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Solutions for Emotional Well-Being

Overcoming Depression

Recognizing Depression

There is much in our daily lives that contributes to stress overload and anxiety and for some this feels like a heavy weight: jobs that are increasingly demanding; a constant stream of news from around the world – much of it negative; danger in our neighborhoods and threats from abroad; and countless responsibilities that consume so much of our day that there’s no time left just for us, to release, relax and rejuvenate.

Coupled with the disappointments that are a natural part of living – loss of a family member or friend, end of a relationship, illness, or hormonal, neurological or other physical changes such as menopause – it can all be too much for a lot of people, many of whom are overtaken by feelings of sadness, dejection, hopelessness or pessimism, lack of motivation and fatigue.

When such feelings persist for weeks or months and interfere with the ability to function normally, they can indicate one of the three types of depression: major depression; bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness; and dysthymia, or low-level depression. Their hold can be destructive, episodic or unrelenting and even life threatening. (If the symptoms above describe you or someone you know or you simply suspect depression in yourself or another, intervention by a medical professional should be sought immediately. You should never alter medication or other therapies without consulting your doctor.) (See our Recommendations)

"Depression is a prison where you are both the suffering prisoner and the cruel jailer."

– From Depression: The Way Out of Your Prison, Internationally Known Psychologist, Dorothy Rowe

An International Threat: Depression today is a leading cause of disability internationally, doubling every 10 years, and it is predicted that by 2020 it will be exceeded only by heart disease as the most disabling condition in the world. In the United States alone, according to the National Institutes for Mental Health, an estimated 19 million American adults – 1 in 10 – suffer from depression.

Coincidentally, experts widely associate depression with heart disease, particularly in light of studies such a 1998 one (Ford et al.) of male medical students at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in which it was revealed that those who experienced depression in school were twice as likely to develop heart disease 15 years later. Clinical depression also has been observed in one out of every five people with coronary heart disease and one in three with heart failure. Depression in people with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and other diseases can exacerbate these conditions.


Transforming Depression: The HeartMath Solution to Feeling Overwhelmed, Sad, and Stressed

Childre, Rozman, 2007

This latest installment in HeartMath’s Transforming Series could be the most important tool for you or someone you know to help overcome short- or long-term depression. Based on 24 years of scientific research, this informative book has earned high praise from medical professionals around the world for its simple, yet powerful tools and clear, concise advice. Among the tools are Notice and Ease®, the Power of Neutral® and the Cut-Thru® Technique, all of which will teach you to clear stressful feelings as they come up. Transforming Depression looks at the root causes of many depressive patterns and how to clear them by using the easy-to-learn, proven methods of the HeartMath System. Let Transforming Depression start helping you today to release and prevent depression and regain hope and inner peace.

What are the Symptoms?

People with depressive illnesses do not all experience the same symptoms. The severity, frequency and duration of symptoms will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness.

Symptoms include:

  • Persistent sad, anxious or empty feelings
  • Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and/or helplessness
  • Irritability, restlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable
  • Fatigue and decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering details and making decisions
  • Insomnia, early morning wakefulness or excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or appetite loss
  • Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
  • Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps or digestive problems that do not ease, even with treatment

What are the causes?

There is no single known cause of depression. Rather, it likely results from a combination of genetic, biochemical, environmental and psychological factors.

Research indicates depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. The parts of the brain responsible for regulating mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear to function abnormally. Important neurotransmitters – chemicals brain cells used to communicate – appear to be out of balance, but these images don’t reveal why the depression has occurred.

Some types of depression appear to be genetic, but depression can occur in people without family histories of depression.

Also, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Subsequent depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.

* From the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

Clear, Feel, Improve and Repattern

The inability to resolve or get past emotions or feelings we have in connection with stressful events and circumstances in life can lead to depression. While many therapies for depression that call for drug intervention and others such as the process of identifying stressful events that may have led to depression have had success with many people, they have proven inadequate for many others. The noninvasive methods of the HeartMath System, including clearing emotions and intentionally experiencing positive emotions, have been shown to be successful alternatives for a wide range of people diagnosed with depression and many other debilitating conditions.

