The "basics" are a list of ten areas of focus that are considered foundational in recovery from depression. They include; good food, good sleep, meds and B vitamins, laughter, relaxation, exercise, affirmations/positive self talk, spirituality, journaling and reaching out.
So to catch up, or backtrack as it were, here’s what we’ve done so far:
Part 1: Good Food, which I addressed in my post “Ice Cream Day.”
Part 2: Laughter, which I wrote about in “A Laughing Matter.”
Part 3: Spirituality.
The handout I received from the treatment center regarding the basics says this about Spirituality: “If religious faith or spiritual practice has ever been an important part of your life, do whatever feeds your spirit at least 5 minutes every day.” This is a tough one for a lot of people. Patients frequently dismiss this “basic” because they don’t have a particular religious belief or background. Or they might be totally averse to things of a religious nature. But spirituality isn’t necessarily about religion.
I like to look up words in the dictionary to get a better grasp of their meanings, and then I like to pick and choose which meanings I wish to apply in a given circumstance. So I looked up the word “spiritual” in the dictionary and sure, it had the part about “of, relating to, or characteristic of sacred things, the Church, religion, etc.” (The dictionary actually said “etc.” like the writers got bored with the definition they were writing, or they suddenly had to leave for lunch or something. Odd, I thought.)
But then there’s the definition of “relating to the spirit or soul and not to physical nature or matter; intangible.” So relating to the soul… intangible… that’s what I think of when I hear the word spiritual – something intangible that feeds my soul. (I won’t go into defining “soul.” Just assume I’m kind of going in a new age-y direction with that term.)
At the outpatient treatment program (I still prefer just calling it brain school), people who struggled with the concept of spirituality were assured that they weren’t being asked to sit in a pew and pray every day, or chant mantras, or burn incense – unless they wanted to, of course. It was suggested that spiritual practices could include things like journaling, producing art, taking walks in nature, listening to music… whatever might feed one’s soul.
It’s a connection, not to the artwork but to the process, not to the trees or flowers but to the intangible essence of nature, not to the melodies or lyrics of the songs but to the rhythms and congruity – or dissonance – that flow through the music. It’s a connection to life.
And it’s a connection that we sorely need, whether we are depressed and in a treatment program, or not. The handout recommendation of at least five minutes is, I think, way too lenient. But I certainly understand that it can be hard, especially when one is depressed.
My experience is that the more depressed I am, the more concrete my thinking becomes. Dealing with something abstract like feeding my soul is a huge stretch during those times. So maybe five minutes is a good starting point. Once we start doing those types of activities, it’s unlikely that we are going to stop at the five minute mark anyway. If we find that spiritual connection, we will be drawn into the moment and forget about time, at least for a while.
And for that little while, we may also manage to forget that we are depressed. I’ll go for five minutes of that any day.