Depression stinks. No doubt about it. Having treated dozens of individuals with depression over the years, while reading countless books on the treatment, I still believe that the number one factor that really enables me to get to the heart of this malady is my firsthand experience with it.
Depression started tugging at my heels by the time I was 8 years old. By 16, the dean of my high school would call me each morning to make sure I got out of bed and showed up at school, instead of sleeping all day. By 30, I had two boyfriends; Ben and Jerry. Today, I still have low moments, but they are far less often, and last far less long.
Imagine if we had a scribe in our heads, even for a day. I know I would be ashamed to think of what mine might write. Having done a great deal of research on depression, I have heard many expert opinions regarding its etymology. We are still unsure if is is environmental, historical, genetic, energetic, past-life, DNA-related, trauma-based, kharmic law. One thing is for sure; when we got it, we got it, and it can be crippling.
What folks may not know is that there are very useful tricks we can use to alleviate a sour mood. The brain is plastic. It is the last part of our body to really know something. When we tell our brain that life is awful and we are doomed, our brain tends to agree. In fact, I have noticed that when I experience a bout of depression, it is often triggered by events where I feel exposed as a failure. My way out usually begins with a decision. A decision to feel better.
So, I decided to compile this list. Write these down, stick em on your wall, and put them in motion.
Trick 1: Get out of your head and into your feet
The body craves movement. Exercise really works. Let’s not think of it as exercise though. Nothing is gnarlier to the depressed person than imagining him/herself at the gym in ill fitting sweats, panting on the stair master while svelte athletes are bopping around in all directions. As Woody Allen says, 90% of success is showing up. Once we’ve got our walking shoes on, once we get endorphins cooking, the doldrums have less power to penetrate.
Christine Caldwell, Body-Centered Psychotherapist and author of “Getting our Bodies Back” tells us: Our bodies love to move and must move. Movement is the way we define life-when our hear beats, lungs pulse, brain waves, we are alive; in the absence of movement we become inanimate or dead. When movement is held back, energy/life flow is impeded and we become sick.
Trick 2: Turn on the music
Keep an arsenal of inspiring and fun music. When we’re depressed, the smallest task feels overwhelming. If I can kick-start someone’s joy, then I am thrilled. Turn on the sound.
Trick 3: Sit in the sun
Many of us work in windowless cubicles or offices, and wonder why we feel blue. This time of year, when the sun sets earlier, we lose vitamin D. Do anything you can to take in more light. Sit in the sun for 5 minutes. And if there is no sun in your world, then buy a full-spectrum light. Get one cheap on E-bay.
Trick 4: Hang out with 4-leggeds (Unless you’re allergic)
Having an animal companion near can instantly release oxytocin, that delicious hormonethat we secrete when we fall in love, give birth, or are nursing. It releases a feeling of goodwill, or trust in the world. OK, so not all of all are blessed to be in love all the time, or be breast feeding, so find other ways to bring on the joy chemical. Read on.
Trick 5: Change your thoughts
We have around 60,000.00 thoughts per day. Some 87% of them are negative and are the same thoughts we had yesterday. Experiencing joy is a deliberate choice. Joy takes practice. Joy is hardcore.
In Natural Intelligence, Psychotherapist Susan Aposhyan states; “On a muscular level, any thought also results in at least minute muscular responses, evidencing the body’s compulsion to somehow do the thought. Having an affirmation, allows the mind to want to do the thing that we are hoping for.
We must remember that affirmations don’t make something happen, they make something welcome. People tell me, “I put an affirmation up on my bedroom wall, saying: “I am ready to meet a gorgeous, successful, fabulous man who will adore and worship me.” It’s been 3 months. Where is he?” I tell them; “You have made yourself more open to meeting this human. Finding him is another story. Sorry.”
Trick 6: Follow a joyous lifestyle.
Find a class, a workout, anything that gets you in your body, preferably sweating a bit. Just getting out of the house and being with other people, say, in a yoga class, or dance class, or knitting group, offers us a distraction from the mind chatter. It works.
Trick 7: Affirm joy with words
Rudyard Kipling said “I am by calling a dealer in words. And words are by far the most powerful drug in the world”. It may seem trite, but changing the way we speak can be extremely influential in changing our moods.
Trick 8: Grab hold of a goal
Make it a do-able one. Psychologist Martin Selegman tells us: Happiness and joy come from goals. We mustn’t put off our lives.
Trick 9: A smidgen of faith
Christiane Northrup, bestselling author of Womens’ Bodies, Womens Wisdom, and expert on mood disorders, shared this pearl of wisdom in a talk that she gave last summer at the Omega Institute. She says; “We are whom our higher self wanted to experience.” There is some truth to the pithy phrase: There’s no aetheists in foxholes. Have a smidgen of faith and the world can be a gentler space.
Trick 10: Choose joyous companions
When we are depressed, we take our bored, sluggish selves wherever we go. We need distractions. We need company. We need intimacy. It is very important to be around upbeat people. We need someone who believes in us. No nay-sayers welcome.