Every time New Year’s Day clicks over, people around the world use the date as a psychological reset. The New Year’s Eve party is the rite of passage that takes us through to a new cycle of working, living and loving. However, statistics seem to suggest that most of us who attempt to hold to New Year’s Resolutions fail to fulfil them long term (http://www.statisticbrain.com/new-years-resolution-statistics/). The figure sits around about 8% according to a study in the United States.
Now that is a sobering fact. Unfortunately this sits beside another fact that Christmas and of course all the other end of year religious festivals, is generally a stressful time of year for a large number of people, and in a smaller proportion it is among the MOST stressful or depressing times of year. Now I know specifically that due to the importance placed on Christmas and New Year’s that they can also be some of the most life affirming times as well. A time to perform that which I share with all of my clients; the process of a Consolidation of Gains. A Consolidation of Gains is short hand for counting your blessings. Before you scream in frustration at that concept, try and stick with me here.
Now I’m sure you’ve heard of this from thousands of friends before, and particularly the ineffectiveness of this when faced with an episode of Major Depression. Nevertheless, it is certainly a skill that is ravaged when either experiencing a bout of “The Blues” or suffering a depressive episode. I would recommend, rather than thinking of your plight in comparison to the starving millions in Africa, to make the Consolidation more personal. Comparison to unfortunate others is akin to making the suggestion that your internal experience is not valid, which is more depressing. If your Consolidation is personal, specific and accumulative then you have another technique that can be added to your armoury.
Let’s quickly check in with those three aspects of a Consolidation of Gains. When I suggest you make the Consolidation personal, I mean to say that you should concentrate on (and write down) the things in your life that you still experience or actively do that bring even a slight spark of joy, happiness, contentment or even relief from your current heaviness. This can also include those things that you are doing that are an attempt to work against your condition. Don’t let anyone else define those moments for you, use some mental muscle to define these little moments for yourself.
Secondly, make your Consolidation specific. This will always include some kind of diary, or a collaborative list made with your psychologist or even a good friend. Writing down the exact instances of your positive moments and when they occur will assist in giving a good picture of how your condition is truly progressing, as opposed to how you feel it might be progressing.
Lastly, the accumulative aspect of your consolidation refers to the fact that while you may feel down right now, that you do not write off your gains, suggesting to yourself that nothing has changed. One of the most destructive elements of depression is that it ruins your ability to recall your positive experiences, meaning that to an extent this skill has to be relearnt. When you are making your Consolidation List, the process might include “feeling” around internally for the vague shadow of the positivity you felt at that time and “allowing” yourself to feel that positivity again. Try and think of a few of these moments at once and let all of that positivity bubble up if it is there.
Clearly, the description above might seem a little vague, but with supportive direction this process can be particularly useful.