For someone who spends more time with the clinically depressed than with her family, Seema Hingorrany is particularly upbeat. This leading psychologist has a great social life, a loving husband, two beautiful kids, a gorgeous home, a warm personality and a great sense of humour. She spent the last year treating mental trauma cases and her new book Beating the Blues is a practical guide to tacking depression. It busts myths about sadness, happiness and medication, and offers hope to those who didn’t even think they needed it. So what’s the secret?
Most people see depression only as a sort of sadness. What are the biggest myths surrounding it?
Depression is not the same as sadness. A perfectly normal person could feel sad about losing a job or a friend, but will get over it soon. A depressed person, on the other hand, would feel that that is the end of the world for him. Age has nothing to do with depression. People assume that kids can’t have depression. But that is wrong. I am treating a three-year-old girl who is clinically depressed because she was not weaned by her mother. Also, quite bewilderingly, most people assume that depression is the same as attention deficit disorder. Often parents say that their kids pretend that they are depressed because they want attention. Depression is an actual disease just like flu and needs treatment. You can’t just get over it.
Most adults are busy and stressed. It’s hard to be positive all the time. How can we avoid the depression trap?
Negativity is a part of life so you can’t avoid it. But one thing that leads to depression in a lot of people is constant comparison. People tend to weigh their happiness on other people’s scales. First, drop your ego. Counting things you don’t have and enjoy what you do. Make a list of all the things you should be grateful for. Only you can make yourself happy. Obviously, there will be days when you feel negative, but don’t fret. Just try and divert your mind – go for a walk, munch on walnuts, play with your pets, talk to people, spend time with your family, meditate, exercise and sleep properly. That will clear your mind a lot.
Beating the Blues is loaded with some extremely disturbing case studies. Did it not affect you after a point?
I worked on some horrifying cases which kept me up at nights, but I also knew that I couldn’t let it bother me too much. I had to be their confidante and be strong. I spent a lot of time meditating to clear my mind. I focused on the positives – being grateful for what I have and watching the patients take baby steps to recovery. On days I felt weak, I’d bake a cake, chat with my friends and family, take photos of things I love, play with my kids and channel my inner kid by playing with mud. My guru taught me that you have to make happiness a habit and so I have. I also have a book of testimonials from recovered patients and their family which I read every time I feel gloomy. Yes, it was hard writing this book but I knew that I was going to save lives and spread joy. And that gave me the will to carry on.
Pep up your mood instantly
Spend at least 15 minutes in the sun. It replenishes your body’s levels of Vitamin D, which will up your mood instantly.
Find time to connect with people. Call your parents, aunts, uncles and friends.
Social contact is a must if you’re feeling gloomy. Talk to them about your day and don’t be scared of feeling vulnerable. Everyone goes through it.
Calm your mind. Listen to your favourite song and sing along.
Introspect and meditate. Think about what is making you feel gloomy. Assess if it’s internal or because of external factors.
Keep comparisons and jealousy at bay.
If such thoughts come to your mind, think of how great life has been. Smile.
From HT Brunch, February 10
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