Clear Your Emotions: It’s important to clear current feelings – as you go – so they don’t stack up on top of other unresolved emotions and add to undesired emotional habits and the stresses or traumas stored in your cells. The result of not clearing unresolved emotions can be to either sink you into a state of depression or prolong an existing state of depression. In contrast, clearing emotions as you go not only keeps your current emotional slate clean, but also helps you begin clearing past emotional habits and imprinted emotional memories.

Feel Positive: One day, the discovery, near the end of the second millennium, of the awesome power of positive emotions may well be remembered as one of the great breakthroughs in the quest to improve the human condition. The central element of another aspect of HeartMath’s therapeutic approach is learning to use heartfelt, positive attitudes, intentionally or unintentionally experienced, to help you feel better, think more clearly and improve your outlook as well as your performance – academically, athletically, socially or in relation to your employment. Intentionally feeling positive emotions is at the heart of HeartMath’s scientifically based and proven tools and techniques. These tools and techniques teach people to manage stress in their lives, control emotions and use the intelligence and wisdom of their hearts to overcome depression, anxiety, anger, sleeplessness, fatigue and many other problems. They are easy to learn and can provide immediate and, when practiced regularly, long-term relief.

Improve Your HRV: HeartMath researchers also have studied over many years the impact of heart-rate variability (HRV) – the natural increases and decreases in heart rate that occur from one heartbeat to the next – on how we feel, think and perform. The pattern of HRV over time is simply known as your heart rhythms, and when your heart rhythms are smooth and ordered – in a state of coherence – it helps to synchronize all of your body’s systems. When all of your systems – the brain, digestive, respiratory, etc. – are in tune with the rhythm of your heart, you feel better, think more clearly and perform better. Studies have shown that people suffering from depression, chronic anxiety or anger and many other debilitating conditions exhibit chaotic, disordered heart rhythms, but can experience immediate improvements when they learn to achieve heart-rhythm coherence.

Repattern Negative Emotional Circuitry: The following includes excerpts from the HeartMath book, Transforming Depression: "The part of the brain that gets activated under stress stays active long after stressful situations are over, which may explain why it’s hard for many people to let stressful feelings go. And the brain is also a pattern-matching system that scans for what’s familiar. When a stressful situation occurs, the brain scans its memory banks looking for previous stressful experiences until it perceives a match. Then it triggers the same emotional reactions you had the previous time—like anxiety, hurt, resignation, or depression."

These brain circuits are flexible. They can be changed – throughout your life. You can reshape and repattern any negative emotional circuitry you may have developed, but because our emotional processes work faster than thinking, something more powerful than mental processes is needed: the power of a coherent heart. "Scientists have discovered that the heart’s signals have a significant effect on the brain’s cognitive and emotional functions, continuously influencing how people perceive and respond to the world as well as how they feel (Pribram and Melges 1969; McCraty et al. 2006; McCraty and Tomasino 2006)." Read more about the amazing ability of the heart to change the way you think and feel in Transforming Depression.

A HeartMath Tip: An important starting point for easing depression is diminishing the impact stressors have on your quality of life. Try these three quick steps, adapted from the HeartMath Notice and Ease® tool, to combat stressors such as time pressure, relationship troubles and work-related concerns.

  • Notice and admit what you are feeling.
  • Try to name the feeling.
  • Tell yourself to ease as you gently focus in your heart, relax as you breathe, and ease the stress out.

Notice and Ease helps calm and relax you.

† Complete details of this tool can be found in the emTech™ Media e-booklet Eliminating Anxiety, where you’ll also find valuable information about this major contributor to depression. (Also available in audio program.)

"Depression is the inability to construct a future."

