How To Relieve Depression

If you suffer from depression, your condition is not hopeless, although it usually feels that way. You may  be surprised by the number of antidotes there are to combat the condition.

Daily Activities

Daily structure and purpose. Many therapists recommend lists for depressed people—items to be accomplished during the day. This exercise gives structure to your schedule and helps you avoid wallowing around and doing nothing, a state that contributes to depression.

Healthy diet. Your diet should be healthy and natural, providing you with enough calories to feed your body. Your food should not be heavy and sweet. This only makes you lethargic, adding to feelings of depression.

Sunshine. One of the known treatments for depression is exposure to sunshine or even ultraviolet light. Depression that strikes in the cold, dark months of the year is called “seasonal affective disorder.” Whatever the time of year, plan to spend some time outdoors in the sunshine.

Outdoor activities. It’s important that you spend some time outdoors in nature, which is the source of your being. A walk in the woods may not always be available, but a small city park can give you respite from urban life and relief of depression. It helps to spend time with a pet or other animal.

Exercise. Studies consistently underscore the importance of exercise in combatting depression. When studies compare the treatment outcomes of exercise programs with those of meditation or psychotherapy, exercise wins hands down.

Social contacts. Interaction with others is critically important to good health and longevity. People who feel connected to others have been shown to have lower levels of anxiety and depression.

Personal hygiene. Keeping the body and clothes clean and fresh has a calming effect on the mind. It’s known that depressed people tend to neglect personal hygiene. A shower and change of clothes freshen the spirit.

Sleep. Getting enough sleep at night refreshes you and restores emotional balance. Sleeplessness can magnify your perception of problems and darken your mood.

No alcohol or illicit drugs. Alcohol is often thought to elevate mood because it dulls inhibitions and lets us feel free to say and do things we wouldn’t otherwise. This is misleading. When depressed people use alcohol to dull their pain, the mood shift is temporary. followed by depressed feelings. Over time, the effect can be marked.

Spiritual Activities

Meditation. Meditation is a way of abandoning anxiety, focusing on the now, and cleansing the mind. It’s usually recommended that you practice at least twenty minutes per day.

Reading. Reading is a way to remove yourself temporarily from painful realities and transmit your thoughts to a different plane. Fiction is particularly effective in stopping the obsessive brain activity typical of depression.

Music. Pleasant, moving music calms the mind, moves it to another plane. If the music is soothing, it acts like a tranquillizer or mood elevator.

Reliance on a Higher Power. Transferring the burden of depressive thoughts to a Higher Power is a useful method to relieve depression. The Higher Power need not have a name or personality. You need only ask yourself, “Do I acknowledge that this Universe contains a power greater than myself?”

Gratitude. Studies show that people who count their blessings, particularly ones who can express gratitude for good fortune, increase their happiness and decrease levels of depression. They do not dwell on what happened, who said what, who did what, and how unfair it all was.

Helping others. The idea of helping others relates to “social contacts,” except that in the act of helping others, you take your mind off yourself. In addition, your feelings of self-worth are encouraged by selfless deeds.

Outside Help

Therapy. Talk therapy or group counseling can speed your recovery from depression. By airing personal problems, talking about your lowered self-esteem, and describing the losses in your life, you connect with others and expose morbid thoughts to much-needed fresh air.

Anger management. Some therapists believe that depression is anger turned inward. Since much anger is repressed, uncovering it may require professional help. Only then can its toxic effects be neutralized.

Prescribed antidepressants. The ability of clinically prescribed medication to relieve depression is a valid, documented method of treatment. If you choose this route, you should select a physician with experience and knowledge of antidepressant use.


Hope for the future. While it’s important to live in the “now,” it’s equally important to have pleasurable events to look forward to: school or career success, a cruise, the arrival of a baby, or a host of other events. While false expectations should be avoided, there’s nothing wrong with encouraging happy feelings about the future.


Contrary to the belief of many sufferers, medication is not the only answer. All of the above methods have been proven to relieve depression.

