If you become depressed, vividly remind yourself of an upbeat, resourceful memory before imagining the future. If a friend, co-worker, or family member is depressed you can seamlessly use the same sequence to help him or her feel more hopeful about the future.

Depression is the common cold of mental health. When researchers have depressed people imagine the future, it is usually bleak. If you've ever told someone "Cheer up, tomorrow will be a better day," you got that look that says, "Yeah, right."

Our minds are capable of logically understanding that the death, job loss, divorce, etc., eventually will not sting as much and new positive events will occur. However, when we try to imagine the future, we almost invariably base emotions about the future on the emotions we are feeling now. I.e., our minds are brilliant at imagining events or even things we have never seen, but have great difficulty imagining emotions other than our current feelings.

But there is a solution—a way to help your mind have more optimistic feelings when thinking about the future. Think back to a time when you felt good and felt hopeful and optimistic. Perhaps it was a time when you felt unstoppable. Vividly remember what you saw, felt, and heard. Now while you are feeling these positive emotions, imagine what will happen tomorrow, next week, or next year. If you slip back into current depressed feelings, mentally take yourself back to the resourceful time.

When a friend is talking gloomily about his future, slide in a “Remember the time when we...." Revel in the fond memory. Then you can ask what his plans are for next week. With someone you don't know as well you can ask about better times or the best times of his life.

Certainly more severe cases of depression may need additional interventions such as psychotherapy, exercise, better nutrition, addressing drug and alcohol abuse, or anti-depressant medication. My analogy for anti-depressants is the time when you left your car headlights on overnight and your car refused to start. You got a jump start, drove it for awhile, fixed anything that was draining the battery, and the car worked again. Of course, in some severe cases people need to stay on anti-depressants permanently.

Depression is a miserable experience that impairs relationships, impairs work performance, and makes us more vulnerable to illnesses. The simple strategy of vividly experiencing positive memories before contemplating tomorrow can prevent a lot of pain and get people more hopeful and productive. Just as we all know we need to exercise and eat healthily, the trick is having the presence of mind and discipline to do it. This strategy is a lot easier than getting motivated to exercise or saying no to that pastry. It's free, it only takes a few minutes, and it works.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Michael Brickey, The Anti-Aging Psychologist, teaches people to think, feel, look and be more youthful. He is an inspiring keynote speaker and Oprah-featured author. His works include: Defy Aging, 52 Baby Steps to grow young, and Reverse Aging (anti-aging hypnosis CDs). Visit www.NotAging.com for a free report on anti-aging secrets and a free newsletter with practical anti-aging tips.


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