I have a friend named David who once confided in me about an experience he had during his school days. He developed a crush 💖 on his classmate, Jessica. Every time he saw her, his heart would race uncontrollably. However, his shyness held him back, and he never mustered the courage to confess his feelings to Jessica .
Day after day, David kept his feelings for Jessica to himself. He was a bit of a romantic, more sensitive than most people, and highly prone to getting caught up in emotional turmoil. Despite his cheerful demeanor on the outside, he began to doubt and criticize himself, trying to appear composed while feeling deeply depressed and gloomy. He lost his appetite and struggled to find restful sleep. Insecurity took hold, and he started avoiding friends and social events, sinking deeper into the abyss of depression. He described it as having a perpetual dark cloud ☁️ hovering over his head, even during the daytime.
Then, one fortuitous day, David stumbled upon a book 📚 on positive psychology. Its contents sparked a revelation, helping him realize that he had other important roles in life. Clinging to this lifeline, he invested time and effort in various self-improvement exercises, including taking Harvard’s open course on positive psychology and actively engaging with psychology professors to attend their classes.
This newfound path led him to practice gratitude daily and jot down moments of happiness. He engaged in activities, made new friends, and rediscovered the beauty of life. While still harboring feelings for Jessica, he no longer allowed those emotions to constrain him. He chose to confess his true feelings with no regrets, regardless of the outcome.
In the end, David emerged from the depths of depression, and he writes this today 😊
Today, I won’t delve into the theoretical research and self-testing aspects of depression. Instead, I’ll share three ways, based on both my personal experience and encounters with patients, to break free from the grip of depression.
If you find this article helpful for yourself or someone you know, feel free to share it. Your small act of sharing might help a friend get through their most challenging moments.
Allow me to share the three tips and one quote distilled from my years of experience:
Tip 1: Gratitude Meditation 🙏
Only five minutes a day is enough.
Relax and listen to some music in a position that prevents you from falling asleep. Reflect on why you’re fortunate. Many people in the world struggle to find enough food, clean water, and even endure wars, while you enjoy good health, have a healthy family, and people who love you, and whom you love in return. Take a moment to appreciate your good fortune! Why has fate been so kind to you? Then, offer a prayer for the well-being of everyone around you…
If you find this exercise challenging… Alright, let me simplify it even further:
Before going to bed, open the notes on your phone, one minute is sufficient. Write a “Gratitude Diary 📝,” listing three things that brought you joy that day. Perhaps it was listening to a beautiful song; in that case, express gratitude to the person who wrote it. Maybe you had an unexpectedly delightful meal at a restaurant; then, extend gratitude to the chef… Recently, I’ve been grateful to an unknown individual because I purchased a large bag of shelled pine nuts, conveniently packaged into many small bags that remained fresh and free from spoiled nuts. I enjoyed them with great enthusiasm. If I hadn’t already successfully lost 28 pounds and reduced my body fat to 17%, which I need to maintain, I’d be tempted to eat several bags each day. I’m incredibly thankful to the individual who invented these pine nuts that can be eaten without shelling!
This is straightforward, isn’t it? Take one minute before bedtime to jot down three things that made you happy and grateful that day.
You may ask, “Is that all?”
Yes, but allow me to explain the underlying principle; The principle is that the brain cannot distinguish between reality and imagination! When you start practicing gratitude exercises, your brain will recreate those little things that brought you happiness, and various small joys will trigger the secretion of dopamine, endorphins, or serotonin… Although a minute seems short, the effects of gratitude meditation or a gratitude journal will linger in your brain chemistry for a considerable period afterward!
In fact, this is the opposite of how depression forms. The depressing thoughts in depression are either things that happened in the past, which you cannot change, or concerns about the future that have no bearing on the present moment. Nevertheless, you keep fixating on these distressing matters. The brain fails to distinguish that these events are not happening right now, and adrenaline starts surging, the sympathetic nervous system takes over from the parasympathetic nervous system, and your anxiety dances upwards…
The theory of brain plasticity tells us that the brain’s patterns of thought are like “channels” that can be “flushed” to form new “brain circuits,” and depression is formed in a similar manner. If you engage in the victim mentality and constantly think about those distressing matters, depression is just around the corner. However, a “sense of fulfillment” can also be flushed out – any little thing that makes you happy, even a bag of pine nuts, can help the brain form a circuit. This circuit is the realization that you are a fortunate individual, blessed with numerous happy experiences each day. Since the brain cannot simultaneously hold happiness and depression, it becomes a battle of which emotion prevails. Consistently practicing gratitude every day helps train the brain’s “positive emotion circuits,” establishing an “optimistic neural circuit” that counters the “victim circuit.”
