4 Ways to Help Reduce the Effects of Depression
Depression is a devious jerk. When you’re depressed, it often feels like nothing in the world makes sense and absolutely NOTHING can make you feel better. Worse yet, you’ll find yourself isolating from others and inevitably dangerous and destructive thoughts take over. In case there was any question: this shit is not good.
I’m not an expert and I definitely don’t have answers for everyone, but I do know there are some fundamental concepts that, even at their worst, are pure gold. In fact, I’d go so far as to say, even if you aren’t feeling the effects of depression, you probably need to pickup one or two of these as a regular habit.
It Starts With A Small Step.
For me, the idea of getting up and working out or even spending time with my friends seemed impossible. Little by little it got “easier” to stay home and isolate but this is the opposite of what is actually going to help you when you’re battling depression – hereby known as “The Jerk” because, as previously stated, it is. Here are a few ways I helped myself push through on the hard days.
Three Good Things
Take 30 seconds and survey your surroundings. Make a mental note of every blue item you see in the room. Look hard! Now close your eyes, think reeeeeeeeally hard about all the blue things you spotted. Ready? Great, now the big question: what did you notice in the room that was red. Oh, you weren’t looking for red? But as you look around now is it possible there IS red in the room? Is it possible this could be the same in your life? Depression made everything in life dull and sucky (sucky is a very technical term), but my question for you: is it possible there actually ARE good things happening around you but you aren’t looking for them? It’s time to get intentional about LOOKING.
My challenge for you: Every day seek out Three Good Things in your life. It doesn’t have to be grand – let’s face it, your birthday only comes around once a year. Maybe you’re having a good hair day. Maybe you live in Texas and the temp is not triple digits or the humidity is less than 50% (if you live here you know how great these are). Maybe your flowers haven’t died in said Texas heat. Maybe you didn’t get any junk mail today. Maybe you’re grateful for your good health. Maybe you’re thankful for a roof over your head and running water from your faucets, or your AC hasn’t taken a crap. Maybe your grateful for an abundance of love from your closest friends and family. It’s not hard to find dozens of things that actually ARE good, you just need to be looking for them.
Look for Three Good Things each day that make you happy, you are grateful for, or went well for you. What happened? How did it make you feel at the time and now when you’re thinking about it again now? You won’t spot any red items if you aren’t ALSO looking for them.
Random Acts of Kindness
Have you ever had someone ahead of you in the drive through pay for your coffee? I mean, talk about an instant mood booster! We all perform Random Acts of Kindness at one time or another. They may be large or small. Their beneficiaries may not even be aware, but their effects can be profound – not just for the recipient but for the giver as well. Standing in line at the grocery store to check out (or in my case, Super Target) with just a few items and someone – with what is surely 6 months worth of groceries for a small Army – let’s you cut in line to go before them. You hold the door for someone. You offer to help with a task to help free up some time for your co-worker. Empty the trash or refill the printer with paper. The point is there are a million things you could do to show someone kindness!
My challenge to you: Perform at least one Random Act of Kindness each day for one week and keep a journal. After each Act, write down what you did and how it made you feel. How did the recipient react (if they even knew).
If you’re depressed, you probably want to sit on the couch all day feeling you have no energy to do anything, or it can be a negative action, like telling your best friend to go away, that sends you into an even lower place. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out this isn’t going to work out very well. Research shows that people who volunteer their time feel more socially connected, thus warding off loneliness and depression. There’s an added bonus to Volunteering; it’s also an Act of Kindness that gets you up and out the door taking a positive action and also benefits others! Leaning (or pushing!) into more positive action is a simple way to break the cycle of negative thoughts and low moods.
My challenge to you: Research options for a quick give-back to your community. Help stock shelves at the food pantry, join a non-profit organization, or walk dogs at the local shelter. You don’t have to commit to a 10-year term nor does it have to cost money, just get up and go do something.
My personal favorite, The Human Hall Pass
If your bff came to you and spilled their guts about feeling overwhelm or anxiety or depression, you’d likely say something to the effect of “hey, it’s okay, we’ll get this figured out” or “ohmygosh, I’m so sorry, what can I do to help.” Sometimes in life you need to let yourself off the hook and show yourself the same compassion you would to someone you care about. In essence, you need a Hall Pass. The Hall Pass is not an excuse or an escape from fear or overwhelm, it should, however, give you a sense of relief and create a little heart-space to re-evaluate and, more importantly, RESTART. Speak to yourself like you would your bff. I hereby grant you permission to extend yourself a Hall Pass when you find yourself feeling swallowed by dark clouds. Remember, this isn’t for you to get out of anything – there is a difference between quitting and resting. My challenge to you: Where do you need to speak kindly to yourself and maybe even offer yourself a Hall Pass this week. Rest and Restart. You can do this. Everything is figure-out-able my friend.
What ideas do you have? Any other options that have worked for you? This is a space for sharing and growing, together!