Carl Jung and Alcoholics Anonymous

Who was Carl Jung, and what does he have to do with Alcoholics Anonymous?carl-jung-bw

Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist who originated the idea of psychoanalysis and, quite accidentally, contributed to development of Alcoholics Anonymous. It began in 1931 when he accepted a young American in his Zurich clinic for treatment of alcoholism. The man, Rowland Hazard, had so damaged his life and career with drinking that he traveled to Switzerland to consult the famous Dr. Jung for a cure.

Hazard placed himself under Dr. Jung’s care for a year, during which they met in the doctor’s consulting room several times a week. At the end of that time, Dr. Jung regretfully told Hazard that he could offer no further help. The patient needed more than medical or psychiatric treatment to recover from his alcoholism said the doctor. Jung told him that he needed some sort of spiritual conversion. According to Jung, conversions were rare, but when they did occur the alcoholics were able to stop drinking.

Oxford Group

Hazard returned to the U.S., still desperate for a cure and looking for help. He joined the Oxford Group, a spiritual organization that originated in England but found American roots in Akron, Ohio. The Oxford Group, a precursor to A.A., stated that it had “no hierarchy, no temples, no endowments, no salaried workers, no plans but God’s plan.” These became the principles of A.A. when it branched off from the Oxford Group in the 1930s. The singular goal of the A.A. program was to help alcoholics get sober.

billwilson-copyHazard met Bill Wilson, A.A, co-founder at Oxford Group meetings in Akron where they both became active members and gave up alcohol for good. Later, Bill wrote a letter to Dr. Jung, emphasizing that Jung’s influence on Hazard played “a critical role in the founding of our Fellowship.”

Jung’s Theory

Dr. Jung responded that he’d had many experiences with men of Rowland’s type. “His craving for alcohol was the equivalent, on a low level, of the spiritual thirst of our being for wholeness.” He added that a spiritual conversion can happen “only when you walk on a path which leads you to higher understanding…I am strongly convinced that the evil principle prevailing in this world leads the unrecognized spiritual need into perdition if it is not counteracted either by real religious insight or by the protective wall of human community.”

Higher Power

The path to which Dr. Jung referred was the “Higher Power” described by A.A. founders—a term now in common use. The twelve-step program of A.A. asserts that belief in a Higher Power and unselfish dedication to others are required to achieve freedom from alcohol.




Famous Entertainers Who Were Alcoholics or Addicts

Alcoholism and drug addiction seem to strike more people in the entertainment industry than in any other occupation. Many performers with troubled childhoods turned to substance abuse before they were out of their teen years. Others responded to the stress of public life and grueling schedules by using alcohol and drugs to find relief.

Eight of the most popular entertainers in the world, now deceased, paid the price of life in the spotlight with their early deaths—Richard Burton, Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix, and Marilyn Monroe.

Richard Burton

richard-burtonRichard Burton was a famous Hollywood star who was twice married to actress Elizabeth Taylor. One of 13 children, he was born in Wales in 1925. His father was a coal miner and his mother a bartender. He began his career as a Shakespearean actor on the stage in England before becoming a movie celebrity in America. Drinking heavily from the time he was a young man, Burton never accepted help for his drinking problem. At one point, he drank three bottles of vodka daily. He suffered many health consequences, including cirrhosis of the liver. He died in 1984 at age 58.

Billie Holiday

billi-holidayBillie Holiday, famous black singer and songwriter, was born Eleanora Fagan in 1915 in Harlem. After a troubled childhood, she began performing in nightclubs as a teenager. In her 30-year entertainment career, she influenced jazz musicians and singers throughout the world with her passion and style. She even gave a sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall. Frank Sinatra called her his greatest influence. Beset by severe drug and alcohol problems, she died in 1955 at age 44.

Hank Williams

hank-williamsHank Williams, country and western singer and songwriter, was born in Alabama in 1923. From birth, he suffered from spina bifida, a painful condition that later led to drug abuse and alcoholism. As a child, he learned guitar from a black street performer. His career peaked in the 1950s at the time he toured the U.S. with Bob Hope. When he was a star, the Grand Ole Opry fired him for habitual drunkenness. Hank Williams died of heart failure in 1953, months before his 30th birthday.

