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

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:.....

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':

Looking back with gratitude on 2017

7 questions to learn from and grow forward

As I get older I'm always amazed by how fast time flies. Another year has so quickly come and gone. Its sometimes hard to remember where all the time has gone! The end of one year provides the opportunity to reflect on all that has happened. From those reflections we can explore life lessons and patterns of behaviour we want to change or perhaps continue with. By doing this we can find wisdom that can be useful for the future.

I am grateful to Michael Hyatt for the following questions to appraise the previous year and look ahead to the coming year. I will share my answers with you to help you think through your own thoughts about 2017 as it comes to an end.

I would strongly encourage you to also write down your own answers and not just keep them in your head. As we write our thoughts begin to disentangle themselves and bring clarity in a way that is otherwise just not possible. Or as someone has said, "The softest pencil is more powerful than the sharpest mind." It becomes even more powerful as we find a way to store what we learn over several years at a time.  As philosopher and poet George Santayana said, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Repeating the past without change then condemns us to repeating the same mistakes or doing the same things expecting a different result.

As I share the questions below I have added some of my own reflections to help you think through your own experiences. If you want more clarification from me feel free to ask in the comments section below. My hope for you as I indulge myself in this way publicly is that you will be prompted to have insights that will put you in a stronger position for whatever this new year has in store for you....

I need your help!

2017 Reader Survey

This week's post is relatively short, but that's because I need your help! I really do appreciate the time you take to read my blog and listen to the podcasts. Thank you for your encouragements, suggestions and comments both online and off line over the years. It has been just over five years since we started. I have found it an amazing and truly rewarding experience, but I really need your help!


I would like to make my blog and the podcasts much more relevant to your needs and to what interests you. In order to do that I need to know more about YOU! I have created a Reader Survey and I’d be very thankful if you were to spend just five to ten minutes to answer the questions in it.

There are up to 25 questions, and the results will feed directly into how I write my posts and the podcasts that I do. I very much want to serve you better. So my intention is that what I write about and the podcasts I do will benefit you directly. The results are completely anonymous and I cannot tell who has written what (unless you want to tell me!).

You can make the survey as short or as long as you like. Although if you have detailed responses that too would be greatly appreciated!

Thank you once again!


Click here to take my reader survey

Have you had your champion breakfast?

The power of feedback

No I am not referring to your first meal of the day - important as that is! Rather it is the power of feedback to enable you to both understand yourself better and to discover and grow in your areas of strengths and giftedness.

Feedback has been called the breakfast of champions. The problem is, however, all of us struggle to give or receive feedback unless it is in a manner or context within which we or the other person does not feel threatened. The classic 'feedback sandwich' of say something positive, then the usually negative feedback, followed by something positive again can come across as formulaic and contrived. So while it can be effective it does create tension and anxiety for both the person receiving and giving feedback.

Even the anonymous 360 degree feedback systems that are increasingly popular in health and business environments run into the problem of  telling more about the person doing the rating than the subject who is supposed to be getting the feedback. That has certainly been my experience and those I have discussed it with.

But how about creating systems to provide feedback for yourself?

This is how Peter Drucker, arguably the greatest management thinker of the 20th century put it in a Harvard Business Review article:...