Boredom and depression are no respecters of persons and they have afflicted musicians, celebrities, world leaders, athletes and ordinary people. Boredom is a state of not being excited or motivated, but rather, feeling disinterested in life.
Being bored in life may take out the zest and joy in living. It is important to address boredom as an idle mind is the devil's workshop. Depression is a much serious problem and a major cause of disability worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, major or clinical depression was the fourth-leading cause of disability in the world overall and the second-leading cause of disability for people aged fifteen to forty-four. Depression is a state of being burdened by great sadness, emptiness, exhaustion, and being overwhelmed with negativity which affects a person physically, mentally, spiritually and relationally.
Boredom and depression are determined to a large extent by our thoughts. As we think, we change the physical nature of our brains as thought changes the structure of matter. Scientists are finally beginning to see the brain as changeable and no longer viewed as a machine that is hardwired early in life, unable to adapt and wearing out with age. This is seen in brain-imaging techniques where we can see and measure the activity of the mind through the firing of neurons and the evidence of behavioural changes when we change our brains with our minds. Dr. Eric R. Kandel, a Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychiatrist, shows how our thoughts, and even our imaginations can turn certain genes on and off, changing the structure of the neurons in the brain.
We are not victims of our biology or circumstances. How we respond to events and circumstances of life can have an enormous impact on our mental and physical health. Research shows that 75 to 98 percent of mental, physical and behavioural illness come from one's thoughts. Hence, as we consciously direct our thinking, we can wire out toxic and negative thoughts and replace them with healthy ones. New thought networks in the brain grow as a result of new thoughts. How we focus our attention affects how the chemicals, proteins and wiring of our brains change. Research is growing increasingly to demonstrate how we think affects our spirit, soul and body. The universal book of wisdom of the ages, The Proverbs , have long echoed this concept, `As he thinks in his heart, so is he'. Our mind is designed to control the body, of which the brain is a part of and not the other way around.
We may have a fixed set of genes, but which of those genes are active and how they are active are much affected by how we think and process our experiences.
Whatever state we may be in right now, be it boredom or depression, there is so much hope that we can exit out of the situation to experience the fullness of joy and wonder of living. It may not be easy, but definitely possible, if we set our minds to it. The analogy is akin to losing weight, where we have to watch our diet and exercise, in order to start shedding off the kilos - which is definitely possible if we are disciplined enough in taking those steps.
We cannot control events and circumstances of life but we can always control our reactions, and in doing so, we change our brains. We are constantly reacting to events and circumstances and in the process, our brains are shaped in either in a positive, good quality of life direction or in a negative, poor quality of life direction. According to Dr. Herbert Benson, MD, president of Harvard Medical School's Mind-Body Institute, negative thinking leads to stress, which affects our body's natural healing capacities. Studies have shown that toxic thinking and negative feelings, such as anger, fear, irritation, unforgiveness and frustrations cause many switching off DNA codes and the stress eventually manifests in our bodies. This association between stress with negative thinking and feelings is a huge 85 percent. Hence, we feel shutdown by negative emotions.
However, the negative shutdown of the DNA codes can be reversed by feelings of love, joy, appreciation and gratitude. It is no wonder that the ancient book of Philippians 4:8 , states, `Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.' This is applying epigenetics, the new science that is gaining increasing recognition in application, where our thinking and subsequent choices we make impact our physical brain and body and our mental health.
There are 10 keys to changing the toxic patterns of thinking and living to overcome boredom and depression:
1. USING NEUROPLASTICITY TO RENEW OUR MINDS
Neuroplasticity by definition means that the brain is malleable and adaptable, changing moment by moment daily. Research is showing that the brain is plastic and can be changed by our thinking and choices. It is really incredible to recognise that we are responsible for the choices of our thoughts and in control of our brains. It is no wonder how difficult and traumatic experiences in life can have different outcomes in different people's lives, depending on what they focus on.
The key is to focus and think of all the wonderful things that have happened in life and expect more of these experiences to eventuate. And instead, forgetting the sad, painful or traumatic memories will weaken and disconnect those neurons that contribute to depression. It is about disciplining ourselves to meditate on positive writings and teachings that will rewire healthy new circuits in the brain. Not catching and stopping negative thoughts lead to a potential downward spiral of mental stress and despair. Research has shown that five to sixteen minutes of focused, meditative capturing of thoughts and deep thinking activity daily increased the chances of a happier outlook on life.
2. BE WILLING TO CHANGE OUR PERCEPTIONS OF SITUATIONS
In a same difficult situation, different people may have different perceptions about their circumstances. A difficult situation that won't kill us can actually make us stronger if we can learn to harness it. Recognising that overcoming boredom and depression has to involve new habits and new ways of perceptions in life. In some cases, we may need professionals as counsellors, psychiatrists or psychologists to help us in depression that have haunted some of us for a long time.
