Kick your Depression in Nine Months

Want to kick your depression? O.k., let’s go.

Years of working with people who are depressed has taught me that talk therapy alone seldom works. People come into therapy depressed, rebound while talking things out with the therapist, stay uplifted for a day or two, then sink, only to come in for the next therapy session depressed. I had to question why.

What I realized is that we, as therapists, make suggestions to people, but we don’t lay out a plan. We speak in abstracts-and don’t spell out the specifics. To kick depression, the specifics are necessary.

The nine month, calendar-based plan laid out in my book If I Could Just Snap Out of It, Don’t You Think I Would? provides the details. It is based on what is known about the lives of happy people. The plan is both behavioral (addressing the actions depressed people need to take) and cognitive (addressing how negative thoughts can be countered.) The plan is nine months in length because that gives the time necessary to change thoughts and behaviors.

Let’s start with the behavioral portion of the plan.

People who are depressed are isolated and lonely. Due to their depression, many are unemployed. They are broke, struggling to make it week to week, and feel they are not contributing to society. Add to this the fact that their medications have caused them to put on weight. So a dislike of their bodies is added to their general discomfort. They feel like outcasts or pariahs and thus, stay away from others. Additionally, their depression has sapped their motivation, so they don’t do the things that once brought them pleasure. They don’t learn new things. The myopic focus of their lives is their problems. They feel stuck and are the first to say they are boring.

The behavioral portion of the plan encourages depressed people to become more social. They are given activities to make acquaintances, people who will hopefully become friends. They are asked to volunteer, which helps them put their problems in perspective and lets them see that they can make a significant difference in the lives of others. They are asked to exercise and spend an hour-and-a-half a week learning something new. Gaining knowledge about something which before they knew little about sparks their self-confidence and makes their lives more interesting. They also are asked to spend an hour-and-a-half a week doing something they once enjoyed. Depressed people have forgotten what it is like to have fun. This activity helps them remember.

The cognitive portion of the plan also has specific, required activities. Depressed people don’t want to be depressed. They just don’t know how to get rid of their depression. These activities are meant to help them fight their depression.

The cognitive portion starts by teaching people to get angry at their depression. They are shown how to write a depression-fighting pledge to be recited daily and they are taught about depression-fighting visualizations. In short, they are given the beginnings of a battle-plan.

They also are taught how to talk back to their awful, internal thoughts such as “I’m a loser” or “I’m a fat pig.” They learn what underlying messages they are giving themselves and determine what they want to do about these messages. They set goals. Then, they make detailed, time-specified plans for accomplishing these goals.

They also are asked to work with a mood coach, a friend, neighbor, or coworker committed to helping the depressed person talk back to her automatic thoughts.

Want to kick your depression? Follow the nine month plan in If I Could Just Snap Out of It, Don’t You Think I Would? Spending nine months challenging your thoughts and behaviors will show you that you can change. And change often brings happiness.

If I Could Just Snap Out of It, Don’t You Think I Would? will be available on this site and on in the fall of 2011. But lots of the ideas from the book are already on the pages of this site.

Believe in yourself. You can kick your depression.