3 prescriptions for lifting depression without pills

This 16 minutes talk by clinical psychologist Susan Heitler provides helpful insights into dealing with depressive and negative thoughts without the use of medication. What she proposes is looking first at what in your life may be causing you to feel the way you do.

The analogy of the common cold is helpful. While a common cold can be quite mild, in the short term it can leave you feeling quite miserable. There is also the risk of the cold developing into something more serious like a sinus infection or even pneumonia. For these reasons it is important to pay attention to when you find yourself persistently discouraged, with low energy, self-critical and irritable with others. Our modern assumption to quickly assume such feelings are due to a chemical imbalance has led to an over-diagnosis by doctors of depression, (See Is The Rate Of Depression Actually Increasing Or Not?)

The reason this is so important is the tendency in our modern world to look for a quick fix. This has become hugely important as the prescription for antidepressant medication has dramatically increased over the last few decades with no clear evidence that clinical depression has actually increased. For example from 2011 figures at least 1 in 10 Americans are on antidepressant medication and for women in their 30s and 40s this figure is around 1 in 4. (See Why Has There Been a 400% Increase In The Prescribing Of Antidepressants?) I  also write about my own experience of how your lifestyle can be leading to depressive thinking here).

Susan Heitler expands on her Conflict Resolution Theory of depression, or more simply 'Bump Therapy'!

The first step or prescription is to identify the particular hurdle or obstacle in your life that you find yourself feeling disappointed about. The more specific you can be then the more likely you are to find a solution or way through that challenge.

The second prescription is what she calls 'pump up' or identify the resources or tools at your disposal.  Dr Heitler gives an example on the video of this with a client of hers called Julie. You may also find of interest the article and video with Amy Morin called  Are You Looking For Inner Strength?

The third prescription is then by looking at potential solutions to the challenge you are facing and deciding on which is most appropriate for you. For more on this see What Fills You Up And What Drains You Down?

In combination these three steps can significantly reduce the risk 'the common cold of mental illness' does not develop into something more serious or insidious in your life.

What in your own life have you find helpful to deal with depressive thoughts and feelings?

You may also find of interest:

Could Your Lifestyle Be What Is Getting You Down?

Podcast #004: Combatting Depression

The Scale Of Mental Health Problems And What To Do About Them

What Do I Say To A Loved One Who Is Struggling With Depression?

My own personal journey with depressive thinking in my late teens at Just As I Am

Podcast #039: Overcoming Failure

"Everyone has their own Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb." (Seth Godin)

Failure. How do you handle it? The 2 minute video below by Will Smith is an encouragement to view failure in a positive way. As he says - fail early, fail often and fail forward.

In this podcast my co-host Andrew Horton and I discuss how failure is not something to be feared, but actually an opportunity to grow and learn.

Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest basketball play of all time has said:

"I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times I've been entrusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

Do join us on this podcast as we discuss:

How everyone has their own story of failure along with our own personal examples.

What is the relationship between failure and guilt or shame? Is failure necessarily a bad thing?

What can we learn from some famous examples of failure such as Abraham Lincoln and J K Rowling?

Why it is not as simple as just saying, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again."

What is the secret to turning failure around?

How can we see our failures through the eyes of faith?

How understanding failure is part of inside-out transformation?

You may also find of interest:

What Can J K Rowling Teach Us About Failure?

Failure and Depression: The Other Side of Lincoln's Life

9 Ways To Look At Your Failures With The Eyes Of Faith. Especially #7

How To Fail And Lose Well Part 1

How To Fail And Lose Well Part 2

Podcast #021: Grit

Podcast #013 How To Grow In Resilience

Podcast #030 Do You Need More Sleep?

Podcast #031: How Can I Live With Hope Today?

How can faith and prayer enhance mental health?

Using the example of money

I was recently asked to talk at a financial institution on this subject from a Biblical perspective.

 Its a huge subject and I was given only 10 minutes along with speakers from Jewish and Muslim backgrounds! This is a summary and transcript of what I was able to say. As it was at a financial institution it made sense to use money as an important theme! Indeed as we have previously discussed there are 2350 verses in the Bible on money - more than there are on faith or prayer even!

We can summarise the question by saying faith and prayer ultimately enhance mental health when I am able to delight in God for who He is rather than what I can get out of Him. To break it down further into one word then it is to use the word grace.
Grace means undeserved mercy and favour. When I truly understand grace then that has a profound impact on my mental health.
The best way to convey that is with a simple story.
Imagine you came to my house to stay. I had to go out and left you in charge. When I returned you say to me, Sunil while you were out someone came to the door with a bill to pay and I paid it. Now there is one vital piece of information you are lacking. It is how much was the bill? If the bill was £1 then that is hardly even worth saying thank you for. But imagine it was £20 billion and you had the resources to pay. How would that make me feel? What would that do to my mental health?
But it gets even better! Not only do you pay the £20 billion bill you actually credit my account with a further £20 billion and you buy me a new house!
Sounds crazy an even ludicrous.

But that is what the Bible seeks to convey how grace impacts the mental health and life of someone who understands it.

Let’s  explore this further.....

