Preventing Depression

 I recently heard a speaker say that we are training our children and ourselves to be depressed. He also said that we have double the amount of depression (medically reported) compared to 40 years ago and ten times the amount versus the age of our grandparents or great grandparents.
I was intrigued by his statement, so I went on line to do a little research to see the statistics of depression, the causes and remedies. What I found supported the speaker's position and also supported living a life of Life Leadership.
Attitude, Relationships and Expectations
I wanted to share this because last summer I went through a great deal of depression. What I am sharing is not clinical nor do I claim to be an authority. It is based upon experience and observation. Depression is a serious issue. What I am proposing today is how to prevent depression in many instances, versus curing or treating depression. From what I read, many of the treatments for depression support what I am recommending. I am addressing depression from an attitudinal and relationship standpoint, not chemical imbalance or trauma.
From what I have read, observed and experienced, much of the "common" depression is based upon unmet expectations. People have a certain expectation, realistic or unrealistic, and when it is not met, they become depressed. Such was my case when I was trying to get a business launched. I put all my effort into getting the business going, but that effort was not sufficient. My dreams were not fulfilled. I became depressed. I asked myself "If your business succeeded, would you be depressed?" I had to honestly answer "No, I would be happy." From that honest answer to myself I began to observe and ask questions of others who were going through mild depression. My observations were that the main cause of a person's mild depression was unmet expectations. The majority of my observation was that a person was in a major "pity party" for themselves. Such was my case. (Again, this is not to unilaterally address all causes or cases of depression.)
Unrealistic Expectations - reward with no work
Unmet expectations can be in any or all areas of life: relationships, work, health, money, recreation, education and spiritual.
From my own experience, I have asked "Were my expectations and others expectations based upon reality or were the expectations self-centered and based upon a wish, dream, false or unrealistic expectation, etc.? Unfortunately, the latter answer was my most common observation.
So, what I have observed, in today's society is that we have everything given to us. We have little to no patience (see how many people get mad at a stop light or how slow their computer is, or get furious at their cell phone losing connection.) Thirty years ago, the only thing we did have was a stop light. Our society has become the "give it to me now" generation. We see this in the majority of positive response to the government bailing out the banks, the auto industry and other companies. Nobody wants to have any hard times. No one wants to let the chips fall and let time cure the bad business practices. Everyone is demanding a "happy" ending now. No one wants to "suffer" in the short run for a better long term solution. No one wants to change their behavior. It is the other guy's fault.
False Expectations - we expect everything now
Here are a few guidelines to help yourself and to teach your children about life, so that you and your kids won't be as prone to setting up false expectations and/or falling to the pity party of unmet expectations.
1) Have good relationships - with solid, stable relationships people have more realistic expectations and are supported through hardships. No person is an island, so don't live as one. Teach your children to give, love, serve, to be kind, and to put others first. Show them how to serve by you serving others. To have good relationships, a person must first learn to give, serve and work at the relationship. Solid relationships are built upon listening, caring, sharing, not taking. Relationships require work - first you must change, become better, and initiate the relationship. Too many times marriages fail because a spouse is expecting the other to change first. (unrealistic expectation)
The high divorce rate is based upon people never learning to work through conflicts. People have the concept of instant gratification which does not happen in relationships. Most people get married with the WIIFM (what's in it for me?) attitude, not the other person. Good relationship skills are learned. Practice them and model them for your children. The unrealistic expectation is that when you get married, you will automatically be happy and your spouse will serve you. Most are stunned to realize that it is hard work and requires you (not your spouse) to be constantly working to improve the relationship.
Side note - the way kids date or "go steady" today is a problem- they break up, date, break up, and build a relationship based upon the physical; this type of dating is great practice for divorce. Teach your children how to build a friendship with the opposite sex before they "go steady." Teach them that building a relationship on trust, emotional intimacy and learning to work through difficulties is what builds a marriage, not getting involved physically. If the foundation of a relationship is just physical, it will fail.
2) Setting priorities - unmet expectations happen when a person does not set priorities, everything has equal value. This type of person tries to cram everything into their schedule, and they become overwhelmed and under perform. This behavior leads to anxiety, stress, worry, and eventually depression. It also wrecks relationships. It is better to be a master of one than a "Jack of many" in terms of expertise and success. If a person bounces from one thing to another and never settles or hunkers down and sticks with it, they never learn perseverance, how to overcome difficulties and that the race is many times won by the turtle.
Also, in setting priorities, help your children learn that people are more important than things or events. Too many times the priority of "success" squashes the priority of a relationship. For example, baseball takes priority over visiting family or having dinner together.
3) Being given too much too soon - in today's environment, children are given way too much without ever learning what it means to earn something. Today's children have no concept of value in terms of work. Most children have never had to earn anything that costs more than $50. Parents buy their kids everything, especially based upon stage of life or entertainment versus what lesson or value that they may be teaching their child with the gift. A child does not deserve a car just because they turned 16. Age does not equal "deserving." A car is not a right, it is an earned privilege.
Free lunch Expectation
By given things without any understanding of what it takes to earn the money, kids have an "I am owed this" mentality. Young people show up to work and expect to get paid for them just 'showing up on time." The "do more than expected" work ethic died more than 20 years ago. Youth today have no concept of what hardship is like. "Shoot", they don't even know what a rotary phone is. Having to turn a bunch of dials would be too stressful. Having to talk to an operator would be way too inconvenient. And having to actually hand write a letter to communicate seems absurd!
By given your children everything and centering your family life on their activities, you are teaching your children that the world does revolve around them. You are teaching them false expectations. They will hit the "real world" and find that the real world does not revolve around them. They will have two choices: become depressed or move back home (and you become depressed.) Have your children work to earn spending money. Say "No" to some of their sports activities and instead replace them with family time. It is good to show your kids that Family, as a unit, is more important than they are as an individual. Build family over individuality for it is family that supports them in tough times. You may need to focus on this yourself with marriage, friendships, church, community, etc.

