I’m not happy all the time. But, I do try to find something to be happy about every day. Even through depression and anxiety l have managed to do so almost every day of my life. Yes, I truly have depression and understand it better than I ever would have wanted to, and yes, I’ve found something to be happy about on my deepest darkest days when it felt like the world was caving in on me.
Well, I’m not an expert by any means but have figured out my own ways, the hard way. That’s why I’m putting these in steps for someone who may benefit from my trials and errors over the years. They are working for me, anyway. My disclaimer here is that if you are suffering from severe depression or have suicidal thoughts: this is not for you. You should, instead, seek the help of a doctor ASAP or call a suicide help line.
In the United States you can call: The National Suicide Prevention Line at 1-800-273-8255. They also serve Veterans.
This is for people who have manageable depressive episodes or occasionally find themselves in a rut or “funk” as I call it. It’s worse than just feeling “blah” and can last days or weeks but isn’t as bad as suicidal thoughts or inability to function.
1. Anytime you have a negative thought, find ONE thing to be grateful for. Just one thing can spark hope and begin to change your mood to a more positive one. You might have to do this 100 times in a day. Keep at it.
2. Listen to your body. If you need to move then move but if you need to rest then rest. Oversleeping to the point of not wanting to get out of bed for days on end isn’t healthy. But if your mind is racing or dwelling it might be good to just get some sleep. I have found that if I’m in a funk and force myself into the bathtub, I just take the same mood with me there and back out. Sleeping is restorative and natural. You may wake up with a new perspective. Many times, for me, answers come to me in my dreams. On the other hand, exercise releases endorphins and can be an excellent natural antidepressant. Listen to your body. Our bodies have a way of telling us what we need.
3. Eat healthy. I always feel worse when I eat carbs and snacks out of depression. Somehow it makes my mood even more depressed. You may crave it but I suggest avoiding it. Have something simple and at least semi-healthy.
4. Understand that nothing lasts forever. Whatever you’re going through may be really tough but it will get better once you reach the other side of it. I try to think of mental situations as hills I’m climbing. It gets hard, then harder and hardest yet, but then you get to the point that you’re past the hard part and the next situation is much better. When you’re feeling your worst you just have to keep going to get THROUGH it. Whatever it is, it will not last forever. If you’re lucky you’ll get to enjoy the view from the top (better situation), enjoy the hike down and maybe even stay in a valley for a while before the next unfavorable situation comes along. This is just life. But when you’re going through the hard part, I understand it feels like it may never end. It will end though.
5. Have a self-care “kit.” It’s not really a physical kit (but could be if you want to make a box especially for this). I use these things regularly but moreso when I’m sad or in a funk.
Here’s what’s in mine:
- a Pinterest board full of inspirations, motivational quotes, happy images and saying that are pertinent to me and my personal journey. This is one board I’ve marked private that I keep for times when I’m down. Please note: this is not the board where you pin all the things you want but don’t have. That’s not fun when you’re feeling down. Don’t even look at those.
- Massage tool (or your hands) and oils for self-massage. I’d love to go get a full body massage whenever I want but that is too expensive for me. Next best thing is to massage my own neck and shoulders (Use coconut or olive oil. It makes all the difference). I actually even keep one of those cheapy plastic massage tools you can find at WalMart or Walgreens in my bathtub as well so I can work the knots out of my neck and the top part of my back when I’m soapy. Also be sure to stretch many times throughout the day.
- Journal. There is a trick to journaling though! Do not journal the negative stuff! You may feel that you’re getting it off your chest so to speak but honestly, you’re still just dwelling. Come up with SOLUTIONS to the problems or make a gratitude list. I have collected a gazillion journal “prompts” and have them in their own journal to refer to. You want to take your mind OFF of the situations that have you down and turn your mood around.
- A friend. I try not to “dump” on the same friend all the time. Let’s be real. That’s what it feels like. If you have ongoing depression it may seem like that’s all you’re doing is complaining over and over again. If you have a trusted friend, partner, family member, whom you know is supportive, that’s the one to go to. Always ask them first if they are in a good place mentally for you to vent and be respectful and UNoffended if they are not. You don’t want to drag anyone else down with you.
- My dogs. No explanation necessary. Soooo therapeutic!
- Nature. Having sunlight, for me, is critical for my mental health. I once worked in a cubicle. That lasted 3 months. It was torture! I even have a special light bulb that imitates the sun that I sit under on cloudy days. If we can (hubby and I), we like to go on hikes in the Colorado Rockies. It does take a little planning and is usually an all day thing. Sometimes I feel so badly I just can’t. This may be better categorized as a prevention. The sunshine though; it’s a must!
- A note-taking app. I have made many notes that are uplifting and encouraging that I keep in a list app. I use “Evernote,” but any note-making app should do. I have a few favorite photos in there, some quotes, a little journaling. It’s nice to have when you can’t have an actual paper journal. I still prefer the pen and paper kind though.
- Meditation. I do it every chance I can even if it’s only for a few minutes. When I first started meditating I could only sit still for one minute. I can now sit for hours at a time. Sometimes my hubby thinks I’m asleep but I’m fully awake. Since I’ve been meditating I’ve realized how much hubby moves. He never sits still unless I do a guided mediation for him. If you don’t already meditate, I highly suggest you start. It won’t seem beneficial at first. It may even feel like a struggle, but once you get into it you WILL notice a difference. It’s like this special, secret place you can go to anytime you’re stressed where you can tune out the noise of the world and your own mind. Plus, you can do it anywhere! You can do a walking meditation, sitting, lying or even standing in line at the grocery store (though it won’t be as deep of one but it’s still something). I have had some AMAZING insights (and visions!) when I’ve gone into deep meditation. The most important thing about meditation is not controlling your mind. It is to be the observer of your thoughts and emotions while allowing them come and go.
- Not for everyone, I know, but alternative/holistic healing. They are now doing scientific studies on the benefits of energy healing. We’ve known for years that the placebo effect works for some people. (Not that energy work is a placebo! Just mentioning that the energy of our mind is very strong). We’ve also known that just thinking positively absolutely has a power to heal. I actually invoke that positive energy and use visualization to surround myself with it as an imaginary white light. I use grounding techniques as well as energy protection etc. Essential oils, acupressure on my feet and hands and light therapy all help me when I’m down.
I hope that you can use some of my tips. Let me know what you think! Is this type of post helpful to anyone? Do you have other tips you can add in the comments? If so, I would truly love to hear them!
May you be happy and well,