Create your own LUCK
Does disaster seem to follow you around? Jane Alexander reveals life-changing techniques for turning bad fortune into good...
Are you fated to be a born loser or can you manufacture your own good luck? Most of us are finding it tough right now but some people find it tougher than others and it seems there is a good reason for this. Research suggests that depression runs in families and that bad luck lies not in the lap of the gods but in our own genes. A good excuse to just roll over and give up? Not at all.
Bad luck need not be a life sentence: you really can create your own luck. ‘Just because you have a genetic susceptibility to be depressed and unlucky doesn’t mean it’s an inevitability,’ says Professor Anita Thapar of the Department of Psychological Medicine and Neurology at Cardiff University. ‘There are ways of helping people alter the way they think: you can teach them to look on the bright side.’ The key to bucking depression is to change the way you think. Our thoughts, both conscious and unconscious, directly affect our moods. Doctors are increasingly prescribing not antidepressant drugs but thought-shifting forms of psychotherapy.
Cognitive-behavioural therapy is the bestknown approach in which patients are asked to monitor their negative thought patterns, to learn how to recognise the distortions and replace negative thoughts with those that are more realistic and helpful. But there are even more interesting alternatives. Solutionfocused therapy is being increasingly used because it is not only highly effective for depression but it can also have surprisingly swift results. Unlike traditional forms of therapy, which spend time concentrating on what is going wrong, solution-focused therapy turns the whole concept of therapy on its head and looks at what is going right.
Ron Wilgosh, a pioneer of the technique, gives an example of a man who said he was always depressed. ‘We asked him how he knew he was always depressed and he said, “Because I have up days now and again.” Then we asked what was different on the up days and in particular what he did differently on those days. Once we had ascertained how he behaves when he is not depressed, we asked him to predict, before going to bed, what kind of day would follow. If he thought it would be a down day, he was asked to do something, as early as possible the next day, that he would normally do on an up day.’
Soon the man had learned how to break his depression pattern and, whenever he felt he was going down again, would shift into the behaviour and thought patterns which linked him back into a happier state.
Solution- focused therapy focuses on people’s competence rather than their deficits, their strengths rather than their weaknesses, their possibilities rather than their limitations. It also puts emphasis on the power of the individual to sort out his or her own problems. ‘One 27-year-old woman was suicidal,’ recounts Wilgosh. ‘She believed her depression was genetic and felt she was a victim of her own bad luck. She was looking for an “expert” who could give her the answers. But we saw her for seven sessions during which she realised that she could take responsibility for her own state of mind and her own behaviour. Depression, even if it is genetic, need not ruin your life.’ Solutionfocused therapists see their clients for an average of just three sessions. ‘There is no evidence that long, drawn- out therapy is necessary,’ insists Wilgosh. ‘If you have a problem, you need a solution. We can help people find their own solutions.’
NLP (neuro- linguistic programming) is also a popular and effective method for combating the blues. NLP techniques teach you how to control your emotional states rather than letting them control you. NLP practitioner Lynne Crawford explains, ‘We use a variety of very precise techniques which can break the habit of depression by evoking positive states of mind. Some of them are quite sophisticated but others are very simple. For example, if you find yourself becoming depressed, get up out of your chair, move around, look up. It immediately increases the levels of feel-good brain hormones. The Taoists have a saying, “If you’re depressed, go fly a kite,” which demonstrates the point very well. It’s hard to be depressed if you’re standing upright and looking upwards. Equally, you may find you have anchored a depressive state with a particular chair in the room. Try shifting your office or living room around to break the pattern.’
NLP doesn’t stop at merely beating the blues: it can help you achieve whatever you desire. Not for nothing is NLP known as the ‘psychology of excellence’ — people who have used it claim they have been able to transform totally their lives and their luck.
Equally transformative, say devotees, is the art of affirmations — positive statements that you write out 20 times a day for 10 days or so. They work on the principle that our reactions to life are forged by the, often unconscious, thoughts we have about life. From early childhood, we are bombarded with negative messages, particularly if we come from families in which depression is a dominating force. ‘You’ll never succeed.’ ‘There’s no point in trying.’ ‘Others get all