Category Archives for "Build Social Connection"

May 15

Depressed? Get Connected!

By Vickie | Build Social Connection

Humans are connected beings. Actually, we’re hard-wired for it. Connection, co-operation, community…we need each other if we’re to maintain good health.

In the Middle East, the desert dwellers or Bedouin have an unspoken law which says that a traveller may seek refuge in a stranger’s camp for three days before the host can ask him who he is or where he is going. The Arabic phrase ahlan was sahlan, which is roughly translated as ‘welcome’ and is usually meant in that way, actually means ‘you have come to your family and flat or smooth ground’. In other words, the host says to the traveller that he is welcome as though with his own family and that his way is easy to traverse. 

It’s not easy being alone in the desert.

And it’s not easy being alone when you’re struggling with stress and an ongoing low mood.

Do you consider yourself an introvert? I am. I have no problem at all with spending hours, even days on my own. But I do have to be careful that it doesn’t become a problem.

Sometimes we confuse our personality style – introverted and extroverted – with a need for human contact. Changing your thinking about your personality style and getting engaged with your social network – even on a very small scale – is essential for a healthy mood. We all need to feel connected to other people, whether you consider yourself introverted or extroverted.

The difference is that introverts find extended periods of time with people, events involving a lot of changing my thinking

In fine weather, get some friends together, jump on your bike, ride to a beautiful place and enjoy a nice picnic and being with your friends!

people or other stimulus (eg concerts or parties) and stimulating environments (eg busy workplaces, being in the city) exhausting, which extroverts thrive on exciting environments and crowds.

This is not to say that introverts can’t be in crowded environments, but that they are not refreshing or energising the way they are for extroverts.

Nonetheless, even introverts need to be connected to other human beings, but that is more likely to take the form of quiet gatherings of a small number of people.

So we all need to develop and maintain connections with others. Relationships with friends and loved ones need to be nurtured, work colleagues may become friends, we look out for our neighbours and join others in the community to work on causes and projects that are meaningful to us.

Being alone in the world is not healthy and it’s important to maintain a good mood to have some kind of human contact regularly, if not every day. This keeps us looking outward and being part of something bigger than ourselves. This gives us the chance to be looked after and to care for others.

Caring for others makes us feel needed; we are needed by others – people and causes – to make the world a better place. Changing your thinking about the need for social connection and making it a priority will help you on your journey to a depression free future – a journey you shouldn’t be making on your own.

Here Are My Tips TO Keep You Engaged With Others:

Every day:

Make sure you leave your house once each day. get connected

Even a friendly smile and a wave will make us feel connected to others.

Go for a walk, do your grocery shopping, head for the library, go to work.

During this outing, ensure that you smile (and wave) at two or three people and say hello to or stop for a brief chat at least once, more if possible.

This might include smiling and waving at your neighbour, saying hello to the bus driver and thanking her or him when you reach your stop, asking the checkout person how their day has been and meaning it, smiling at the librarian as you ask where a book is.

Anything to have a short human interaction. This interaction might last 1 to about 5 minutes.

Every week:

Use your diary and line up one phone call to a friend, one coffee date with another friend or cousin, sibling or even your Mum ad one other activity that puts you in contact with people for at least one hour. This sounds like a lot if you have been hiding yourself away at home but it might look like this:

Monday night, phone your Mum, Grandpa, aunty, bestie, cousin and see how he/she is, chat for 20 minutes. changing your thinking

Get a nice diary and use it to set social occasions.

Wednesday night, spin class, yoga class, dance class, book group, French class, cooking class, photography club, environmental protection group etc. At least one hour interacting with other people over a shared interest.

Saturday morning: walk in the park or gym session with your friend, coffee after.

This interaction should last from 20 minutes to an hour or so.

Every month:

Use your diary and organise one larger gathering of friends or family.

It could be dinner in a nice restaurant, dinner at your place, a backyard BBQ, a picnic in the park. It needs to include food and a group of at least four people including yourself. You don’t need to actually cook the food or organise the gathering. Get on the phone and suggest it to one friend who then helps out with the work or the inviting of others. get connected

Yoga on the beach…outdoors, movement, other people: perfect!