3. BELIEVING WE CAN HAVE THE POWER TO CHANGE
If we don't believe we have the power to change our boredom and depressing thoughts and control our choices, we are not going to succeed. Renewing our minds and replacing toxic thinking has to be regularly practised until it becomes a new habit. It takes more than two months - to be exact, 66 days to form a habit, so we need to persevere in our beliefs which have to be reinforced by continual practical actions to overcome boredom and depression. As the saying goes, `Faith without works is dead'.
4. GETTING AWAY TO A TRANQUIL AND DIFFERENT ENVIRONMENT AND ENJOY NATURE’S BOUNTY OF MOUNTAINS, LAKES AND SEAS
Enjoying nature can help to alleviate stress and depression when we reflect on the grandeur of nature. Stress can rob us of much pleasures of life and aggravate feelings of boredom and depression. It is amazing how a hike outdoors can give us a different perspective and get the endorphins flowing to give us a feel-good feeling. One of my clients who was feeling bored and depressed in life, took my advice to go away for a few days to meditate and reflect with professional guidance by the beach. She came back feeling reoriented happily in her life with a new zest for living.
5. TAKE EFFORTS TO REACH OUT AND STAY CONNECTED WITH FAMILY, FRIENDS AND SOCIETY
We become bored and depressed when we isolate ourselves from the world. The key is to continue lifelong to take a keen interest in people to attempt to stay in touch or better still, to add value to other people's lives. When we involve ourselves with people, our lives may become more meaningful and interesting. Everyone has a story to share and we need to get connected face to face and share meaningfully, especially if we are battling with boredom and depression - we need to have people that we can trust to share our struggles with to get support.
6. PICK UP AN ACTIVITY AND LEARN THINGS THAT INTEREST AND MOTIVATE US
In essence, we need to learn interesting skills and matters that feed our soul and spirit. When we stop learning, we stop growing in life. It may be reading about a new topic, learning to dance or to sing, paint or anything that will get us looking forward to embark on it. Research shows that whenever we learn something new, we rewire our brains for the better.
7. PAYING ATTENTION TO OUR NUTRITIONAL NEEDS BY EATING MORE SERVINGS OF FRUITS AND VEGETABLES DAILY
Research shows that people who struggle with depression generally tend to eat poorly nutritionally and have low levels of essential fatty acids, in particular, Omega 3. Hence, increasing our intake of Omega 3, besides ensuring a complete broad-spectrum of micronutrients are received in a good multivitamin is a good practice.
8. GETTING MORE SUNSHINE AND EXERCISE
Research shows that risks of depression is increased with low exposure to sunlight. Make it a point to get some morning sunshine or go for walks with a loved one or a pet dog. The whole point is to find ways to make our lives interesting. In particular, regular exercise is great to increase the release of endorphins to combat boredom and depression. When we stop exercising, life begins to slow down and affects us negatively.
9. VOLUNTEERING TO SERVE OTHERS OFFERS A WONDERFUL DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON LIFE
There was a client, battling with depression who took the advice to volunteer her time to serve others, this took her mind off her own problems and gave her a whole new perspective on others who had other challenging problems, helped her to alleviate depression. Mother Theresa too, suffered from depression but she took much time and effort to serve others that she has become an inspiration of how a disability can be turned around for good.
10. PRACTISE SPIRITUALITY TO OVERCOME BOREDOM AND DEPRESSION
We need to be grounded on our beliefs or something much bigger than ourselves to overcome depression that may have a stronghold over us. Overcoming boredom and depression by involving our beliefs enable us to tap into a higher power of overcoming the issues that have haunted us to cause our world to be grey and boring. Research has shown that people who battled with depression have found much comfort and hope that (their) God is with them in their darkest times. Research by Dr Gail Ironson, a leading mind-body medicine researcher and professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Miami has shown that people who choose to believe in a benevolent and loving God, had a huge advantage over those who don't in terms of having higher concentration of `helper T-cells' to fight disease.
The whole truth is that we need not be alone as we overcome boredom and depression, if we recognise that every life challenge can help us to grow to be stronger when we are willing to get help and be an overcomer. Even better, when we reach out to a loving God who is bigger than ourselves, to heal and restore us from our broken lives that may be wrecked from toxic thinking and poor reactions to life circumstances that have caused us to spiral downwards to boredom and depression. There is great hope as I know of many who have experienced healing and restoration from boredom and depression, if we are willing to apply the above keys.
Source: Prime Magazine Aug - Sep 2017 Issue. Reproduced with permission.
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