Saturday, November 5, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Positive Imagination

I have been extremely tired the last few months and the other day I decided to do some research to see if there was something I could do for the fatigue.  I know that fatigue is one of the major symptoms of depression but I just didn't know how much sleep a depressed person should be getting or if that even matters.  In my research I came across a website with some really interesting ideas.  The website is hgi.org.uk.  This is the part that I found most interesting:

People sink into a depressed mood when their innate physical or emotional needs are not being met and, instead of dealing with this situation, they begin to worry about it - misuing their imagination.  All depressed people worry.  This increases the amount of dreaming they do, upsetting the balance between slow-wave, recuperative sleep and dream sleep.  Consequently they start to develop an imbalance between energy burning dream sleep and refreshing slow-wave sleep.  Soon they start to wak up feeling tired and unmotivated.  (Depressed an anxious people dream far more intensely than non-depressed people.)

This really made sense to me because my dreams have been intense and seemed to go on all night long.  In wondering what to do next, I decided just this paragraph alone addressed several things I could work on.  First of all, was making sure my "innate needs" are being met which the website listed as the following:

  • Security-safe territory in the home and outside where we can live without experiencing excessive fear and anxiety
  • Volition-a sense of autonomy and control over what is happening around and to us
  • Attention-receiving it, but also giving it-an essential nutrition that fuels the development of each individual, family and culture
  • Emotional connection to other people, both indvidually (friendship, love, intimacy) and in the wider community (respect, status)
  • Privacy-time to reflect and consolidate our experineces
  • A sense of competence and achievement (ensuring we don't feel low self-esteem)
  • The need for meaning and purpose that comes from being stretched mentally or physically (or both)
I can see in my past where those needs weren't met, but I have really been doing well at making sure that they are now.  One other thing that I noticed in the quoted paragraph above is the line about how depressed people "misuse their imagination."  That part really caught my attention because it was something my therapist and I had talked about.  She said that I have a really good imagination, I just use it negatively and I had to agree with her.  I always imagine the worse in everything so I decided I needed to figure out how to use my imagination in a more positive way, but I didn't know how.  In Beyond Co-Dependency there is this line:

"How do we nurture ourselves? . . .  If we've never seen, touched, tasted or felt it, how could we know what nurturing is?"

I felt like I could apply that to my problem with positive imagination, if I've never seen, touched, tasted or felt it, how could I know what positive imagination was.  After reading the hgi website, I made a list of  positive imagination ideas that it suggested such as noticing good things (I think my blog renaemcbarron365.blogspot.com is helping me to do that), deep breathing exercises (I have been doing this for years using the Bodyflex program), exercise (I'm working on this one), harness imagination to solve problems instead of worrying about them and imagine dealing with problems positively. 

These last two suggestions were definitely difficult for me, but I came up with an idea.  I have been doing my "morning pages" (the morning pages idea is from the book The Artists Way where you write whatever comes out of your head filling three pages) for several years and I decided as part of my morning pages I would take one of my worries and write the opposite of the worry.

On the hgi website, it said, "when patients know that their negative ruminations are causing their poor nights sleep and their exhausted days, they are quickly motivated to work to break the cycle of depression."  After reading all this, I was motivated too.  I really wanted to feel better so I started my positive imagination writing as part of my daily morning pages the day after I found the website.  A week has gone by and I'm feeling so much better.  I'm not as fatigued and my dreams are slowly lessening in intensity.  I think I still have a long way to go as "positive imagination" is a challenge for me, it definitely does not come naturally.  But practice makes perfect, right?!  At least that's what I imagine. 

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