How to know your life purpose in just 5 minutes

Adam Leipzig is a Hollywood film producer and entrepreneur. In this 10 minute TED talk he walks us through 5 simple questions to help us understand what our life purpose is. From this life purpose we can then go on to do the work we sense we were called and even born to do. This is so much more than having a job or earning a paycheque.

Leipzig tells us that the idea for the talk came at his 25 year reunion from university. While there he noticed that the vast majority of his classmates were unhappy with their lives. From an external perspective there appeared to be so much in their favour. He describes them as "privileged, and highly educated, and financially well off, and in positions of power. And they had the first house, and the second house, and they had the first spouse, and the second spouse. And 80% of them were unhappy with their lives."

What was different about the other 20%? Leipzig noticed that they had not pinned their expectations on a chosen career path that would be the source of their fulfilment, satisfaction and financial security. This is how he describes this happier minority which included himself:

"We had studied literature and Renaissance rhetoric, and we were the theatre people, and the history geeks. We had studied classes for the joy of learning, not because we thought they were going to put direct us to a specific job. We still got jobs, we were living our lives expansively, with life’s ups and downs, and we did not feel that we had wasted a single minute."

From this positive and enriching perspective he talks us through 5 simple questions to help us articulate our life purpose:.....

When Jesus seems just so confusing

It is the story of an encounter with Jesus in the Gospels that is so puzzling and even confusing.  A certain rich man (we don't know his name or much else about him) comes running to Jesus, falls on his knees, and asks "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The more you think about it the more radical and even shocking is the way Jesus takes the conversation from there. 

You can read more about what happens in three of the four gospels. Each provides a different perspective on the same encounter. (Matthew 19:16-30; Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30).

It seems like a great question to ask and in terms of who you ask the question to, I think you would be hard pressed to suggest anyone else who would have a better handle on knowing what it takes to inherit eternal life. This young man has achieved a lot in terms of worldly success and significance. You have to commend him for hungering and thirsting for wanting something of more lasting value in his life than his apparent success and achievements..........

Podcast #038: How technology impacts time and sex

"The new is always better than the old." Do you agree? Disagree? As the impact of technology on our lives has accelerated this assumption has become increasingly taken for granted.
In our third and final conversation with Pete Nicholas about his book 'Virtually Human: Flourishing In A Digital World' we explore the powerful messages that come to us through technology around the subjects of time and sexuality.


While technology presents a narrative of never-ending progress when it comes to new devices and software , the impact on us as human beings grappling with its ramifications is far from straight-forward.

C.S. Lewis wrote about this in terms of what he called "Chronological snobbery." That is 'the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate of our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of of date is on that count discredited.' Pete in his book (p.114) shows us how this leads to the following kind of thinking:

  • We think we are the most technologically developed culture on earth.
  • Since time is an arrow to the future, that means we are at the head of the curve.
  • Therefore, our decisions (about morality, society, technology) are the most 'progressive'.
  • So, if other people/countries/cultures disagree, it is because they are lagging behind (but in time they will catch up and probably agree with us).

We tend to think of time as linear with a beginning and definite end, ultimately when the universe at some point in the future will come to a grinding halt. Here are some challenges to these assumptions we discuss from the book:

  • "Time is not a straight line heading for a finish. God is taking the cosmos towards its goal. In one sense this goal is the end of time; in another sense it is just the beginning.
  • The timeline is God's and not ours. We are graciously part of His story, but we need to watch out for the ways technology can be used to write Him out and put us centre stage."
  • Time is not a commodity, but a gift to be stewarded. As technology gives me such a variety of choices with what to do with my time, I need to become discerning about what I should do today and what can be left for tomorrow or another time.

For more on this also see Podcast #024: Making Sense of Time.

Technology has also had a huge influence on our view of sex an sexuality. On this podcast we go on to discuss:

  • How the digital story of sex is linked to the sexual revolution of the 20th century with its desire to liberate from previous norms and taboos.
  • How my sexual identity cannot be separated from my psychology and spirituality.
  • The dangers of pornography in objectifying women and men.
  • How the male editor of a pornographic magazine radically changed his views following the birth of his daughter.
  • How pornography while promising satisfaction and fulfilment actually leads to a growing addiction and enslavement with significant problems in relating to others.
  • How the Bible is able to be both open about sex without being crude and objectifying. There is emphasis on restraint without being oppressive while emphasising the beauty of sexual love within the marriage covenant.

In conclusion, the challenges technology brings into our lives are about living in wisdom. Tomorrow's problems from technology are going to be very different from today's problems. The key is becoming the right kind of person who can learn to cope and flourish while living by grace. In other words we need to live in wisdom.

Details on Covenant Eyes and more resources on sexual addiction we mention in our discussion is here.

Our previous discussions on the book are at Podcast #036 and #037

More details on the book are available at the Virtually Human website here.

What questions and comments does our discussion raise for you?

