We all have periods of depression.
I’m not talking here about the mental illness of depression.
I mean that we all have moments in which we are down or in which we feel that everything is bleak.
These periods are very difficult to navigate, and oftentimes it seems that we cannot get out of them. However, after struggling with these dark moods for years, I’ve finally developed a technique to help free myself when they come upon me.
Though the process might seem difficult when taken as a whole, if you look at it in terms of steps, it seems much more manageable. I’ve broken it down into six steps, each of which is fairly easy to complete on its own.
Here’s what to do:
1. Recognize that you are in a depressed mood.
The first step may seem an obvious one, but it is the point around which the rest of the method revolves.
If you don’t recognize your mental state, you can’t do anything about it. And if you don’t label it, it is difficult to detach yourself from it sufficiently to address it.
2. Don’t analyze.
When you are depressed, you are often stuck in your thoughts, and those thoughts come through a black filter.
Therefore, now is not the time to examine the causes of your depression. Doing so would probably only make the depression worse.
3. Instead, be prepared with the knowledge of what affirms and strengthens you.
To beat depression, you need to know yourself well. You need to know what makes you tick: what makes you happy, what fulfills you, what makes you sad, what leaves you feeling depleted.
Perhaps it is a sense of accomplishing something. Perhaps it is the appreciation of the beautiful. Perhaps it is the idea of doing something creative.
It doesn’t matter what it is; just make sure it is really you, not me, not your ideal person, not your best friend. YOU.
4. Have a short list of activities that accomplish this purpose.
Make sure that these are things which will engage you, whether they be work or leisure activities. For me, for example, cleaning is an activity I keep on my list. Another is to listen to a book. Or I might fold laundry or declutter something.
Whatever it is, just make sure it is something that will take you out of yourself.
5. Choose something–anything–from the list.
It helps to keep a list of little things that will serve you well in this situation because you are probably going to have a hard time thinking of something to do when you are feeling low and unmotivated.
If you have a list which you have compiled when in a better state of mind, you can pick it up during your depressed moments and simply do something from the list.
Don’t spend a lot of time debating which activity you will do, because the inability to choose might just help you to spiral down. Instead, make up your mind to do the first thing on your list. Or the last thing. Or move down the list every time you use it.
6. Do that something.
Make yourself do it. Don’t think about it. Don’t debate whether it will help. Don’t think of all the reasons it won’t work.
Just do it.
And if you do it long enough, you will usually be rewarded by that sense of happiness and fulfillment which we talked about earlier. At the very least, you will feel enough of it to boost yourself a few steps out of your depression.
Although this process is not always completely successful–that is, although it doesn’t always completely free me from my moods–it always helps to manage them. More often than not, though, it does help to melt away a period of depression.
It’s your turn! What do you do when you feel down? Do you have a process that works for you? Tell me about it in the comments below!