Thursday, December 26, 2013

Recovering and learning from your depression.

Learning from my depressions

            Suffice to say that I had two depressions in my life so far. Once when my father passed away, and I felt guilty that I could not make it in time for his funeral. In addition my business was in financial difficulty, and I was comparing myself with my most successful friends. The second one happened more recently when I suffered a burn-out at work just before my retirement which escaladed into anxiety and depression. In both cases, I needed professional counseling from a psychologist. It took about nine months for me to recover from my first depression, and much longer about two and a half years to recover from my second one.
            So what did I learn from my two depressions. First, I learn that depression can really hit anybody, not only emotionally and mentally weak or dysfunctional people. It is not good to be too hard on myself. By writing my thoughts on paper, I could clearly see how hard I was to myself. In the future, I would definitely not compare myself with other people who seem to be much better off than me. This always lead to a lose-lose situation, which may result in depression. There should be no guilt and shame in struggling with anxiety and depression. Would you feel guilty and ashamed if you had cancer? Surely not, so why would you harbor guilt and shame just because you suffer from anxiety and depression?
            It’s alright to ask for help from your loved ones, friends and professional health specialists, like psychologists or psychiatrists. I needed understanding, support, time and space to heal when I was coping with my anxiety and depression. In our society where the "pretense of happiness" is more important than expressing negative feelings in healthy ways, we are taught to conceal those feelings. When you conceal any emotion that you judge to be negative, you can end up feeling isolated, alone, and even invisible to others. Don’t pretend to be alright when you are not. I was always authentic with my loved ones, never hiding anything from them during both of my depressions.
            When I had my first depression, the cognitive therapy, outlined in the book FEELING GOOD by David D. Burns MD was a great help to me. The cognitive therapy I used consisted mainly about writing my thoughts down. I saw that they were all extremely negative and distorted. For example, I would write that I was the worst son ever for not attending my father’s funeral. Or that I was the most incompetent executive in the federal government because I did not met my boss expectations. During my second depression, the same cognitive therapy was less effective. I had to take some anti-depressant pills. My gratitude journal was very helpful. I used it to write all my blessings, small and big ones. Writing in my gratitude journal had the effect of changing my mood for the better. I also found that physical exercises, especially yoga were most helpful to my recovery.
            Being surrounded by loved ones and close friends was essential to my recovery. Feeling understood and loved without judgment was very crucial for me to cope with my anxiety and depression. The healing process can be a very slow and frustrating process. There will inevitably be ups and downs.  The bottom line is that nobody but myself could get me out of my apathy and depression. I had to accept the fact that there was no point in blaming somebody else for my depressed state. Taking responsibility for my state of mind and knowing that I needed to make the necessary effort to slowly get better was the first step to my recovery.
            Nobody else can do the hard work for you to get better. If you really want to overcome your anxiety and depression, you need to ask for help but, more importantly, you need to help yourself! The link below is a great resource in explaining what depression is, and providing some great advice. Please seek help if you need it.
            As I came out very slowly from the dark thick cloud of anxiety and depression, I became more fully available to my loved ones, friends and my circle of influence. Slowly but surely, I reconnected with everything and everybody close to me with deeper understanding, empathy, humility and compassion. I thank God for the hope that he left in me all along, even in my deepest sadness, doubt and yes, sometimes, despair. I always learned from my experiences and grew stronger to become my best in order to serve others better.

Excerpt from my updated book: Become your best, to be published in February 2014.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The importance and power of visualization


            Before you look forward to your end destination, you should consider your starting point. Right now, what is your current situation?. At what stage of life are you in. What are your current assets and strengths? What are your liabilities and weaknesses? Spend some time conducting an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses, assets and liabilities, and likes and dislikes. Determine what are your core values and priorities, and what are really important to you. Have a good handle on where you stand right now.
            If you had your life to live over again what would you do differently. What do you think you could do about it? What is the biggest mistake you have made so far? What would you change? These are questions you can ask yourself when you want to reexamine yourself in terms of your life situation. Be fair and honest, as fair with yourself as you would be with somebody else. What is your purpose and goals in life? This is a fundamental question that most people ask themselves at one time or another. If you think I have the answer for you, you are wrong. You have the answer. We all have the answer within each one of us. For those of you who have not yet found your purpose in life, I can guide you in your search for it by beginning with the end result in mind.
            To begin with the end result in mind means you need to have a clear and precise understanding of your destination. Find a quiet place where you can relax, be alone and uninterrupted when you are concentrating on the following exercise. You need a piece of paper to write your honest impressions, feelings and visualizations. Take your time to do this visualization exercise.

