By the time Peter rang me to ask for help, he had already been to visit his GP and been given a prescription for antidepressants. He’d been down and depressed for a couple of years without really understanding why.
‘I don’t understand it. I’ve got everything I need’ he said forlornly.’ A lovely house, a loving wife, two healthy children, but something is wrong. When New Year arrived, I didn’t feel like celebrating. There was no enthusiasm. I just can’t picture the future and that frightens me. Can my depression be cured?’
It was time to look for the clues to his depression. I wondered which of his emotional needs were not being met.
Can depression be cured just by getting your needs met?
Whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever your culture or religion, age or gender, you are a human being and, as a human being you’ve got certain needs.
These needs are like a recipe. If the ingredients are all there and in the right balance, as a human being you’ll feel good about your life.
Abraham Maslow was one of the first to look closely at the role of unmet needs, motivation and happiness.
Key needs are safety and security, a sense of control over your life, feeling connected to others and feeling connected to the wider world. We also need to feel valued. We hate to feeling bored and love to learn new things which help us to have a sense that we are stretching and growing. These ‘life ingredients’ in the right balance will give us a sense of meaning and purpose in life.
So can depression be cured just by making some changes in your life? The simple answer is a resounding ‘yes.’
The great news is that you were born with all the resources necessary to get those needs met. Your human brain is astonishingly adaptable and creative.
Peter’s depression cure
Peter became his own ‘lifestyle detective’ and found the clues to the cause of his depression.
He was simply in the wrong job. As a graphic designer he was spending up to ten hours a day in front of a computer screen. Yet Peter was an outdoor person. As a teenager, he’d been physically fit and active and had lived an outdoor lifestyle on his father’s farm. Even though his current job paid the bills, it was destroying him inside. I asked Peter this question:
‘If anything was possible and failure was not an option, what job would make you happy?’
Peter thought for a while and said ‘ I’d be a landscape gardener!’
Peter’s depression lifted as soon as he made decision to start moving towards a life that was right for him. With his wife’s backing, he started a part-time course in gardening and landscaping. He finally realized he had become disconnected with his old dream of owning a garden centre. It only took one session for the depression to disappear. Peter had taken back control of his life.
Are you living your best life?
Answer these 9 questions to identify which of your emotional needs is not being met. The more ‘yes’ answers you have, the more likely you are to feel happy with your life.
If there are a few ‘no’s or ‘sometimes’, the more likely it is that you will feel something is missing. Then you’ve got a choice. Keep things as they are and stay deprbessed or look at your choices and make some changes.
As they say, the true definition of madness is to keep doing what you’ve always done and expect to feel different!
9 Important Questions
- Do I feel safe and secure in my life?
- Do I have a sense of autonomy or control?
- Am I fulfilled by my work life?
- Do I have a balance of fun and friendship?
- Do I feel connected to the wider world?
- Do I feel valued by others?
- Do I have status and respect?
- Am I learning something new?
- Does my life have meaning and purpose?