Sangmu’s Perfectly Simple Solution for Depression

Approach: Nature, Teaching, Pets, Hobbies and engaging in community

Background: Locked down in Depression

Sangmu kindly shared her recovery story from three episodes of depression. She speaks about her gradual understanding of what helped lift her out of these times, and what she continues to take into her future, to maintain a healthy mind.

Sangmu speaks first of an episode which tied in with the first lockdown (Which she calls the agitation) in India, a period of three months. She had just invested in her homestay and had started to run the business when everyone was confined to their home. She had changed profession and taken a risk to open a homestay business.

As a naturally vivacious and extraverted person, she suffered a lot from this isolation. Initially, she was hesitant to call this ‘low mood’, depression. However, her symptoms became obvious when she started to get significantly fatigued, sleeping throughout the day, reducing all activity and investing a lot of time in social media. Sangmu recounted that her eyes would hurt, but she was unable to stop scrolling.

Sangmu’s experience was far from unusual. A study from Pakistan (Ullah et al, 2022), showed significant spikes in depression during lockdown periods.

She had an awareness that this attachment to scrolling on her phone was wrong, but no ability to change her circumstances. She stated she didn’t do anything to treat the depression specifically, but felt it resolved once the first lockdown ended, and she was able to work again and reopen the business. Furthermore, she formed a relationship (soon to be married). This combination of changes, she reported appeared to resolve her depression.

 

The Second Isolation

During the second agitation, it was the rainy season in West Bengal. There was no cellular network; nobody was able to see each other, and Songmu felt extremely lonely.

Sangmu’s depression evolved and manifested itself as an inability to leave her bedroom, high fatigue and low tolerance to light, lack of desire to converse and only leaving the room to eat. She reported that she started to hate everything she loved.

She states she is used to having some periods of high mood and then low mood, but this was very different.

As restrictions started to ease, an opportunity arose to be able to go to teach local children. She found this experience brought her back to life. It was fun to teach and have a new experience.

Sangmu also found opportunity to take walks in the local forested area. The main purpose of these walks was to get internet signal to download movies and games!

She stated that specifically being in nature on long walks of approximately 10km, and being with friends helped her not only mentally but physically. She lost the weight she had gained during lockdown and it gave her purpose and reason to leave her home. The UK based mental health charity, Mind, specifically states spending time in nature and engaging in creative activities should be used to treat depression (Mind, 2023)

She felt that being in nature, gave her a chance to see the beauty of the world. The mind becomes active to try and work out the fauna around you and creates a healthy business. She stated the lack of ‘doing’ led to the depression. There is so much research on that sensation of ‘awe’ one can experience in nature, which in turn can lead to a whole host of physical and mental health benefits.

A study was completed of two groups of walkers – one group who were to walk as normal and other group to go out of their way to focus on the details of their surroundings. The latter group, known as ‘awe walkers’ had significantly more positive effect from their walk, and found if they continued this habit, their daily stresses decreased. (Sterm et al, 2023).

Based on a significant amount of data, there is even a scientific model, The Matryoshka Model, which highlights the benefits of exposure to the awe emotion:

Matryoshka Model 1 - Depression Nature Community Hobbies Pets

I would recommend the article by (Chirico & Gaggioli, 2021) which explains the system based changes that occur in repeated experiencing of awe.

Matryoshka Model 2 - Depression Nature Community Hobbies Pets

 

Cats, Creativity, Community and Teaching

A key activity Sangmu felt raised her mood and helped her recovery was spending time with her cats. She reported they seemed to know she was depressed and took extra time with her in companionship. The feeling that there was someone to look after her was a strong factor in this improvement in mood.

She felt the combination of teaching children, spending time in nature and having close relationships with friends and pets helped lift her depression because it enabled engagement. Her experience is mirrored by the study “Lifestyle psychiatry for depression and anxiety: Beyond diet and exercise” (Piotrowski et al 2020) which speaks on a positive social connection for the prevention and treatment of mental health.

She has continued her progress in her mental health by keeping her mind active learning new skills. She enjoyed making jewellery out of epoxy resin and making dream catchers.

 

Reconnection

Sangmu felt the biggest thing in her life that had to change in order for the depression to cease was to engage with the outside world and regain a state of independence. She reports that when she was younger she had a significant personality shift. Most of her young life was spent in introversion, relying on her mother to communicate on her behalf, but around four years ago she became aware that she needed to grow in independence and take risks, even if they didn’t work out as she planned.

(Mate, 2022) would agree that this increase in personal agency is a significant tool to help lift people out of chronic illness. Sangmu’s increased self agency shows similarities to Manju and Fiona who both drew on their independence from structures around them which resulted in positive changes in their symptoms.