The point is that this should be a larger gathering than you would normally meet with for a hour or two over coffee. This gathering should last for several hours and preferably include some other kind of activity like a walk, a game of cricket or football, flying a kite, riding a bike, or other physical game. If that is not possible, at least dinner at a nice restaurant or at your place or a friend’s place.

Alternatively, you might find a local history society, hiking group, photography club or cooking class that has activities that last a morning, or an afternoon or an entire day. Picking up your neglected camera and joining others on a 3-hour outdoor photography session is a great way to get some longer interaction.

Join a group of others and enjoy a new hobby or rekindle a new one. Get out of your head and your thoughts and be creative!

Or perhaps there’s a local volunteer centre where you can find out about volunteer opportunities. Maybe there’s a community music festival coming up which needs volunteer organisers, or a local school fete which needs someone on the sausage sizzle or bric a brac stall. Perhaps you’d like to volunteer your time at a soup kitchen, second hand clothing shop or other charitable organisation.

The point is to be outward looking, out of your head and out of your worries by offering what you can to others.

This interaction should last for 2 to 3 hours.

Staying Connected is a Proven Mood-Booster get connected

Celebrate life with family and friends! Do it often.

Get into the habit of scheduling contact on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. We need to be around each other, supporting and being supported by our friends and loved ones. We need to know we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our own small lives.

Be actively interested in your friends’ lives, help out your neighbours, get involved in your local community.

You’ll find your mood brighten; and I wonder whose day you’ll make just that little bit more special?





May 12

Depressed? Changing Your Thinking and Living Your Values Is Key

By Vickie | Build Social Connection

Making healthy lifestyle changes – diet, exercise and sleep – will inevitably mean changing your thinking patterns, friendships and relationships and values. 

Dealing with Negative Thinking

My favourite way of dealing with negative thinking is Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT.

I use tapping whenever I feel upset, out of sorts, down on myself, angry, overwhelmed, irritated with myself or others, stressed or any other negative emotion. changing your thinking

Do negative emotions keep you awake at night?

Just taking ten minutes and tapping on the emotion seems to reduce it and calm me down. When depressed one of the most important things is to relax and switch off that stress response in the body. Calming yourself will help with changing your thinking about a situation and allow you to find solutions rather than just more conflict.

It seems a bit woohoo and I don’t know how it works and frankly, I don’t care. Opening your mind and changing your thinking about techniques you’ve avoided in the past might just be an important step in your depression recovery.

EFT is easy to learn and very effective, though the reason why is not clearly understood. It may simply be a distraction from the emotions being experienced. It has worked for me on numerous emotional issues and is by far my favourite instant calming technique. The advantages are that EFT is free, can be applied to yourself, can be applied anywhere anytime for instant relief, takes minimal training, is painless and totally without side effects.

Unlike anti-depressant medication….

There are two parts to using EFT.

  1. The ‘set up’ phase:

In this phase you state your feelings out loud, while tapping on the outside of your hand, the part that you use if you were to do a karate chop on a brick. This is called, imaginatively, the ‘karate chop point’.

While tapping this point with the fingers of your other hand, you simply state your emotions, while at the same time accepting them as being all right in that moment. You say this three times.

It might go something like this:

“Even though I am really, really angry at my brother….I totally accept this anger”.

“Even though what he did makes me so mad! How dare he? I just can’t believe he would do that and I’m so angry…I totally accept my feelings”.

“Even though I can’t believe my brother would do a thing like that make me so angry, I deeply and completely accept my feelings”.

It’s important to accept your feelings because the opposite would be to squash them down and deny them. The fact is you’re feeling angry at something your brother did, don’t try to push those feelings away, just accept you feel angry and through the EFT, the level of anger or distress you feel will decrease. Then you’ll be in a better, calmer state of mind to deal with the situation itself.

2.Tap the various points on the face and upper body

Use two or three fingers to tap (firmly but gently) five or six times (the number doesn’t matter) on each of the places shown on the chart below. While you are tapping, repeat out loud the emotional issue. It may seem strange to be focusing on what is bothering you, but there is something about tapping which seems to relieve the emotional sting. changing your thinking

Chart showing tapping points on face and upper body.