Do you have an “I am owed a happy marriage” attitude, but are not willing to change to make the marriage happy? It may take a radical change. What about work, are you actually working to improve you to make your job better?

4) Embrace failure- too many people try to live their lives avoiding failure, playing it safe. Too many parents work to prevent their children from experiencing failure or hardship. "Boy, having no failures sure reflects life.... Not!" Life is all about learning from our failures. Without experiencing failure, a person never learns and will repeat their same mistakes. Dads, moms, let your kids fail and fail a lot. Don't intervene for them with the teacher. Let them fail. Don't intervene with the coach; let the coach put them on the bench. Let your kids fail now and learn lessons, so that when it really counts, they have already learned the lesson.
5) Lead a healthy lifestyle - research shows that a healthy lifestyle reduces or prevents depression. Exercise. Get your kids into exercise. Food too often is used for comfort. It becomes a "drug" to numb the pain. Use exercise instead to fill your body with positive endorphins which make you feel good instead of being "numbed."
To sum all this up, in the past 40 years, people have received as the result of our ancestors giving. We are a generation of takers, not givers. With all the technology, we have become impatient and demand that we be catered to. Our government encourages a victimhood mentality so that they can remain in power. We have expectations that life should be easy and centered around us. When we find out that life is hard, it requires work, not everyone caters to our needs and we will face failure, we become depressed. We have an unrealistic expectation that we have a right to have fun, lived comfortably and have no hardships. The right is the pursuit of such things, not the guarantee of achieving them.
Focus on building strong relationships (that means you must change - not the other person). Teach your children how to serve others by you serving others. (More is 'caught' than 'taught'.) Teach them a work ethic by having them earn something instead of just giving it to them. Let them fail for in failure, they learn how to succeed.
Faith
Matthew 6: 19-21, 33 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
Where your heart is will determine what makes you happy. If you are seeking things for you, then you will face difficulty, dissappointment and life will not be satisfying. Seek God first and then He can enable you to enjoy what He has provided.
All good things were created for our enjoyment and happiness but they must be in the proper perspective: God first, others second, things third. If taken out of that perspective, depression can easily follow. Ask your heart "What do you delight in heart?" Be honest in your answer.
 

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