Tip 2: Hug More 🌼
This is even simpler. Hugging directly stimulates serotonin secretion – simple, powerful, and quick. Of course, I recommend starting with hugging your parents and family first, rather than hugging that attractive female coworker… Haha. The wonderful thing about hugs is that the giver’s hands retain some of that warmth – both individuals experience heightened serotonin levels, so the benefits are doubled.
Tip 3 is the most crucial point: Develop Multiple Roles in Life 🎭
Here are four reminders:
💪 Empowered by Diversity: The Twin Experiment
You undoubtedly play these roles consciously or unconsciously – if you are a father, you are probably emulating your own father to some extent. If you believe your father was a poor role model, you might have secretly looked to a neighbor, a character from a movie, or a literary figure as a template for your actions. Why? Because you are playing these template roles.
😌 Finding Balance: Embracing Responsibility and Joy
If you recognize that you essentially play different roles in life, the question is: Why not strive to embody better roles? A famous twin experiment demonstrated that even with identical genes and a shared history in a troubled family, one twin unconsciously played the role of their alcoholic, abusive father and continued the pattern of domestic violence when they grew up. However, the other twin decided to emulate a different template, such as the kind father of a friendly neighbor, and treated their family with love and respect. When psychologists interviewed them, both had a similar justification, but their outcomes were polar opposites.
🌅 Embrace the Present: Living Fully in Every Role 🌠
Be extremely cautious not to be confined to just one role! If that sole role fails, it can be catastrophic. However, if you have multiple roles, like an entrepreneur who faces a temporary setback, it is far less daunting. Your role as a parent remains unaffected, and your role as a volunteer in a stray cat rescue group can still bring fulfillment in the evenings. At that point, the entrepreneur role can be repaired instead of plunging you into inescapable depression. In other words, your overall success or failure in life should not be solely defined by the success or failure of one role. Losing one or two roles but finding success and fulfillment in several others will leave you without regrets. Don’t allow one failed role to trap you in an unhappy life.
💑 Creating Harmony: Balancing and Complementing Roles
Ideally, your multiple roles should complement each other – for instance, you and your partner raising a dog together. One person can focus on playing and interacting with the dog, while the other handles practical responsibilities like feeding, veterinary visits, and daily walks. This creates a balance – the carefree, free-spirited role alongside the responsible, duty-bound role. Interestingly, if you analyze yourself, you probably lean toward one end of the spectrum – most people naturally lean towards the “responsible” role in most aspects of their lives, carrying a sense of duty, enduring hardships, and serving others. Meanwhile, a minority are natural “hedonists,” living in the moment and seeking instant gratification without worry.
🔑 The Path to Freedom: Embracing Multiple Roles
The challenge lies in finding balance – “responsible” individuals often give without reservation until they are utterly spent. But responsibility doesn’t preclude happiness; it’s essentially “delayed gratification.” Unfortunately, it’s easy to “stay the course for so long that you forget the destination.” Thus, you must live in the present, being 100% present in each role.
Allow me to share another story from many years ago about a friend of mine – not named David this time 😌. He experienced a deeply scarring romantic relationship… oh, a toxic one! It was filled with melodrama, with both families getting involved, and ultimately ending just before their planned wedding.
After the breakup, my friend fell into a deep depression. He locked himself in his room for two weeks without emerging, and then embarked on an extended journey of psychotherapy… According to him, he consulted every reputable psychologist in the city, and while the sessions seemed beneficial, he would relapse into reliving the melodramatic past as soon as he left their offices, unable to break free.
Guess how he eventually found relief?
Surprisingly simple – he started a new romantic relationship!
Why do I believe in positive psychology? Because its logic is straightforward: we won’t dissect who was right or wrong in your melodramatic romance; instead, we’ll urge you to go on a date with someone new tonight.
The theory of multiple roles is similar – instead of analyzing your way out of depression, no amount of analysis will break the hold it has on you. However, if you take on another significant role, simply immersing yourself in that role will prevent you from returning to your previous role and feeling heartbroken. A life can have many roles, but you can’t play two or more roles simultaneously in the same time and place! Each role has its emotional space and criteria for success and failure. By embracing a currently successful role to replace a temporarily failed one, your mood can also shift away from a low state. The new role is lived in the present, allowing past sorrows to recede temporarily.
Alright, please read through this article again and take a moment to assess yourself! Check if your life is enriched with diverse and fulfilling roles. If not, I must warn you – having only one rope for life’s mountain climbing is too precarious! Hurry and prepare some backup ropes! Multiple roles not only serve as a lifeline during critical moments but also bring fulfillment to your daily life.
Finally, remember this quote:
“Inner fulfillment is the only thing worth pursuing for a lifetime after basic financial security is met.”
I hope these tips and insights prove helpful to you or someone you know. Always remember, life offers a multitude of possibilities, and with a positive mindset, even the darkest moments can be overcome. Feel free to reach out if you need more advice or just someone to talk to. We’re in this together! 😊