of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. The fifty-eight-year old is the king of resilient studies in North America. In his years of research and collaboration, he has developed what he calls the Resiliency Prescription. Here is a brief outline of it, as well as some scriptures that support his points.

1.  Practice optimism – some people are “born optimists,” others are “trained optimists.” You would think this would be a no-brainer for people of faith. Studies show… The key is to stay positive and hopeful while confronting the reality of a given situation.

Try this little test, take a quick look at this domain name:

www.opportunityisnowhere.com  (This is not a real website.)

What did you see? When some people look at this web address, they feel like someone had thrown a wet blanket on them: Opportunity is nowhere. But others see the exact opposite: Opportunity is now here. 

This is not being a “Pollyanna,” but is being in a state of mind—a way of thinking and behaving.

The Scripture refers to faith, which can be interpreted as practiced optimism.

Hebrews 11:1 says, “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives assurance about things we cannot see.” (NLT)

2.  Find a resiliency role model – someone who as done it. It can be a biblical character, a historical figure, or someone you look up to.

Once again there are countless illustrations of this principle in the Bible, but the one reference that gives us a short, but focused list is Hebrews 11:3-12:2.

In this portion of Scripture we read of the faith and resiliency of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Rahab, and Jesus. These are all exceptional resiliency models, stories of individuals who overcame significant obstacles to glorify God and others.

3.  Develop a moral compass and unbreakable beliefs. The Bible is the ultimate source of truth, and the Ten Commandments are not the Ten Suggestions. It is important to have a solid rock for your belief system.

Joshua 1:7-8 has been a favorite verse of Scripture for millions of Jews and Christians for thousands of years and best summed up the importance of having a moral compass and unbreakable beliefs.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning to the right or left. Then you will be successful in all that you do. Study this book of instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all that you do.” (NLT)

Faith is the most-important part of this. It means that you are learning to trust that God has a plan for your life and will look after you. You have a growing belief that a power bigger than you will guide you through the storms of life. You are learning to see the Lord as an active participant in your life.

Be looking for Part 2 on Wednesday. 

Shades of Grey, Shades of Love: 4 Ways to Cultivate Romance

Sex Begins in the Kitchen is a fun and informative book that my friend Dr. Kevin Leman wrote several years ago. His second book on marital intimacy is called Sheet Music. Both of which are still in print. I encourage couples to add these books to their reading list. Kevin has an uncanny ability to communicate in a clear and fun way about crucial things. Years ago he and I shared the microphone on national radio show called Parent Talk. It seemed that whenever he and I were on the show the topic of sexuality came up.

I mention that because physical intimacy consistently stays in the “Top 5,” concerns of marital conflict.

As you and I continue to move through Shades of Love, I want to give you some tips that will improve physical intimacy. “Quantity” is the most frequent complaint that counselors hear. Unfortunately, couples often define their physical relationship in terms of “the count.” How often do we have it? How many times did one or the other reach orgasm? How much foreplay was there? How long did it last?”

It’s sad that we haven taken the beauty of lovemaking and reduced it to numbers. Some couples make it worse by attempting to negotiate the numbers, comparing their numbers with the “average couple,” whatever that is, or agreeing to trade physical intimacy for help with cleaning the dishes.

Here are some proven tips to improve your intimacy:

1.    Add some variety to your lovemaking. Some of us are too restrictive. Change the locations, times of day, or the lighting. Try some candles, new perfumes, or aftershaves. Put on some different music.

2.    Vary your routine. I did a Google™ search on, “how many ways you can cook a potato”, and the search came up with thirteen different ways. Amazing! If you can cook a potato that many different ways, you can be equally creative in finding ways  to share physical intimacy with your partner. A nice full body massage is nice. And don’t forget the shower.

3.    Communicate more openly. Don’t let intimacy become a guessing game. Two physically different individuals with unique personalities, life histories, backgrounds, preferences, and hangs ups must learn to talk openly about intimacy. Be careful about making assumptions. It is fine to have these conversations because communication will directly impact physical intimacy.

4.    Increase the desire for physical intimacy. One of the easiest ways to enhance your passion towards your partner is to let your mind wander over pleasurable thoughts about them throughout the day.

Three tips for guys:

•Sex must become something you give to your wife and not something you take.

•You will improve your physical intimacy dramatically if you learn to give first to   your wife emotionally.

•Increase your nonsexual touching. This means hugs, holding hands.

Have fun and be safe as you discover new ways to Cultivate Romance.

Want to read a great article about Marriage from a GenXer? follow this link to Relevant Magazine

You can also listen to a 29 min and 55 sec talk I did on Marriage here is the link 
I would love to hear some of your thoughts and ideas about cultivating the romance. Feel free to post your comments.