            Exercise:                      Visualize yourself at your own funeral after a long, happy and fulfilled life. Assume that you have lived your life to your full potential.
                                                Your family, friends and colleagues have come to honour you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.
                                                Think deeply and write down the epitaphs and eulogies you would like each of the following speakers to say about you and your life:

                                               1.        Members of your immediate family: your spouse, children and siblings.
                                                2.         Your best friend.

                                                3.         A member of your profession you admire.

                                                4.         A member of your church and/or community you respect.

            Try to imagine what these people would say about you in your various roles. What would you be remembered for? How did you touch and influence their lives? What contributions did you make to your family, friends, profession and community? Write down what you would like to be said of you at the end of your life.
            You can repeat this exercise until you are pretty sure that you have identified your inner sources of identity such as your beliefs, values and primary characteristics. This visualization exercise will help you identify the core beliefs and values that are most important to you, for example: happiness, love, good health, honesty, peace of mind, spirituality, gratitude, simplicity, beauty, respect, integrity, joy, trust, understanding, fairness, hard work, recognition, professionalism, service to others and caring relationship. Aside from making you face your own mortality, this exercise guides you in discovering your roles and goals in life. It is necessary to reassess your different roles in life as time goes on in order to take into account your personal sense of balance and significant emotional events. Regular self-examination forms part of life's journey and plays a major role in awareness, insight and wisdom. In my opinion, this visualization exercise is one of the most insightful and impactful tools that you can use to guide you to live a meaningful, purposeful and fulfilled life.

Excerpt from my book: Become your best.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Living in single splendour


            Being single is not always easy. Yet we all know of single people who are socially, emotionally and financially secure and living their lives fully. More and more young and mature adults are choosing to be single rather than to get involved in a committed relationship. From the most recent U.S. census data at the time of my research in 2010, there are nearly 90 million unmarried Americans – a whopping 41 percent of all American adults in USA.
Living alone has lots of challenges too. If you are not careful, you can easily fall into a rut which can potentially lead to solitude, loneliness and even depression. Yet living alone can also lead to a more meaningful relationship with yourself. You have the chance to spend  more time with yourself. You have   more opportunities to discover yourself  through self analysis and  reflection, thus nurturing the “Me”.
Thanks to social media, people have a tremendous choice at their finger tip. They have so many people coming into their life through daily interactions and social media that it’s difficult to build deep intimate relationship. More and more young people choose to stay single, not willing to settle for an “average” partner in life. They look at other couples around them and see that things are not that great with their relationships. That doesn’t mean that they shut off  the possibility of living in partnership with someone else.
Most young people like guys who are responsible, confident and reliable, but more importantly they must be “cool”. Going solo is the new “cool” lifestyle. Living alone is being celebrated in most western countries. In Sweden, sixty per cent of the population  live in single splendour. Individuality is actively promoted in this country. People there are a bit disillusion by the institution of marriage. Society is moving towards valuing individuality and developing policies for the individuals, rather than focussing on the virtues of the family. The world seems to be shifting from We to Me. And lots of young adults are embracing the single lifestyle as a preference.
There are many reasons, why they choose to be single. Some have made their minds early on because they have seen their parents quarrelling all the time and gone through an ugly divorce. They know of friends living in partnership separating after ugly fights. Others have gone through one or more deceptions in their intimate relationships, and have decided that they have had enough of heartbreaks. Others are still looking for partners but are not lucky enough to find the right ones. Yet others have gone through one relationship to another many times over in search for the elusive goal of fulfillment without finding it. They may have been disillusioned again and again. They are now avoiding relationships altogether in an attempt to avoid more disillusion and pain.
            It is safe to say that most men and women want to have an intimate and meaningful relationship with a partner. They are hoping to meet the right partner in life. However, most single adults would rather be alone than to be in an unhealthy relationship. They would rather be single than settle for a mediocre relationship just to escape loneliness. Most educated single adults have raised the bar. It is not about just sexual attraction or financial security. It is more about finding compatibility, soul mate and real love.
            The legendary TV series, Sex in the City, and other multi-media entertainment glorify the glamour and excitement of single lifestyle. They promote the freedom and thrill of meeting other beautiful and fashionable people usually with plenty of money to spend. In reality, life is much more routine and boring than the glamour of TV series and soap operas. More often, being single means eating pizza or drinking a can of soup alone in front of the TV. Very often, single adults have to face nosy questions about their marital status, especially when the biological clock is ticking for women. The whole emphasis in our culture seems to be that it’s almost unnatural or a sin to be single.
            Singleness can also be a choice, a state of mind, and an attitude. Many people who have gone through a few or many relationships decide to remain single and live on their own. They have either given up on their search of a life partner or they are just content to being single. They manage to live alone and like it. They still have friends and enjoy their lives to the full. Are you one of them? Bravo! If you are happily married like me, even better.
Excerpt from my book: Become your best, 2014 Version. To be published January 2014.    

