Having a Purpose Is the Best Way to Ward Off Depression
When I was in private practice, the holidays were always a very busy time for me because of the increase in number of hospitalized patients. The majority of patients were there because of loneliness and depression, which led them to subsequent medical problems like poorly controlled blood pressure. Being depressed can have a negative impact on our brains as well as in our bodies.
The feeling of persistent sadness not only lowers our spirits and decreases our joy, but it also predisposes us to other medical problems like decreased blood flow. Decreased blood flow is associated with an increased risk for strokes, which was the reason why patients usually ended up on my service.
Because of the nature of the disease, both patients and caregivers are already susceptible to getting depressed. Some might feel that there's no end in sight, creating a sense of hopelessness if we are not careful.
For those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere, the feeling of gloominess can be compounded by the shorter days which tend to make me and others a bit blue. The decreased in sunlight tends to make us sleepier and more sluggish mentally.
However, I have found that the best way to feel happy, energized, and active is to become engaged in life. In my opinion, finding a purpose, or what I like to call passion, for living and persevering is the best way to ward off depression.
How do we do this?
First, become a 'force of nature' by helping others. When you become involved in the life of others you find true joy. You can become an advocate, a mentor, or simply give of your time unselfishly to those you love whether blood relation or not. Simply spending quality time with those who are important to you. I love working young women, which in turn helps me more than I help them in the long run.
Second, become someone else’s reason for being. This does not have to be a person; isntead, it can be any living creature, like a pet. For me, having my sweet cat to care for gives me a great deal of purpose and joy even when I am home alone. Knowing someone else is happy because you live and are around is a powerful motivator to keep going even when you don’t feel like it.
Third, get a hobby. I have discovered I love to do ceramic art works. It not only allows me to do this on my own time but I can share with others and do alone or in a group. It relaxes me and allows me to express myself in a creative manner. You can write, sing, paint, or any activity which drives you to get out of bed or off the couch and become active.
Fourth, find a spiritual balance. Practice meditation and /or prayer. Consider attending church services with a group of people, which would allow you to create a safe haven for healing and growth. I love my women’s bible study group. Make a list of the things you are grateful to have in your life - do this at least once a week.
When you find a purpose in your life, whatever it may be, it gives you the strength to face tomorrow. More importantly, it changes your attitude although the actual circumstances may not change at that much. However, like any adventure and journey in life it must begin with a single thought followed by a step forward.
So today, start with that which makes you happy. For me, especially around the holiday season, it is making sure everything is magical for my daughter who will be returning home from college.
Rethink the big picture. Stop negative thoughts in its track and don't feed them by dwelling on them. Rather replace these negative attitudes of self defeat with purposeful activities that require your time and devotion to make them flourish. Go ahead smile for we all have so much to be grateful for. Try to enjoy the journey.
Do you participate in a support group for PD?