You might say something like:

Eyebrow point: I’m so frustrated because I can’t sleep

Side of Eye: I just want to fall asleep, but I can’t

Under Eye: I hate it when I can’t fall asleep

Under Nose: I’m so frustrated that I can’t switch off my thoughts

Chin: All these thoughts, all these worries, why can’t I stop?

Collar bone: Perhaps I can choose to relax a little now

Under the arm: I can worry about these things tomorrow.

Top of Head: I’m going to allow myself to relax and fall asleep now.

You begin by stating the problem and then suggesting a solution. Keep going around and around the tapping points until you feel you’ve said all that you want to say about the problem, then introduce a very simple solution (it could be just choosing not to have that emotion right now). You may find yourself sighing or yawning as you go around the tapping spots. I find I yawn then I’m changing my thing around issue and beginning to let it go.



Where’s the Evidence that Any of This Works?

So far we’ve discussed how you can more exercise in your day and more nutritious food into your diet. We’ve looked at how better sleep and social connection can lift a low mood. We looked at how you can be aware of your thinking, especially negative thinking styles. Finally, we’ve found a way to reconnect with activities that made you feel better in the past.

But does any of this actually work?

Is getting more exercise proven to help lift a chronic low mood? Is it scientifically-proven that socialising helps you feel better? Is there research that shows a really connection between brain health and eating healthier food? How are your thinking patterns related to depression?

More importantly, how is the effect of all these habits and activities found in the brain?

Well, read my next post to find out! changing your thinking

Get connected, change your thinking and lifestyle and the world is your oyster!





Feb 08

Why You Need Allies In Depression Recovery: Don’t Do This Alone!

By Vickie | Build Social Connection

When I was experiencing chronic and profound despair, I dreaded the phone ringing. I never ever invited people to my home. When I walked in the park with my dog, I wore enormous sunglasses so that I wouldn’t need to make eye contact and conversation with other people.

As an introvert, I found people exhausting, but with my chronic low moodit was so much worse than that.

I simply didn’t have the energy to engage with other people and I felt so bad about myself – I wasn’t well dressed, groomed, sometimes not even showered – that I just didn’t want to have anything to do with other people.

Because the brain thinks it is unwell, it tells your body to do what it would do if you had a physical illness; rest, be quiet, don’t be in exciting, stimulating environments because it’s just too much for the brain to handle in depression. allies in depression recovery

Staying isolated perpetuates depression.

Keeping around other people, even if you don’t interact with them at all, helps to break the cycle of chronic low mood.

Recovery from debilitating despair means reconnecting with other people.

You can do this by deliberately gathering people around you with whom you can talk about your mood and ask them to help you in specific ways. Gathering your allies in depression recovery.

Or you can get out in to the community and be actively involved with people through clubs, the gym, volunteer organisations and so on. 

Your friends and family are unlikely to be mental health professionals. They may have been just as confused and frustrated by your low mood as you have been. But if your loved ones and close friends understand that you’re not trying to avoid them, you’re just experiencing chronically distressing low mood, they might even want to help.

You may be delighted to learn that they are very happy to be your allies in getting you back on your feet.

When the doctor diagnosed me with depression I was so excited I told heaps of people. Most of them were very supportive, some were surprised and only a few were cautious.

However, I did notice that very few asked me how I was when we met up again after the great announcement. It was like they just didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Perhaps they were confused or unsure of what to do.

I think it was most likely unsure and perhaps busy as well. After all, they have their own stuff to deal with. And with hindsight, I was pretty unsure about the ‘diagnosis’ as well.

But to help you on the road to a more emotionally stable life, I strongly recommend that you find a few people whom you can let into this secret, ‘’I’m working to be free of my chronic low mood, will you help me? Will you be my allies in depression recovery?”

Don’t keep feelings to yourself.

If you’re feeling very bad, tell someone. You need people around you who are not depressed and whom you trust to help you through. Click To Tweet

Think of the names of 3-5 close friends, loved ones or professionals who could help you. Who do you know among your social network (you still have one even if it’s been languishing for a while) who you could call on as an ally:

  • Work colleagues
  • Brother, sister, cousin
  • Spouse
  • Friends
  • Parent or aunt/uncle
  • Neighbour
  • Minister or other spiritual leader or elder
  • Life coach
  • Teacher or tutor at school or college with whom you have (or had) a good connection.

