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Battling Depression is a Skill. Here are Some Tips That Worked for me
After battling depression over the last year, I have come to discover some tips that have improved the overall quality of my life. The first, and most important discovery, was a change in the way I perceived happiness. Before my bout with depression, I assumed that happiness was my natural state of mind and that being happy is just inherent. Happiness was my baseline, I didn’t have to do anything, and I just was content. Of course, this all changed once the darkness came creeping in, and eventually my baseline emotional state was grey. Here’s what I discovered; being happy takes effort. Being happy is a skill and needs to be worked on.
Thinking that you can magically become happy, or not depressed, without changing any aspect of your life is absurd. Once I got my mind around this concept, I worked on my emotional wellbeing every day. It’s a lot like weight lifting. It takes a lot of effort, it isn’t easy, and it takes a while before you see results. However, it is completely worth it in the end. Not everyone will derive joy from the same activities that are pleasant for me, but I will share my experience in the hopes that it helps you out.
Here are the simple things I added to my life that helped lift the apathy, sadness and empty dullness I was stuck in:
1) Talking about it. I got in touch with a counselor and talked about it. We literally just sat in a room and chatted back and forth about my feelings for an hour a week. After a few weeks it really started to help. I was also fortunate to have a very loving and caring SO that put up with me while I battled through the darker times.
2) Putting away the booze. I don’t think I had a problem with booze, but it wasn’t improving the quality of my life, so I stopped drinking. Made a difference.
3) Exercising. Seriously. It might sounds cliché, but holy shit does this ever help out. Lifting weights and doing hard cardio was amazing for my mental health. While you are busting your ass in the gym or at home, you leave your problems for a brief amount of time and focus on completing tasks at hand. Lift that fucking weight 7 more times, that’s all I have to do, just lift it. The physical pain and concentration to just do simple body movements, matched the pain I was feeling inside and I was finally able to match my mind and body.
Being exhausted physically felt great, and it released endorphins that gave me a much needed boost for hours after a workout. It also helped with my energy levels throughout the day, I was able to feel better and more energetic, which translated into happiness over time. Walk around the block, go for a run, do a few pushups in your room, just do it, get out of breath, push yourself for no reason, feel your body, get in the moment.
4) Gardening. I never planted shit before. On a whim I bought some peat pellets, some hot pepper seeds and a few plastic containers – about a $15 investment. Best money I’ve ever spent. The process of germinating seeds, watering plants, taking care of them, and seeing weekly progress is fantastic. I read up on gardening, visited some subreddits and picked up a new hobby. I live in a tiny apartment in the middle of the city, but I have a window with sunlight and that’s all you need. Having nature around you will make you feel better, get a plant. Grow something. Take care of it, and it will take care of you. Try it out.
5) Meditation. I still suck at it, but it works. Every morning before work I take 5 minutes for myself. I just sit on the floor in my living room, look out the window and breathe. 20 deep breaths, focusing on the act of breathing. In, out, in, out. Simple. I added stretching into the mix. Stretch, breathe. 5 minutes, not a lot of time, not a lot of effort, but the mental clarity achieved is great. Stop reading this right now, take a deep breath, as deep as you can, and breathe it out. Do it again 2 more times. Try it, right now.
6) Vitamins and water. Omega 3 (fish oil), Vitamin B, Multivitamin, Vitamin D. Take them. Especially the Omega 3 and Vitamin B. After only a couple days of supplementing my nutrition with extra vitamins I noticed a difference in my mood. Drink lots of water. More than you are currently drinking now. It’s not hard, go fill up a glass and drink some water. Plenty of articles out there on the link between proper nutrition levels, hydration and mental health.
7) Daily log and journal. The world isn’t out to get you, people aren’t out to get you, your problems are not impossible to deal with, but they do need to be addressed. This was hard for me to learn. Pick 1 daily goal. That’s it. What do you want to accomplish today? What completed task would take a little weight off your shoulders? Need to make a phone call? Need to pay a bill? Need to wash your sheets? Once task, one goal, per day. Write it down, that’s important.
Write down your goal, and write down if you completed your goal at the end of the day. You might not reach your goal every day, but you need to try. The feeling from accomplishing tasks is great, even the small one, just recognize what needs to be done, make a goal, and try. Do it right now, open up notepad or get a pen and paper, and write down the date and what you’d like to get done today. Big or small. Just try.
8) Small improvements. Do something small that enhances your hygiene and/or appearance. Get a haircut, trim/shave, paint your nails, shower, wash your face, cut your toenails, brush your teeth, whatever. Do something easy that makes your appearance slightly better. Use some mouthwash; make your breath smell a little better. Doesn’t matter what you do, just make a tiny adjustment, a tiny improvement. Lots of tiny improvements over time make a big difference. Take care of your body, and it will influence your mental state. Look better, feel better, be better. Small, tiny incremental improvements. You will get a boost from completing the task, and overtime this adds up.
9) Understand that it is a journey. It’s hard. For you, and for me, happiness is not baseline. Our normal, everyday feelings are not happy. That’s ok. You can work towards a better life. Some of the shit that I mentioned above takes 5 minutes. The activities aren’t hard, most are enjoyable, what’s hard is bringing yourself to commit to them. Just fucking try it, please. Pick a couple and try it out.
You’re taking a small step to taking back being in charge of your mental wellbeing. Yeah you didn’t choose to be depressed, I know, and probably feel like you have no control over your current state. You can help turn the tides. I went from daily suicidal thoughts, to being able to crack a smile here and there. You owe it to yourself to try. I think you can do it. You’re awesome.