– Rollo May, 1909-1994, American Existential Psychologist

Benefits of Overcoming Depression Today

  • New feeling of hopefulness, optimism
  • More joy in life, desire to do things you used to love
  • Renewed desire to plan for future
  • Reduce overall personal medical costs, calculated in one study to be 70% higher for people that are depressed
  • Greatly reduced chance of cardiac and other medical problems


Tools For Creating Hopeful Perspectives

The most common medical treatments for depression are psychotherapy and mood-regulating antidepressant drugs, but National Institutes of Mental Health study found these were effective for only about half of those treated. There are a variety of potentially beneficial interventions those who suffer from low-grade to major depression should explore, among them the Institute of HeartMath’s scientifically based and noninvasive tools and technology, which have proven effective for many people.

  • emWave®2: Regular use of this entertaining and scientifically validated, heart-rate monitor helps you build resilience – a state of poise and readiness for effectively dealing with stressful feelings that can deplete your mental, emotional and physical systems. Easy to use and noninvasive, you can use it as a handheld or connect to your computer to review past sessions or play any of the resilience building games.

  • emWave® Desktop for Mac and PC: The emWave Desktop turns your computer into an advanced heart-rate monitor. When combined with HeartMath’s widely acclaimed resilience and coherence building techniques, you’ll soon learn how easily you can create an optimal state in which your heart, mind and emotions are more in-sync and balanced. In this balanced state, individuals tend to experience more energy, focus and mental clarity. With practice of the HeartMath System can help you begin feeling healthier and happier and start living life more fully.

    † Formerly known as Freeze-Framer®

(Note: Use the emWave2 or emWave Desktop for Mac and PC to help regulate your emotions in preparation for events you know may trigger your stress response and to help you recover from stressful episodes and get back on an even keel fast.)

Transforming Tools

Stress, anxiety and anger are all hallmarks of the depressive state. Like Transforming Depression, the remaining books in the Transforming Series can be of great benefit to anyone on the verge of or already suffering from depression. Each provides in-depth analyses and practical, easy-to-master solutions.

  • Transforming Stress: Childre, Rozman, 2004. Learn about the warning signs of chronic stress and how your "intelligent heart" can help you immediately begin reducing the stress in your life.
  • Transforming Anxiety: Childre, Rozman, 2006 – Gives an in-depth look at why anxiety disorders are plaguing so many in today’s fast-paced world and how you can use the HeartMath System to overcome fear and worry and create more serenity in your life.
  • Transforming Anger: Childre, Rozman, 2003 – If you’re unable to control your anger, this book offers practical tools to help you succeed. Your heart has an intelligence all its own that you can tap to manage anger, stress and much more.

Further reading…

  • What is Contemporary Stress?: Read more about the dangers of stress, a primary contributor to the growing international epidemic of depression, and how it is impacting our world today on page 3 of the Spring 2006 Institute of HeartMath newsletter.
  • De-Stressing to Ease Chronic Pain: All too often, those who suffer from chronic pain become sad, angry and pessimistic, often growing less and less interested in the activities of daily life because they’re so afraid their pain will interfere with any enjoyment they could hope to have. Please read this spring 2003 Newsletter story on page 3 about how lowering stress levels and increasing endorphin levels are important elements of a pain-management program.
  • Science of the Heart: Clinical research at the Institute of HeartMath has added considerable understanding about severe impact stress and negative emotions can have on our lives. They have been shown "to increase disease severity and worsen prognosis in individuals suffering from a number of different pathologies. On the other hand, positive emotions and effective emotional self-regulation skills have been shown to prolong health and significantly reduce premature mortality." We highly recommend Science of the Heart, an important overview of HeartMath’s clinical research, to increase your understanding of the mental, emotional and physical processes of your body’s systems.
  • Also, check out The HeartMath Report, where you’ll find interesting articles each month about your mental, physical and emotional health.

Take me to the HeartMath Store now to learn more about IHM’s life-changing tools, training programs and other resources, or call us: (800) 711-6221.