52 Proverbs to Fight Depression and Trauma by Fiann Ó Nualláin

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52 Proverbs

By Fiann Ó Nualláin

52 Proverbs to Fight Depression and Trauma by Fiann Ó Nualláin

I write non-fiction so for me a new book starts with a topic that I want to write about, rather than a great plot twist that just popped into my head while daydreaming at the bus stop. But I still want it to be more than just a collection of facts, I want it to track or read well, I want it to tell a story or paint a picture that readers can engage with, or at last keep momentum right the way through. So while I am not plotting it out on cards or with sticky notes and red thread halfway round the house, the section headings or chapters are important. They are the stepping stones through the topic to the endpoint of fuller understanding.  I also want a working title that motivates me. Publishers can alter titles, so the working one may not make it to the printed cover but at the start it frames the objective.

I have too often bought books in the past that were called one thing but actually about another, say something titled the folklore of Irish wildlife but there are sections on Scottish eagles, the Cornwall door mouse and Morris dancing inspired by Welsh otters. That’s the folk lore of Celtic wildlife and I have just wasted €16.99 and 4 hours of my life. So, while my working title may not make it, the replacement must be accurate.  More anon.

With my latest book, the topic was depression. They say write what you know. Well, I have had depression since early childhood, and in my adult life I trained in psychotherapies and worked in social and therapeutic care. I know depression from all its angles. But I don’t want to write a thesis about it nor do I want to write a memoir of my own depression, in recent years there has been a tsunami of what I call ‘mental health confessionals’, where a celebrity or sports personality writes a book and adds in the bit about being sad after they got voted off big brother or maybe it was a bit more serious. And while it highlights the fragility of mental health, and says yes, ‘it is ok to not be ok’, I’d rather hear ‘it is better to get better’, but they never give the details on how they got out of the hole. Ok maybe they went sea swimming or seen a counsellor and now they are fully better. But more please. Too little info. Throw out a few life lines.

So I have the topic and I have the motivation – a lifeline. Something that helps rather than just references. I knew I was going to use proverbs as section headings across the book as many of them had helped me with my own mindset in the face of past depressive episodes. And the one that turned the course for me was ‘sunshine follows gloom’.  I had conditioned myself to believe that my depression was a permanent state and that periodic pain-freeness or happiness was transitory. That the sunshine was fleeting. Not that the clouds were the transitory part. The sunshine proverb opened my eyes to seeing it all a different way. So, I thought ok this epiphany would make a great title, and is the mission statement of the book; I want to get the reader to the sunshine after the gloom.  Now we are off to the races.

The proverbs and Irish culture have been an interest of mine since childhood and there are tons of books around the house on such topics but I also visited the folklore commission and tracked down some early manuscripts to select the best versions and to find the Irish language versions, as there is often an extra layer in the Gaelic not in the translation, I unpack that in the book. Its like when we say ‘tá brón orm’, we are saying ‘the sadness is upon me’, not ‘I am sad’, not I am in full possession of this sadness or this sadness is in full possession of me, we are saying its on me now. So it can be taken off you too. That’s what I wanted with this book, how to take it off, not own it, not be stuck with it.

I always wanted the book to be an exploration of the techniques utilized in cognitive behavioural therapy, positive psychology and other psychotherapies that help diamante a depressive mindset and build a more resilient mindset. So the plan was to pick twenty or so techniques and match them to a proverb section heading.  Talk therapy is key to getting an understanding of the complexities and triggers of your depression, so straight away Leigheas gach brón comhrádh -Conversation is a cure for every sorrow is a must.

Is maith an cúnamh an lá breá – A fine day is a help to everyone – lends itself beautifully to looking at resetting circadian rhythms (which impact slepp, mood and cognitive function) and how sunshine affects serotonin release and boosts mood. Nutrition has a big role in wellness and nutrient imbalances can worsen depressive episodes so that brings ‘is minic a mhaolaigh béile maith brón It is often a good meal eased sorrow onto the radar’.

Then there are some tough calls as to dropping toxic friendships, family complications, how to forgive, how to let go and for that a good starting point would be ‘Caora mhór an t-uan i bhfad A lamb becomes a sheep if you carry it long enough’. Right up the deep dive technical assessment that something like ‘Doras feasa fiafraí – The door to wisdom is asking’, which I utilize as a jumping off point for the Socratic method and how we can challenge our negative assumptions and flawed thinking.

The proverb is the introduction to the idea, the advice of the ancestors on how to deal with the vicissitudes of life, I unpack the meaning or explain the context then match it to an exercise that gives one another skill in defeating depression or building resilience. So there are exercises on journaling, on pain and worry postponement, on ending ruination and negative thinking, on assertiveness and motivation, on altering patterns and reframing one’s life into positivity and brighter outlook. Before I knew it I had about 60 proverbs so I cut them back to 52, giving the option to the reader to take one a week, ponder the proverb, put the exercise into practice. 

So here we are back to titles, the sunshine follows gloom got me there, gave the context and my mission. But when it comes to marketing or selling the book, it is perhaps too vague. So when the publishers recommended 52 Proverbs to Fight Depression and Trauma, I couldn’t deny that it does what it says on the tin. You want the book to be read, to get to how can benefit from it and not everyone reading this piece will run out and buy it, not everyone hearing me on radio later in the week talking about the neuroscience of getting into nature, or on tv next week explaining the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal, will either, so 52 trumps sunshine. Always remember no what genera you are writing in, it is the browsers in the bookstore who need to notice the cover or notice the title. The hardest part is never the writing, it’s getting noticed.

(c) Fiann Ó Nualláin

About 52 Proverbs to Fight Depression and Trauma:

52 Proverbs

Discover a powerful tool in your journey to overcome depression and heal from trauma with 52 Proverbs to Fight Depression and Trauma by Fiann Ó Nualláin. This exceptional book follows on from the successful 52 Proverbs to Build Resilience Against Anxiety and Panic. It merges the timeless wisdom of Irish proverbs with practical techniques in mindfulness, positive psychology, and cognitive behavioural therapy.

Ideal for readers searching for practical books on depression and trauma, this self-help guide offers 52 proverbs, each a beacon of ancestral wisdom tailored for the modern struggle against mental health challenges. These sayings, deeply rooted in Irish tradition, provide insightful strategies and exercises for navigating through the complexities of depression and past trauma.

Whether you’re coping with depression and seeking to heal from past wounds or looking for a path to greater happiness and calm, 52 Proverbs to Fight Depression and Trauma is a must-read. Its unique blend of ancient insights and contemporary therapeutic methods makes it a standout choice for anyone looking to improve their mental well-being.

Embrace the journey towards a more fulfilling and peaceful life with the wisdom of 52 Proverbs to Fight Depression and Trauma. Take the first step towards healing and resilience.

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Fiann Ó Nualláin is an award-winning garden designer and horticultural therapist. He is co-presenter on RTÉ’s ‘Dermot’s Secret Garden’ and makes regular contributions to other TV and radio programmes on the subjects of ethnobortany, the natural environment, biodiversity, ecological gardening and GIY. He blogs under theholisticgardener.com and contributes to a variety of gardening and health magazines across Europe. As a horticultural therapist Fiann develops outreach horticulture programmes with Dublin City Council and other agencies further afield, working with children at risk, elder groups, and adults in recovery and community regeneration projects.

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