"You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go."
~ Dr. Seuss
In the decade since my depression and anxiety were first diagnosed, I've benefited from many different healing modalities. Over the years Medicine, Therapy, Art, Yoga and Meditation have been important components of my mental health toolkit.
It was not until my most recent depressive episode, triggered by a series of significant and prolonged stressors, that I began to take a somewhat different approach to my healing. It occurred to me, what if I study the organ that is hurting? If I better understand my brain and how it works, what it needs to function optimally, wouldn't I stand a better chance to heal the places where it may be broken? So, a subtle shift has taken place in how I think of my healing process: "Heal my Depression" has become instead "Heal my Brain". I love the way that the mental health advocacy group, Be Vocal, puts it:
"We need to treat mental health conditions with the same attention and care as any medical condition. The brain is an organ, too."
The most significant difference I have experienced since approaching the management of my mental health this way, has been how empowering it feels. Instead of feeling like a victim, in helpless enslavement to a condition that seems to swallow "me", I now have unlimited opportunities to learn more about my brain and more options for things to try than hours in a day! I look forward to sharing what I'm learning along the way.
I'll start with recommending two books that I am finding very helpful in understanding how my brain works and what I can do to give it a "fighting" chance!
Reclaim Your Brain: How to Calm Your Thoughts, Heal Your Mind, and Bring Your Life Back Under Control by Joseph A. Annibali, MD
This book is written by the chief psychiatrist at one of the Amen Clinics, where they use a multidisciplinary approach to treating mental health. Brain imaging, targeted lab studies and the exploration of biological, psychological, social and spiritual influences are used to create individualized, targeted treatment plans for each patient; the philosophy being that there is no "one size fits all" solution that is right for everyone. Based on Dr Annibali's three decades of treating patients who suffer from overloaded, over-stimulated brains, he offers holistic, integrative strategies for calming and balancing your brain. The book shares patient examples, exercises, and easy-to-follow recommendations and action plans to help you understand your own brain and how to heal it.
"The book is a great illustration of how much anyone can improve and heal when we pay attention to the mind and brain at the same time" ~ Daniel G. Amen, M.D.
Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence by Rick Hanson, Ph.D.
Based in the latest findings of neuroscience, this book by Rick Hanson, Ph.D., focuses on how to Take in the Good of everyday experiences to change your brain and your life for the better.
Dr Hanson does a great job explaining the brain’s inherent negativity bias, which is like "Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones". He goes on to share methods and guided practices for taking in and "activating" positive moments in the flow of daily life, and "installing" them into your brain.
I love what Mark Williams, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Oxford has to say about this book:
"This book reveals that if we understand the brain a little, we can take care of our lives a lot, and make a real difference to our well-being."
"As we begin the 21st century, the Hubble space telescope is providing us with information about as yet uncharted regions of the universe and the promise that we may learn something about the origin of the cosmos. This same spirit of adventure is also being directed to the most complex structure that exists in the universe - the human brain."
~ Floyd E. Bloom (in Fundamental Neuroscience edited by L.R. Squire et al., 2003)