This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book.

It felt like I had a train in my brain going around and around carrying a relentless pattern of sad, mad, thoughts. I could not turn those thoughts off. The train was full of pain and every time it went around I hurt.

by Toni Powell

DEPRESSION IS NO FUN… none at all, I hated it. Obsession isn’t any fun either… all that relentless going over what happened, who said what, who did what, and how unfair it all was. I spent a year of my life, though it felt a whole lot longer, pretty much laying around on the couch bemoaning my life and feeling hopeless, pointless, angry, depressed, bitter and also quite a bit righteous. After all, I was the victim wasn’t I? It felt like I had a train in my brain

going around and around carrying a relentless pattern of sad, mad, thoughts. I could not turn those thoughts off. I could hardly sleep, and found it hard to think about anything else. The train was full of pain and every time it went around I hurt. When I looked into the future and

imagined living with that train long term it made me feel like jumping off a tall building. Fortunately I didn’t even have the energy to climb to the top of one. Anti-depressants held no allure as I

knew they wouldn’t provide a cure, only a cover up, and the side effects – numbed emotions, suicide, depression, anxiety, to name a few – did not really appeal. Eventually I got desperate enough

to go out and look for a way to change things that did not involve tall buildings. I happened upon a course* that taught

me about how my brain works, what neural pathways are, and how flexible and changeable the brain is. During the course I had a profoundly life-changing epiphany:

“You find what you look for.”

Those six little words changed the way I live my life.

BACK TRACK To back track a little: I best explain that even during the worst of my depression/ obsession I had been very, very, familiar with gratitude as a concept – I loved it. I had a gratitude journal (mostly empty) and two of my daughters, Georgia and

16 march 2014

Hailey, had popular online gratitude projects. Unbelievably, given my mental state, Hailey and I had even written a short comedy film script about gratitude. Still, my gratitude journal sat lonely by my bed while I waited, not very hopefully, for something good to happen, something worth being grateful for.

WHY GRATITUDE WORKS While the course* was not really about gratitude, the science that was presented in the course opened my eyes as to why and how gratitude could work to alleviate depression and why it had not worked for me so far. I began to understand that it isn’t, as I had thought, being happy that makes us grateful – it is deciding to be grateful that makes us happy. I began to see that the intentional

practice of gratitude, even when you don’t feel like it, has the power to change entrenched negative thinking and rewire the brain. Very tentatively, and with some difficulty at first, I began to practise gratitude. In a surprisingly short period of time that relentless train in my head was mostly derailed and my depression faded off into the distance. There are many reasons that gratitude worked for me. Here are just a few:

Other orientation Gratitude practice forced me to start thinking about other people and the way they contributed to my life. I had less time to wallow, gazing at my navel and more time to notice how many kindnesses I was regularly shown. I’d been so self-focused that I just took them for granted and didn’t even notice them.

Lots of good chemicals I found gratitude practice reduced my stress levels almost immediately. There is so much science backing this up – research shows that gratitude practice reduces the stress hormone cortisol and dramatically increases the feel-good hormone DHEA. There is nothing like an all-natural ‘happy chemical’ cocktail to make you feel better.

New tracks It turned out I did have a train in my brain going around and around on tracks I had laid for it: neural pathways! These little guys are the highways for information travelling through our nervous system and they are built by our own thoughts. It works, very simplistically put, like this: Thoughts create neural pathways and, the more thoughts on a subject, the stronger that neural pathway becomes. Our brains have to automate most of our thinking just to get through the day – so the strongest neural pathways are the default thinking. My nasty, sad, self-pitying and angry thoughts had created a super highway and it was no wonder I couldn’t think about much else. As I began to deliberately think

grateful, thankful, good thoughts, my brain began to think positively, and I found the old super highway depression pathway had less traction. In time I found it more natural to default to a positive take on things that happened.

Different picture When I said I had had an epiphany around the six little words “You find

Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48