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Enjoy your social life


            Social life is an important aspect of living which you enjoy with your family and friends. Social events like parties, community activities and visiting friends are expressions of the joy of being together and of human fellowship. With experience you acquire some social skills which facilitate relationship, friendship and rapport. These positive social skills can also be learned and reinforced. By the same token, you can unlearn poor behaviour, thus avoiding inappropriate social skills. There are very few people who would not benefit from some improvement in their social skills and behaviour. The beauty of learning and practising these skills is that you are rewarded with smiles, respect and friendship. You can be as creative as you want with your social activities. Making friends, getting involved in community activities and projects, joining a club and playing sports are all social activities you can enjoy and choose to participate in. All these activities require human contact and interaction with other people. In any interaction you form part of the other person's current learning experience and you can learn from him or her too. The more you improve your social skills, the more effective you become in society.
            To interact socially, you have to be able to hold interesting conversations and to exchange views and opinions on numerous current topics. It helps if you keep yourself acquainted and up-to-date with national and international issues, with your favourite sports and hobbies, and with popular entertainments. You don't, have to show your in-depth knowledge at every opportunity but only to be conversant of the topic of discussion. To develop positive social skills, you have to be interested in a variety of things, be inclined to genuinely like people and be generally pleasant and agreeable. You need to have an alert interest in people and a fondness for their company. Participate in social activities, rather than being just an inactive observer. If you have any knowledge, skill or talent that can benefit your social circle, volunteer your services at your convenience. It will be greatly appreciated and you will be warmly welcomed in your social group. For instance, if you are a good soccer player, be a soccer coach for the kids in your community. By helping others, there are more chances that one day you will be helped by others in your time of need.
            Society is open to everyone and you are welcome to join the club. How effective a member of the club you are depends on your attitude and your willingness to participate and to contribute. The more you enjoy interacting with others in a social setting, the more others will seek your company. If you are a relaxed, fun, responsible and positive person, you will attract a lot of friends almost effortlessly. Here are some suggestions to help you get the most out of your social life:

          Have a genuine liking for people.
          Associate with positive and confident friends.
          Develop a network of professional colleagues, associates and acquaintances.
          Entertain only the people you want to.
          Have interesting and challenging hobbies.
          Get informed on national and international news and current affairs.
          Provide service to the community.
          Do volunteer work and give assistance to the needy.
          Be politically aware and active.
          Be generally pleasant, agreeable and non-critical.
          Develop some cultural interests in the world of arts, theatre, films, books etc.

            The cultivation of genuine friendship is an art that most people pay little attention to. It does not happen by accident. You start by looking for people with common interests who share the same basic values. Friendship has a chance to develop when you interact with these people. Instinctively, you appreciate and enjoy the company of some people more than others. You tend to admire some of their qualities. The main ingredients of these relationships are mutual feelings of rapport, respect, understanding and trust. By nurturing the friendship, you start to have a sense of each other's beliefs, needs and aspirations. As your rapport and bond develops, you are able to fill some of each other's needs. Although friends can ask each other favours from time to time, you should be very careful not to take advantage of your friendship by being a burden to your friends. Rather than imposing on them, enjoy your precious time together with your friends, letting the social interaction rejuvenate you. Lifelong friendship exists when you encourage and support each other's fulfillment in any way you can and when you feel free to express your feelings openly to each other. In your times of need, your friends will be there supporting you and in your times of joy they will be there rejoicing with you. They don't envy your success, they are happy for your achievements. All they wish for you is that you continue to be yourself, to grow and develop. They enrich the quality of your social life by participating in stimulating activities with you and vice versa. It is not how many people you know that counts, it is how many people you can genuinely call lifetime friends that is really important.