The power of money to transform a life

The book Les Miserables by  Victor Hugo is a classic novel from the 19th century. Its complexities and twists and turns remind me of a traditional Hindi Bollywood movie with the intense emotion and complex story line. In fact, Les Mis (as it has colloquially come to be called) is now internationally famous as a sing through musical. It has been seen by more than 70 million people in 44 countries and in 22 languages around the globe. It is still breaking box-office records everywhere. The original London production celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2015 and is the world's longest running musical.  There are also two film of the same name released in 1998 and 2012. The most recent one has also become a widely acclaimed with three oscars and a further four nominations.

The film and book follow the life of Jean Valjean who has spent 19 years in prison. This was made up of 5 years for stealing bread for his starving sister and 14 years for numerous escape attempts. On becoming a free man he is turned away by innkeepers because his yellow passport marks him as a former convict. He sleeps on the street, angry and bitter.

However, the local Bishop Myriel gives him shelter. At night, Valjean attacks and runs off with Myriel's silverware. The local paramilitary police officers (gendarmes) bring Valjean back to the Bishop. Valejan is expecting to be convicted and to return to prison. This is the point of radical transformation in Valjean's life. Here is how the 2012 movie in song describes what happens when the gendarmes arrive with Valjean:

Monsignor, we have your silver
We caught this man red-handed
He had the nerve to say you gave him this
That is right
But my friend you left so early
Surely something slipped your mind
You forgot I gave these also
Would you leave the best behind?
Monsieur, release him
This man has spoken true
I commend you for your duty
And God's blessing go with you
But remember this, my brother
See in this some high plan
You must use this precious silver
To become an honest man.
By the witness of the martyrs
By the passion and the blood
God has raised you out of darkness
I have saved your soul for God.

Valjean is the recipient of radical undeserved grace and realises he cannot live the way he did before. The Bishop's mercy in not convicting Valjean but by giving him candlesticks in addition to the stolen silverware changes something deep within his soul.

(For copyright reasons I cannot show the actual videos on the website. You can access on YouTube the 2 minute clip from the 2012 film here and the 3 minute clip from the 1998 version here.)

Here is how the book describes the scene from when Vlajean realises the undeserved kindness of the Bishop to him:

What is money?

A helpful perspective

As money is such an integral part of our lives that can seem like a  ridiculous question to ask. Money can occupy so much of our thinking. It can also be the source of so much emotion, both negative and positive.

But what is it? Put most simply money is simply a tool to facilitate deferred bartering.
Of itself money is just a piece of paper. But what that paper has come to represent is access to products, possessions and ultimately dreams. The 2 minute video below captures some of these sentiments:

Money is so more than just paper, or plastic, or metal or numbers on a screen. It is an amplifier of who we are and the impact we can have on the world we live in. If we are basically living selfishly then money increases the opportunities to be more selfish. And if we want to live lives of generosity then money can increase the potential to do that in so many more ways. The simple equation is:

A tribute to my uncle Mohinder Singh Sukheja

01.01.1932 - 26.12.2017

Mohinder Singh Sukheja was the husband of my Dad's second cousin. Over the years and  living in England he became a dear uncle to me. He sadly passed away at the end of 2017. This is a tribute to my Uncle and the fond memories I had of him.

Mohinder Singh Sukheja was officially born on 1 January 1932 in Kamalia that is now a part of the Punjab part of Pakistan. He was the second child of a family of seven with 4 sisters and 1 younger brother.

At the age of 15 with the horrors of Partition he had to flee with his family to India. Along the way he became separated from his family and lost. I remember him telling me how in the intense heat, with all the walking he had to do, he became very tired and dehydrated. He literally thought he was going to die. He told me how he desperately prayed to God to rescue him. He was later on picked up by an army truck and reunited with his family. He never forgot how God had been merciful to him.

He settled in Kapurthala in Punjab. He graduated with an MA in History from Chandigarh University. He did teacher training and eventually progressed to becoming a deputy head. In July 1964 he married Daleep. He was encouraged by a colleague to apply to teach in England and so arrived on his own in September 1965. By the second day of arriving he was working in a factory in Shepherds Bush. His landlord did not allow him to cook so for a number of days he laughingly told me he lived on a diet of just bananas! He then spent 5 years working in a post office.

His wife Daleep joined him in March 1966. They had two daughters Baljit Daisy and Prabhjot Lily. By 1968 they had bought and settled in their home in Southall.

Uncle kept his strong desire to teach. So eventually he started a teacher training course in Coventry for 9 months, staying up there for the week and coming home at weekends. He spent 6 years at Thomas Buxton Junior School in Tower Hamlets, East London before coming to North Primary School in Southall where he was a multilingual teacher until he retired in 1997.

What are my memories of Uncle Sukheja?.....

What am I learning about you?

Analysing our 2017 reader survey

Thank you for taking the time to contribute to my recent reader survey. This is only the third time I have undertaken such an exercise in the five years the blog has been going. That is way too infrequently! I have found it a useful way to understand you, my readers. I think in the long run you will also benefit as it will help me improve my blog, writing and podcasts. I intend to repeat the survey more regularly so as to keep what I write about and present as relevant and helpful to you as possible.


In December 2017 we had 93  responses from the 483 email addresses in our database. Although these are relatively low numbers (19%) they do provide a baseline from which we can build on to develop an understanding of who is reading and how to improve content.

Summarising the results gives the following 'reader profile':