Admittedly, I am a brain nerd. Me and many other far more brilliant stars out there. And I am always thrilled to report there is more good news for those of us who struggle with depression. The brain has been studied so intensely that some of the mysteries about this organ are being revealed for the common man to understand. Best of all, there are ways to change the ways the brain functions without the use of pills, electrical stimulation, or other scary sounding tools.
I’m pretty impressed with Henry Emmons’ 2006 book, The Chemistry of Joy, where he outlines a three-step program for overcoming depression with the best of both Eastern and Western wisdom. And more recently, I read Laurel Mellin’s Wired for Joy – A Revolutionary Method for Creating Happiness from Within. In laymen’s terms, both of these books give hope to those who suffer from depression, whatever it’s underlying causes are. And since I am a big fan of Byron Katie, I will mention her first book, Loving What Is as yet one more excellent example of how humans have learned that we can change our life by changing our behavior.
Wired for Joy encourages us to use EBT- emotional brain training – which helps redirect the emotional brain from states of anxiety and depression to states of joy. This process is enabled by the brain’s neuroplasticity, meaning the brain has the ability to change it’s patterns, and uses the thinking portion of the brain (neocortex) to influence the emotional part of the brain (limbic). Balancing the emotional brain brings stability to our moods, relationships, health, and behavior.
In simplified terms, EBT and its broad network of online professional support help the average person like you and I to identify an emotion, apply some consciousness to what’s happening to you, and correct your thinking which alleviates stress. And the more you are able to consciously use these tools, the more the brain changes the patterns developed that don’t serve you, or your depression and anxiety, well.
“In EBT, you stop giving your power to the problems, and instead focus on how many moments of joy you experienced that day. How many times did you switch your brain to joy to break those errant wires that are messing with your life? And when you change your focus, those wires that ramp up problems change. You are weakening them. You ar breaking them. One by one most stress symptoms fade. Medications, devices, and procedures? You begin to need fewer of them. You stop thinking of yourself in terms of problems. Instead, you think about the abundance of joy in your life.”
Byron Katie’s work has been copied numerous times so you may have come across these tools if you frequent consciousness raising websites. I’m sure she considers this a supreme compliment and would encourage the dissemination of her work in whatever form you can find it, but in all fairness, she is the brilliant one. In this approach, which she calls ‘the work’, she provides 4 simple questions you apply to your theories of why you are unhappy. Next, you turn it around.
Take a simple example of your own such as: “My husband should pay more attention to me.” Ask yourself the following and consider all your answers from the heart, not the logical mind:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know it’s true?
- How do you react when you think that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
Now turn your question around so it becomes a series of statements such as “I should pay more attention to my husband”, and/or “I should pay more attention to myself”. Here, you are trying to work through the brain’s resistance to change and find new neural pathways, fueled by the heart, to consider. By considering these new questions, enlightenment often appears.
“When you can honestly look forward to experiences that have been uncomfortable, there is no longer anything to fear in life – you see everything as a gift that can bring you self-realization.”
In The Chemistry of Joy, Emmons discusses the necessity of feeding your brain nothing short of the very best foods which are widely available in the United States as well as many other places in the world. He discusses Ayurvedic medicine and correlates western ‘labels’ with eastern doshas. Finally, he interjects a third viewpoint, your Buddhist emotional type to further enable you to understand your own personal tendencies and work with them to alleviate stress.
So here we are again…hhmmmm… right back to mindfulness. All three of these wonderful approaches (something for everyone) implore us to become more conscious and aware in order to change the habituated patterns which then create stress and unhappiness and ultimately, depression. It may be my journey but everywhere I turn, the answer seems to be mindfulness. I don’t even realize it myself until I get to the end of yet another piece and realize – “O wow! The solution is always the same”!! It does make me wonder why mindfulness isn’t in the curriculum of every elementary school in this country.
So none of these tools are complicated to use and EBT is also available in online support groups. I always find that change is so much easier when you aren’t alone. I know it isn’t an option for everyone to approach this with a buddy but being human, we’re social creatures. Reach out! It can change your mind and your life.