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Posted: December 30, 2018

Being comfortable with who you are

By Colin J Campbell

A number of social media posts from people who suffer from depression got my attention recently.

My heart went out to them, however, I know very little about the disease, I have never suffered from it and I am not a clinical psychologist.

As I did some research and read a few articles I realized that this is a condition that a lot of people live with and that there is no real cure. Drugs may suppress the depression but the side effects are even more acute than the disease.

One article suggested that when someone suffers from depression they are often very negative and will look to lay the blame for their woes on the world, or circumstance or their upbringing. They will use “I” a lot and negative phrases about everything. That made me wonder if the condition could be improved if the individual took a different approach, perhaps my own experience might be a possible solution.

Although my issue wasn’t depression, my personal life was changed a number of years ago when I came across a biography of Sir William Osler.

Osler is one of those Canadians who are more famous outside of Canada than within.

Dr. William Osler is considered to be the father of modern medicine. He was the first professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1888 and in 1904 was appointed Regius Professor Medicine at Oxford University. A prolific researcher and author, he was born in Bond Head, Canada West (now Ontario) in 1842. His textbook, The Principles and Practice of Medicine became the main textbook for medical schools around the world.

Dr. William Osler

In an address to a Yale medical school graduating class, Dr. Osler attributed his success to this quote from Thomas Carlyle, “Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.”

He related how reading this particular quote changed his life. He realized that he had to live in the present moment, to treat each day as a day tight compartment with no reference to the future or the past.

As I thought about what Carlyle had written and how it had changed Dr. Osler’s life I realized that I needed to stop worrying about the past and the future and focus on the present.

This led to the understanding that time doesn’t really exist; it is an illusion. This was all a very freeing concept, it relieved the stress of trying to do too much and allowing the idea that there are not enough hours in the day to rule the roost. Taking a lesson from Carlyle and Dr. Osler removed a lot of baggage that I am sure could easily lead to depression.

A good way to better understand the concept of time as an illusion is to consider how we view the earth’s relationship to the Sun. We say the Sun rises in the east and sets in the west and represents approximately 12 hours of the day. However, in reality, the Sun never moves, the earth rotates on its axis and as a consequence, the appearance or illusion of the Sun rising and setting. When we start to think of the day as it really is, it is much easier to recognize the rotation of the earth as it circles the Sun can have no bearing on what we accomplish or our age.

A human interest video about Mim Richardson by TSN during the Scotties Women’s Canadian Curling Championships added to my conviction that having the right mental attitude is the key to personal wellbeing.

Mim, who is 107, was in Penticton for the Scotties as her granddaughter was playing for team Canada and her son was the team’s coach. The commentator related that when asked what her secret to living to 107 was, Mim replied that she had always been very comfortable with who she was, she never envied what others had and was very happy with her circumstance. She also said that she attempted to treat everyone she met with respect and love.

As I thought about what she had said it came to me that the concept of living in day-tight compartments that Dr. Osler presented based on Carlyle’s quote, the idea of being grateful every day for what we have received even it what we have received is nothing more than the air we breathe and being comfortable with who we are and what we have, all go hand in hand.

Taking this approach to life has to be the elixir for all ailments including depression. It doesn’t require drugs or Doctors’ visits or any physical changes it just requires a change in thinking, how we view life and not accepting an illusion of reality. Being comfortable with yourself express gratitude and live in day tight compartments. Take the challenge to change how you think in the next 30 days, you will be surprised at the results.

Dr. Osler was a prolific note taker; everything he did was diarized. You may want to consider doing the same thing. Dr. Einstein once said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Keeping a journal or diary is the only way to prevent that from happening. It also is a record of what doesn’t work.

For more on Dr. Osler

Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish philosopher, author, mathematician and educator. Although he is remembered mostly for his book on the French Revolution and his biography of Frederick the Great of Germany, his early life was one of poverty and struggle as he attempted to find his purpose. He appears to have suffered from what today would probably be described as depression. What has survived are some of his quotes such as the one used here.

– Colin J Campbell, CLU, CH.F.C. is managing partner of Guidance Planning Strategies Ltd. in Cranbrook. An independent wealth management firm, specializing in helping families and entrepreneurs create wealth and keeping it for generations.


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