Whitney Houston

whitney-houstonWhitney Houston, one of the top-selling entertainers of all time, was born in 1963 to a middle class family in New Jersey. She began by performing as a gospel soloist in churches but soon started touring nightclubs singing popular songs. After a 3-year courtship, she married the performer Bobby Brown, who introduced her to cocaine and other drugs. As her addiction worsened, she failed to show up for many concerts or appeared onstage confused and intoxicated. She was found dead in a hotel bathroom in 2012, drowned in bathwater as the result of a cocaine overdose at age 44.

Michael Jackson

michael-jacksonIn 1958, Michael Jackson was born in Gary, Indiana. He began his musical career when he was 8 years old, singing with his brothers in the Jackson Five. In a few years, he became a solo performer, travelling on world tours. Not only were his songs immensely popular, but he introduced new dance moves to his fans—such as the Moon Walk. The “King of Pop” was accused of child molestation in his later years, and he died just before a comeback tour in 2009. His death was due to an overdose of drugs administered by his physician. He was 50 years old.

Elvis Presley

elvisBorn in Tupelo, Mississippi, in 1935, Elvis Presley was an American rock star—considered a major culture icon of the 20th century. Raised by loving, working-class parents, Presley’s family had little money and moved often. When they lived in Memphis, Elvis made his first recording at the age of 13. Not long after, he rose to fame. John Lennon once observed, “Before Elvis, there was nothing.” Presley suffered from drug addiction during most of his adult life and died at age 42 of heart failure, a complication of drug use.

Jimi Hendrix

jimi-hendrixBorn in Seattle in 1942, Jimi Hendrix was a musician, singer and songwriter who entertained audiences in the 1960s with his phenomenal guitar-playing skills. Videos of his memorable performances at Woodstock in 1969 are now collectors’ items. Hendrix was described by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as “the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.” Like many musicians of his era, he frequently used drugs. He died at age 27 from complications of barbiturate use.

Marilyn Monroe

marilyn-monroeBorn as Norma Jean Mortenson in 1926, Marilyn Monroe was raised in Los Angeles, where she spent most of her childhood in foster homes and an orphanage. She married for the first time at age 16. Playing dumb blonde characters in 1950s Hollywood films, she became a popular sex symbol. Her movie career was briefly troubled when the media discovered she’d posed for nude photos before becoming a star, but criticism soon passed. She was married to the baseball icon Joe DiMaggio for a short time and then to the playwright Arthur Miller. By the 1960s, her health was failing, partly due to drug addiction. She died of a barbiturate overdose at age 36.

These are cautionary tales for drinkers and drug users.




College Kids, Alcohol, and Myers-Briggs Personality Type

What does Myers-Briggs personality type have to do with alcohol abuse in college kids? Does personality type influence drinking behavior? If so, how? According to recent research, there are definite connections. When teenagers go to college, they take their old personalities with them but expose them to new, challenging situations.

Triggers for Drinking/Substance Abuse

Going to college is an adventure for most 17- and 18-year-olds. It’s the first time they’ve lived away from home. The freedom to make their own choices is exciting. For some personality types, it can also be a trigger for anxiety. Suddenly, freshmen find themselves taking difficult college courses—nothing like classes in high school. For the first time, they are in charge of their schedules. Most haven’t learned time management strategies to help them deal with their workload. Their mom or dad is no longer standing behind them saying, “Time to do your homework.”

For 18-year-olds who found their parents restrictive back home, the freedom may be especially intoxicating. However, it comes at a price. It’s easier to make a wrong decision without the support of family, previously taken for granted. The teenager is no longer grounded by the affection and reassurance of close friends from high school. He or she must establish new social networks. It’s a time to experiment, and often the experiments involve risky behaviors such as alcohol and drug use.