Shades of Grey, Shades of Love – 5 Levels of Intimacy


Picture

(c) 2012 istockphotos.com

What is intimacy? One definition of intimacy is that it is an act of a familiar expression serving as a token of familiarity, affection, and love.

I believe as a culture we have lost some of the important components of intimacy by limiting it to just a physical response.

 There has been some breakthrough research that shows which there are at least five different areas of intimacy! Take a moment and grade yourself in each area, and then ask you partner to do the same.

The first is intellectual intimacy. On this level couples are able to talk about current events, share ideas and thoughts, even debate political and religious topics. They are able to participate jointly in the exchange of thoughts and ideas.

The second area of intimacy is recreational intimacy. This means that there are some recreational activities that a couple enjoys together. It does not mean that they do everything together.

The third area of intimacy is social intimacy. After decades of marriage, my wife and I realized that its completely okay for her to have her friends and me to have my friends as long as we share some “we” friends. Couple friendships can be a bonus to the relationship by being a sounding board, providing feedback, and accountability.

Spiritual intimacy is the fourth level of growing deeper together as a couple. While this area of intimacy is the most subjective, due to the various religious backgrounds & practices a couple may have, it is still a crucial component. In my opinion, one of the most important because a growing relationship is at its core spiritual in nature. Spiritual intimacy is also an important factor when and if children become a part of the family.

The fifth and final level of intimacy is physical intimacy.  Sexual expression is part of our hard wiring and can be both exhilarating and invigorating for a couple, in the right context. In recent years, a major focus has been primarily on physical intimacy. We have reduced physical intimacy into a series of positions and practices based more on applied physics than on building relationships.

Could it be that one of the reasons we see so many relationships falling apart is that we have failed to understand that intimacy works on several levels? If a relationship is based primarily on sexual expression, it is doomed to fail in the long run. However, if a couple can grow in their understanding of these different levels of intimacy their relationship will experience growth in all areas. As you grow in these other areas then, sexual expression within your relationship will become more intense and meaningful. This is because it is based on getting to know your partner and being known by them.

So how can you have a better sex life? Be mindful of the five levels of intimacy and how interconnected they are.

I’d love to hear your opinion. What are some ways that you have increased intimacy in your relationship?

This list is adapted from my workshop: Get a Grip on Your Relationship, a half-day or whole day workshop for churches, ministr

Shades of Grey, Shades of Love: 10 Skills to Build Up Your Marriage

Shades of Grey or Shades of Love Part 2

John Thurman

“It is a luxury to be understood.”      Ralph Waldo Emerson

Building a relationship and being married is a team sport; you either win together or lose together.

One of the keys to building intimacy is communication. Two-way communication that is based on respect, honor, and grace is essential for two people sharing a life together.

Drs. David Olson and Peter Larson have invested their careers studying relationships. They have identified 10 Communication Skills that will enhance your intimacy.

1.     Give full attention to your partner when talking.  My wife gets very annoyed when I think I am listening, but am distracted. My suggestion turn off the phone, Ipad™, computer, or television and turn towards your partner.

2.     Focus on the good qualities and be intentional about catching them doing good.  People tend to rise or fall on our expectations, when you are intentional about finding the good in someone they rarely disappoint.

3.     Be assertive, not aggressive or passive. Share your thoughts, feeling, and needs.  One way to do this is to the old therapist standby of using “I” statements versus “you” statements. (e.g. “I worry when you don’t let me know you’ll be late” rather than “You are always late.”)

4.     Avoid criticism. It is a relationship killer.  I think William Arthur Ward hit the nail on the head when he said, “Flatter me, and I may not believe you. Criticize me, and I may not like you. Ignore me, and I may not forgive you. Encourage me, and I may not forget you.”  You can never share too much encouragement.

5.     If you must criticize, sandwich it with a least two positive comments. (e.g. “I appreciate it when you help out by cooking, the food is excellent. It would mean a lot to me if you could straighten up a little after you are done. Thanks again for dinner.)

6.     Listen to understand, not to judge.  Two eyes, two ears, one mouth. Listening is all about trying to understand.

7.     Use active listening. Summarize your partner’s comments before sharing your own reactions of feelings.

8.     Avoid blaming each other at all costs. Instead, work together for a solution.  There is energy when we accept responsibility and decide to work towards a mutually beneficial solution.

9.     Manage your conflict.  (I will give you ten steps for resolving conflict in a few weeks.)

10.  Seek counseling.  If you are not able to have better results with your communication as a couple. Then take action.  Enroll in marriage/relationship class, read a book together, see your pastor, priest, or get counseling if you need to.

One of the best ways to increase the frequency of physical intimacy is through reliable communication. When men and women feel heard, they usually are open to more intimacy.


Next week I will be writing about the five levels of intimacy.

To spice up your love life check out my talk on the 5 Phases of Marriage