The Process Of Change From Depression To Optimism Depression is a medical condition leading to persistent feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness, thought of death and suicide and an inability to feel pleasure or take interest in life. Some depressed people are physically depressed as well as constantly tired and sometimes insomniac or lacking in appetite (Harvard Mental Health Letter, December 1997/January 1998). Weather you choose to take medication or other means to decrease your depression a process of change takes place. The change could lead to optimism. To be depressed is like seeing a "glass half empty" to be optimistic is to see the "glass half full." First, treatment for depression can involve taking medications, going to therapy or counseling, or both.

You may need ongoing treatment to prevent it from coming back. Some people find comfort just by learning depression is a medical condition. Learning more about your condition is often a good first step toward feeling better. Treatment can improve your moods and can help you feel better by decreasing your symptoms.

A study in the American Journal of Psychiatry tracked some of the brain changes associated with drugs such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). Research has demonstrated that serotonin is an important chemical that nerve cells use to communicate. This chemical, called neurotransmitter, play a role in concentration, attention, and aggression. Shortages of serotonin are thought to play an important role in depression. By increasing the levels of serotonin through a mechanism in the brain called reuptake inhibition, certain medications can help to combat depression. Once you have controlled the depression, you may perceive everyday living in a different perspective.

Therapists focus on reducing unpleasant negative emotions -- anxiety, fears, depression, anger, dependency and so forth. This is partly because patients frequently have gotten into a sinkhole of obsessive scary, irritating, or sad thoughts and feelings. Also, therapy methods are oriented toward reducing symptoms. Research, however, has shown that positive thoughts and experiences reduce the negative reactions we have to stress, loss, frustration, and helplessness. Note that how well we cope is related to (a) perceived characteristics of the upsetting situation, such as how changeable the situation is seen to be, (b) personality factors, reflecting such traits as optimism, self-efficacy, toughness, a sense of humor, and neuroticism, and (c) social resources the person has, such family support, a devoted friend or therapist, a fun group, etc. (Folkman & Moskowitz, 2000).

It is important to acknowledge that we will sometimes feel down. But by expecting rather than dreading down time, such periods become more tolerable. In addition, recognizing that we will have blue periods helps keep them in perspective. We will be able to say to ourselves, "I was depressed before, and got out of it; this time, too, it will pass." After accepting that we will sometimes feel sad, and even experience self-pity, we can concentrate on ways to shorten these periods and make them fewer and farther between. Today's cognitive therapists often ask their patients to schedule positive events and to look for positive meaning. The more positive events and experiences we can have, the more we reduce the depression (Dixon & Reid, 2000).

According to Family Life Specialist, Ben Silliman, "Healthy, optimistic attitudes lead to positive effort and positive results in a cycle of hope" (Ben Silliman, UW Family Life Specialist). Optimism can be defined "A disposition to take the most hopeful view." References Dixon, W. A. & Reid, J.

K. (2000). Positive life events as a moderator of stress-related depressive symptoms. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78, 342-346. Folkman, S. & Moskowitz, J.

T. (2000). Positive affect and the other side of coping... American Psychologist, 55, 647-654 Harvard Mental Health Letter (December 1997/January 1998) Silliman B.

(December 2000). Raising Optimistic Kids. 1.