Research conducted by the U.S. Substance Abuse and Health Services Administration (SAHSA) indicates that nearly half of all college students engage in binge drinking over any 30-day period. This includes freshmen with little or no previous contact with alcohol. About one fourth of college students in the SAHSA study reported binge drinking and one third had gotten drunk at least once. Of these, one fourth had been drunk six or more times.

Personality Type and Alcohol Abuse

Research shows a definite correlation between Myers-Briggs personality type and alcohol use in college students.

Introversion/Extraversion. The first aspect of personality that appears to influence drinking behavior is whether a person is introverted or extraverted—that is, private or outgoing. The traits of Introversion and Extraversion relate to where a person draws his or her energy. Introverts get theirs by retiring from social contact and focusing inward. They tend to be reserved and cautious. In contrast, extraverts get irritable when left alone too long. They draw their energy from social contact with others.

Myers-Briggs studies differ in their conclusions about the influence of Introversion/Extraversion on drinking behavior. This is because introverts and extraverts appear to drink for different reasons. People who are naturally extraverted may drink in social situations, but they tend to drink less. In fact, the most responsible drinking behavior is seen in extraverted students. Introverts spend more time alone and tend to keep their emotions under wraps, including their feelings of vulnerability and anxiety. The resulting stress may attract them to the relief offered by alcohol and other mood-altering substances.

Perceiving/Judging. The second pair of traits that influence alcohol use in college students is perceiving and judging. These traits relate to attitudes toward life and spontaneity of behavior. Perceiving types are flexible and immediate in their approaches to tasks and social relationships. They prefer to “wing it.” Judging types are more comfortable with closure. They are decisive, consider the facts before drawing conclusions, but then act promptly. Perceiving people are often sensation-seekers, a trait that sometimes encourages drinking. They think, “What the heck? I might as well try it.” Judging types are more likely to draw conclusions about their behaviors from past experience and are less likely to take chances—a trait that may protect them where alcohol is concerned.

Other Preference Pairs. Researchers have been surprised by the lack of correlation between the sensing/intuition and thinking/feeling preferences and alcohol consumption. Researchers suggest that the explanation lies in the fact that the sensing/intuition and thinking/feeling are “mental functions,” which appear to have little impact on risk-taking behaviors. The sensing preference involves direct experience with the external world. Sensing people are fact-finders. Intuitive people are more oriented to creative thinking. Neither preference seems to be connected with drinking behavior.

The same is true of thinking and feeling. Thinking types are rational and logical, priding themselves on this aspect of their personality. Feeling types are more affected by mood and the needs of others. It seems logical that feeling types would be more likely to use mood-altering substances, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Predicting Alcoholism and Drug Use in College Students

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) finds that substance abuse behaviors starting in the teen years are likely to continue through life. The good news, says the CDC, is that alcohol abuse is preventable if addressed during the transition of teenagers from high school to college.

Myers-Briggs preferences are usually constant over a lifetime. The type a person is at age 18 is the type he or she will probably be at age 68. The difference is that the scores will be less extreme. People who were once pronounced introverts become more outgoing. Those who were once off the charts on the perceiving function learn to practice their judging function more over the years. They get better at meeting deadlines, being on time for appointments, and so on. In this way, scores on the four pairs of personality functions are likely to migrate toward the middle, but they seldom cross over. Once an INFP, for example, always an INFP.

The bottom line is that college students who are introverted and perceiving on the Myers-Briggs scale need to be cautious about alcohol use. To do this, most will need more effective health education and counseling services than are now available on the nation’s campuses.

The Lord’s Prayer in A.A. Meetings

In my AA home group, we start meetings by reading from the Big Book: “AA is not allied with any sect, denomination, politics, organization, or institution.” Then we end with the Lord’s Prayer.

There’s something wrong here. The Lord’s Prayer is from the New Testament of the Christian Bible (Matthew 6:9-13). As a Christian Internet source states. “Through this prayer, Jesus invited us to approach God as Father. Indeed, the Lord’s Prayer has been called a summary of the Christian gospel.”