Excerpt from my book: Become your best.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Nurture your personal growth


            The journey through life is a creative process during which we grow, change, learn, contribute and love. From birth to death, we are learning about ourselves, discovering our identity, and contributing to society. Through these life experiences and personal growth, we strive to become our personal best. The road to genuine personal growth is in the nurturing of our inner self and our personal growth. We develop a sense of personal value and worth, and the enjoyment of loving and being loved. We become strong, self-reliant and able to take charge of our life. We live our lives purposefully and with integrity in accordance with our belief and value systems. We cultivate and enhance our compassion, affection, forgiveness and empathy for ourselves and others. The most precious gifts we can give to ourselves and others are the gifts of caring and love. The journey towards personal growth helps us to be master of our own life whilst remaining flexible and open to new opportunities.
            As you embark on your quest to personal self-actualization, you will become more positive, serene, self-confident and assertive. You will naturally start to take care of yourself, nurturing your body, mind and spirit. You will find that money, friends and good relationships will be attracted to you without you really trying very hard. You will not be satisfied by merely surviving, getting by and making a living. You will be shaping and designing your destiny. When you feel at peace and in harmony with yourself, you will automatically start to have better relationships with other people. As you progressively feel good about yourself, knowing your life is worth living and is meaningful, you will feel better about others. You will engage in meaningful relationships and activities that enhance the quality of your life and those of others. As you progress along your journey, you start to know what really matters to you. You have a clear vision of how you want to lead your life. You can refine your sense of purpose and you have a feeling of being in control of your life.
            Genuine love casts out all fears and gives the courage to live abundantly. Reflection on the expression of love in your life is a key step in your personal growth. This is time well spent. Always strive to give of yourself and you become your best along the way. Once you have sought and achieved some degree of self-enhancement in your life, it will inspire and motivate you to continue on your path. You become proactive and you make things happen. You respond positively to all situations based on basic principles such as fairness, integrity, trust and honesty. You understand that you are responsible for your attitudes, feelings, thoughts and actions. You become more balanced, organized and focused. You realize that the respectful way you treat people is how you want them to treat you. Your loving thoughts and creative actions will lead you to your self-fulfillment.
         Undertaking a personal growth journey is a long and challenging path. It requires time, patience, compassion and commitment. It puts a new and positive perspective in your present and future endeavour. Sure you will encounter opposition, disapproval, growing pains and obstacles along the way. Significant advances in your development as an individual come when you encounter pressure, fear and pain, and you face and surmount them. You understand that the obstacle has been put in your path for the purpose of your growth. In your quest of doing anything at all better than before and of improving yourself, don't forget to be your best friend. In order to achieve some kind of fulfillment, you need to repeatedly remind yourself that you can control your thoughts, feelings and actions. Have the discipline to be in charge of yourself.
            As your self-discovery journey progresses, you will attract positive people who wish you well, rather than put you down. You will gain more self-respect, self-esteem and self-confidence. You will start to visualize bigger goals and greater projects than you have ever attempted before. You will also realize that it's not just achieving goals that matters, but more importantly, it's the quality of life you experience along the way that is crucial to your growth and fulfillment. By applying some of the principles described in my book you will become more creative and proactive in your choices and decisions. Your purpose in life will inevitably become clearer to you. You will want to be of service to others and will receive the joy of giving. You will help people for the right reason and with the proper actions. By putting a little effort in the right direction at the right time, you will slowly but surely be able to alter your life and the lives of others for the better. You will begin to live a more abundant life filled with more and more gratitude, contentment, inner peace and happiness.

            You owe it to yourself to explore your potential to become your best. The choice is yours to make. In case you decide to take the path of self-management and self-development, don't miss the joy of being. Celebrate the joy of life, as a result you will be rewarded by becoming the best possible you.

Excerpt from my book: Become Your Best.