 

Past and Future

The first recollection she had of an episode of low mood was after she finished school exams. She worked extremely hard for the exams, but unfortunately didn’t get good marks. She felt that her life was over, as it meant she would be unable to gain a government job, which was culturally expected and a mark of success. This resulted in her most significant episode of depression that she can recall. Again, she felt that starting work afterwards helped her to recover from this time.

Sangmu feels confident that depression won’t come back in her life. She feels her lived experience will help her take care of any issues if she starts to feel low. She would make walking in nature a priority, play with her pets or converse with her neighbours or partner.

In terms of not attaining a sought after government job, she feels that there has been a cultural shift in the last few years and that it has become more socially acceptable for this not to be the only marker of success. The perception of a reduction in being judged also helps her mood. I found the study (Hye Kim & Cui, 2024) very interesting in relation to this shift of ‘successful career’ perspective, in that career barriers have a significant longitudinal reciprocal relationship with depression and have a causal relationship with social withdrawal.

Sangmu felt a quote shared by her grandfather helped her a lot when she was suffering. She continues to draw on this knowledge and comfort when she needs it.

 

“Just get up, it’s okay. You can always try new things”

 

Personality ‘Key elements’

  • Independence – Sangmu’s attitude to her depression was self driven. When she was able to do new things she took those opportunities.
  • Open-mindedness to take on new opportunities – work she had never done before and skills she had never tried, she attempts.
  • Joy in caring for others – in teaching, cooking and talking to those around her. She notes a clear lift in mood from these activities.
  • Risk taking – trialling new careers/hobbies/experiences without fear of failure stopping her, and with her grandfather’s message in mind… Just to try.

 

Barriers and learning

  • The methodology that Sangmu shared with us doesn’t come as new learning. Her tools are commonly accepted as treatment of low mood. However, it is pleasing to see the result of lifestyle changes, when reconnection with the outside world is stated as reason for recovery. To see protocols in action has increased my confidence in guidelines and cemented the importance of focussing on client’s lifestyles.

  • Some may feel that Sangmu’s episodes of depression do not qualify her as having a long term condition, however, due to the recurrence of these symptoms, I decided her case study had relevance to Liberation Found’s aims.

 

A few key features about Sangmu’s healing approach, which may be relevant in a wider perspective of all successful approaches to pain resolution:

  • To change environment – getting out of the bedroom, getting into nature
  • To focus on the needs of others – in Sangmu’s case this was teaching local children.
  • To spend time around animals– her pet cats
  • Feeling loved, cared for by others – she formed a relationship with a partner (soon to be married) and connects deeply with her grandfather.
  • Self directed action – in learning new skills
  • Cultural acceptance – in friendship, in career and in community

 

I would like to point out specifically to those interested in practical case studies of resolution to mental health conditions a book ‘Lost Connections’ by (Hari, 2018). The book is my earliest recollection of reading recovery stories related to environment and social changes and how this, rather than medication, made the largest difference in recovery. It is entertaining and greatly readable.

 

‘Case Studies shared on Liberation Found reflect the individual experiences of people who have undergone different methods of treatment and have found a way that has worked for them. However, individual results may vary. We do not claim, and nor should you assume, that any experience recounted is typical or representative of what another person might experience. We cannot guarantee that anyone will achieve the same results. Before you undertake any methodologies that are new to you, please work with a medical professional to ensure this is a suitable technique in your circumstance. We encourage you to discriminate carefully and make your own decisions before signing up for any retreats, sessions, or healings.’

‘The opinions and beliefs shared in individual case studies do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of “Liberation Found”. The video content has been made available for informational and educational purposes only. We do not make any representation or warranties with respect to the accuracy, applicability, fitness or completeness of the video content. We do not warrant the performance, effectiveness or applicability of any sites listed or linked in relation to the video content’

Fact Files

  • Condition: Depression
  • Approach: Nature, Teaching, Pets, Hobbies, engaging in community
  • Speaking Technique: Teaching, Communication with community
  • Non-Speaking technique: Time in nature, creative projects, time spent with pets
  • Self guided work
  • Non Touch – walking in Nature
  • Touch – petting Animals
  • Time taken for result: within a few weeks
  • Previous trials at solution: nil
  • Language: Nepali
  • Location: Darjeeling
  • Culture of Technique: Non-theistic
  • Profession: Homestay Owner and Teacher

Links

Sangmu's Homestay

https://tinyurl.com/4jh9umef

Piotrowski et al 2020

https://tinyurl.com/2he6fxdb

Sturm et al, 2023

https://tinyurl.com/yky33kwh

Chirico & Gaggioli, 2021

https://tinyurl.com/bdd5bv53

Ullah et al, 2022

https://tinyurl.com/wr7mvr63

Hye Kim & Cui, 2024

https://tinyurl.com/39um7z88
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