Like many other members of AA, I am not a Christian. My spirituality does not embrace a God of either gender. The Big Book chapter “We Agnostics” states: “When therefore, we speak to you of God, we mean your own conception of God” and “To us the Realm of Sprit is broad, roomy, all inclusive.”

The Lord’s Prayer is a long-running hot topic that crops up regularly at AA meetings around the world. To many alcoholics, the Lord’s Prayer is a mandatory part of the AA meeting ritual. They don’t stop to consider that insulting people like me with a prayer we don’t believe in—making us feel apart from instead of part of—goes against the grain of the fellowship’s philosophy.

A study of AA groups around the world asked AA members what prayers they use at their meetings. Responses came from sober Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Shintoists, Native Americans, atheists, and pagans from North America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. Most groups in non-Christian counties use the Serenity Prayer to close their meetings.

Why don’t we?



Golf and Alcohol

golf and drinkingA friend recently checked into a substance abuse rehab center for a drinking problem.  He’s not happy about getting involved in a twelve-step program.   He considers AA a cult and most of its members losers.  However, he now suffers from advancing cirrhosis. Continued drinking means death, his doctor warned.

My friend is an avid golfer, and his best friends are golfers. Alcohol is part of their culture and he considers their drinking adventures entertaining and “cool.” Life without alcohol seems grim and lackluster to him.  Only death would be worse.  And that, of course, is the choice he’s faced with.

PGA Champion, John Daley

Drinking has long been woven into the mystique of golf.  Many famous golfers became alcoholics during their careers.  PGA golfer John Daly is one.  He has been disciplined repeatedly for drunken behavior. Over the years, the PGA Tour ordered him into alcohol rehab at least seven times.   In an interview (while he was on the wagon), Daly said, “Everywhere you turn on tour, there’s alcohol. It’s the country-club scene with drinking before, during and after rounds.”

Harry Vardon

Harry Vardon, Early Golf Superstar

The tradition of drinking is often stoutly defended by golf devotees. In 1915, Harry Vardon—one of golf’s first international superstars—was asked by a British temperance worker to join the movement against alcohol. His reply was, “Moderation is essential in all things, madam,” he said, “but never in my life have I failed to beat a teetotaler.”

Walter Hagen, AA member

Famous golfers who were alcoholics include George Travers, Tommy Armour, Fred Herreshoff, Noah Begay, and Walter Hagen.  Hagen was so admired by Bill Wilson, a founder of AA, that his name can be found on the pages of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous..

Alcoholism is common among other celebrity athletes. Jim Thorpe, the legendary track star (who also played football and baseball), was an alcoholic. So were baseball pitchers Rube Waddell, Bugs Raymond, and Grover Cleveland Alexander, plus catcher Rollie Hemsley.

Famous people whose lives were impaired by alcoholism until they gave up drinking include:

King Edward VIII of England
Douglas Fairbanks, Sr., movie actor
Stephen Crane, novelist
Eugene V. Debs, labor leader
Isadora Duncan, dancer
Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet
Sherwood Anderson, novelist
Theodore Dreiser, novelist
Muhammad Ali, boxer
Duke of York, British royal family
Isaac Asimov, scientist/author
David Bowie, rock star
Warren Buffett, billionaire investor
Jim Carrey, actor
Eric Clapton, musician
John Coltrane, musician
Tom Cruise, actor
Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th U.S. President
Stonewall Jackson, Confederate General
Steve Jobs, Co-Founder of Apple Computers
Elton John, musician/songwriter
Stephen King, author
Bruce Lee, martial arts performer Abraham Lincoln, 16th U.S. President David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister
James Russell Lowell, poet/diplomat
Marie-Antoinette, Queen of France
Prince, celebrity musician
John D. Rockefeller, industrialist/philanthropist
Fred Rogers, star of children’s TV show

Mitt Romney, former Massachuetts Governor
George Bernard Shaw,  playwright
Ringo Starr, Beatles drummer
Strom Thurmond, U.S. SenatorPierre Trudeau, former Prime Minister of Canada
Mae West, film star
Malcolm X, Black activist

*   *   *