Depression is a cruel thief when it comes to our everyday lives. It leaves us feeling constantly tired and drained, with no motivation to perform even the simplest of tasks. Most of the time, we’d rather stay in bed, isolated, than deal with the outside world. While this is understandable, giving in to these “lazy” desires never helps.
When I first started counseling, my counselor immediately suggested getting out of my apartment and talking to people. I thought this was insane. I came to counseling to seek help because my depression left me debilitated and on the couch most days. Surely she couldn’t be serious. Her response couldn’t possibly be to just get up. I silently rolled my eyes at her and pretended to listen. Easier said than done, I thought. Doesn’t she know how hard it is for me to find motivation?
In all honesty, that mode of thinking probably set me back months in my overall progress. Heck, I even quit at one point because I didn’t feel like counseling was helping at all. However, I ended up returning a few weeks later after I realized that in order to get better, I’d have to want to get better. I started making more conscious decisions and became more mindful about my actions and how they’d effect me both emotionally and mentally. (For more on mindfulness, click here.)
I was skeptical at first, I won’t lie. I didn’t think feeling better would be easy and thus thought why bother. I knew I had to put in the effort, though, if I wanted to see any results whatsoever. From my experience, I learned there were certain things that were a part of my daily routine that didn’t require as much energy and effort as I presumed. And since I was being more mindful about my actions, I really did notice the return.
Getting ready for the day.
Showering. Brushing your teeth. Putting on your favorite outfit. I completely overestimated these everyday routines. These things seemed tedious to me, especially when I didn’t have any plans, but I didn’t realize how much they actually did change my temperament. When wearing my favorite dress and heels, I felt more confident. Wearing makeup made me feel pretty and with my hair done I felt unstoppable. It’s crazy to think about how just getting ready in the morning can set the mood for the entire day. We feel better about ourselves, and therefore feel better towards life.
There’s a significant difference between sitting in a dark room and getting out in light. Light gave me energy and made me happier whereas in the dark I felt miserable. The sun has a TREMENDOUS effect on our well-being. It not only gives us the vitamins our body needs, but the light puts us in a better mood. Fresh air from outside helps promote clarity and the beauty of nature promotes creativity. Even if it was raining or chilly, that sharpness in climate snapped me back into reality and helps live in the moment.
My mom always told me that going to sleep in a made-bed allowed for a more restful slumber. I never believed her and thought it seemed pointless to make a bed if it was just to be ruined a few hours later. I did end up trying this and it worked. It felt refreshing and, in a way, I felt like I had my life together. In the same manner, looking at a clean apartment put me in a better frame of mind whereas looking at clutter and dirt just added stress. And though it seems like a lot of effort in the process, it actually provided for a greater return at a later moment. For example, cooking was no longer a hassle when I needed certain utensils accessible, and a clean bathtub allowed for more relaxation during a bath.
Most know forcing yourself to smile releases chemicals that help you feel better, but for me it was always in laughter. When I laughed I felt happy and enjoyed life, even if for a moment. Of course, finding a reason to laugh wasn’t all that easy. I usually opted for a comedy on TV, but even tried to laugh at myself. At first, it seemed ridiculous, but ultimately ended up working because I soon started laughing at how silly I sounded.
Painting, drawing, designing, etc. I’d put on music and lock myself in a room for a few hours while I worked on a project and, in doing so, I ended up not only feeling productive but creative as well. Putting so much focus on a piece of artwork allowed me to escape reality for a while and express myself. My strokes would match my mood, colors were carefully picked based on attitude. Ultimately, it was a great way to release negative emotions and turn them into positive ones.
Spending time with others.
This required the greatest effort for me. I lived in a town where I didn’t have many friends due to the travel my husband’s job put us through. I thought it was pointless to meet new people if one of us were to leave anyway. Again, this set me back in my progress. Humans weren’t made to live life alone. Hanging out with people, even if just for coffee, allowed me to laugh more and dwell in my mind less. Spending time with others lifted my overall disposition and having friends and/or a reason to go out added purpose to my life. It seemed difficult, at first, forcing myself to get out of my comfort zone, but being with people was refreshing and nurturing to my spirit.
Though most were trial and error, being mindful of my behaviors and their effect on my mood was beneficial to learning how to cope with my depression. Mindfulness is a key element to thriving in the midst of mental illness, and these healthier alternatives to most harmful behaviors (i.e. movie marathons, junk food, etc.) are proven to help. Might be momentarily, might take a few tries, but they do help, for the only way to get better is to fight against the stigma of your depression.
Comment below with some tricks that worked/works for you!
If you are considering or planning to end your life, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline is a free service, and a trained professional is available to talk to you 24/7. Reach out for help, you are not alone. And you are loved more than you will ever realize.