There is increasing evidence that when people feel meaningfully engaged with activities in their life, and that they can make a difference to somebody else, this helps with depression. If you take a genuine interest in the welfare of others, it can help you , too. Depression tends to be a very self-focused problem. Some people have found that taking up charity work or doing random acts of kindness is helpful.
Helping others can put meaning into our lives- but this is not a submissive sort of helping others, so that they will like you, then you can get disappointed if they don’t. This is cultivating a genuine understanding that all of us are vulnerable to the ups and downs of life, all of us are on the same journey , and therefore generally reaching out to each others and helping each other is a way we can cope better .
Compassionate behaviour is often also about courage. For example, if you suffer from a fear of giving out (agoraphobia), then compassion is about encouraging yourself with kindness and understanding to go out a little further each dayif you can; if it gets too difficult for you, be supportive and tell yourself to have a go maybe tomorrow.
Compassion is not sitting at home eating chocolates because it is soothing ! Kindness in this context is not avoidance , or just having a nice warm bath with candles. Compassion is about approaching problems with support , encouragement and an understanding of the difficulties . In fact you already have the compassion and wisdom to know this .
Imagine you have a child or somebody you really care about, who has to do something frightening , or that they find difficult -what attitude would you take?
How would you support and encourage them ? Why would you want to encourage and support them ? The answer is , of course, because you intuitively have wisdom that tells you that kindness , encouragement and support will help them, where as criticism and bullying won’t. So you have the knowledge already that compassionate behaviour is the way to engage with our problems and those of others.
Another key aspect of compassionate behaviour is turning to others . When we are depressed we can have a sense of shame and often hide away; we don’t share our problems , and we don’t seek help. Indeed , one of the problems with depression today is that many people suffer in silence because they are too ashamed to see their general practioner (GP).
But compassionate behaviour means opening ourselves to the potential helpfulness of others. This doesn’t mean we go around burdening everybody we meet with our problems . It means that we genuinely seek sharing support and help from people. Some innovative approaches to depression in men , for example , have involved setting up groups and small football teams to encourage depressed males to socialize more- and this has proved very effective. Try to make more effort with your friends.
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