It is essential that you have support while trying to become change your emotional thermostat and redesign your life. allies in depression recovery

Your allies in depression recovery are essential on this journey.

Five Keys to choosing your allies and asking them to help

  1. Asking someone to help you who has also experienced what you’re going through is fine, as long as they are now fully recovered or well down the road to recovery.

Do not ask a friend or acquaintance who is also emotionally unstable, to be your depression ally.

You will likely just sit and ruminate together. That is, you may talk about your problems and this just reinforces your low mood.

Sharing problems may provide a sense of connection, but this does not serve you well in the long-term, because what you really need is someone who will challenge your negative thought patterns, not someone who will agree with them.

  1. A quick word about the internet: Take care with online forums, face book groups and the like.

Some online depression forums are well moderated, but many of the posts are long descriptions of how dreadful the person is feeling.

There are very few happy and contented people on depression forums.

People do leave supportive comments for one another, however very few effective strategies for wellbeing are shared. I would avoid online communities  at this stage.

Here at Depression Recovery School we are building our own online community, but with a big difference; our members have all decided to head down the road to wellness, and while we can share our challenges, responses must be positive and helpful.

  1. Choose someone you feel very comfortable with, whom you can trust completely, who is reliable and compassionate.

  1. Choose someone who has the time for you (ask them). Be sure they are not carrying too many other responsibilities. Perhaps this person could be an occasional ally, going for coffee or seeing a movie with you now and then.

  1. Be clear on what you are asking your ally to do. Ask them if they are willing.

How your allies in depression recovery can help you (you might need to give them a few hints, unless they are depression experts)

You should be aware that your allies in depression recovery are unlikely to be mental health experts and may need to you to tell them how they can help. Click To Tweet

The problem with feeling low in mood is that it tells you to run away from people who might be helpful, so at the beginning this might be quite challenging.

Unfortunately, depression can make us…well…depressing to be around and if we refuse too many invitations to join friends or family at gatherings, they may just stop asking us. So this can put us in a double bind.

We need help, but we find it difficult to ask. If we do ask, we may find that some of our friends or family members are unwilling to give us their help.

Most importantly, you need to be aware that you are not calling on allies in order to fix your moods for you, nor can they.

Your allies in depression recovery cannot rescue you from depression. allies in depression recovery

It is crucial to have allies in depression recovery, but you need to be part of the action as well.

The only person who can manage and move forward into a new, joyous and rewarding life is the person with depression: YOU.

However, this is a long road if you go it alone.

Welcome to Depression Recovery School’s Community of Depression-Free Life Creators!

Don’t try to do this alone.

Join forces with others, pool resources, help each other and become part of a family, driven by our advanced community platform available every day of the year.

You’re not the first person to struggle. You’re not the first person to feel alone, or to consider giving up, or to deal with all the negative voices inside your head telling you you’re a failure.

There is hope. There is a real possibility that you can improve your mood and emotions so that they no longer control your life.

I did.  You can too.

Believing in the possibility is step one. I don’t think you would read this far if you didn’t have some belief already.

What you need next are reinforcements.

You need a supporting wall that holds you up when you feel like backing down.

Do you know what these things are?

Other people. allies in depression recovery

Your allies in depression recovery: someone to share a laugh with. Really!

…Your support network is made up of others who feel the same as you and are on the same path as you. People who know things you don’t and can guide you. People who can become your friends, and people who are guides to support you on your way.

These people are in the minority too, but it’s your minority.

This is your depression family, your support group, your friendship circle and where you feel at home.

It’s safe to ask the questions you think about all day long in this group, because they also have similar questions and have dealt with the same problems before.

Surround yourself with a support group of like-minded individuals so you’re never alone and you always have the best advice possible.

They have the same dreams and aspirations as you do.

Dream together! Take action together.

Your allies in depression recovery. your allies in depression recovery

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Read more about Depression Recovery School here.