by Wendy Keller, blogger, reader, amateur candle maker
Depression is just one of those things, isn’t it? It comes over you like a big black cloud that won’t leave. Sometimes you can trace it to something external that happened, other times you cannot. You just one day recognize that It is there, in your life, coloring everything gray.
I hate the times I’ve been depressed. I bet you do, too.
I’ve learned through painful trial and error that no matter how dark and sad and inert a person gets, there IS a way out of it. Really. The hardest part is motivating yourself to DO the things it takes to break the spell.
To get the following technique to work, you will really have to want to be un-depressed more than you want to just float along staying depressed. Only you can fix yourself. I think therapists play an important role in people’s lives, but you will still have to do this work. As they say, it’s an “Inside Job”.
The worst thing is that you may just not care. You may feel so depleted energetically that even making any stupid attempt to feel better sounds like too much work. Maybe you can’t remember a time when you weren’t feeling down. Maybe you can’t picture a future that won’t be as miserable as it is today.
I’ve been in those places. I’m sorry you’re hurting. But even more…
I promise you – PROMISE YOU – there IS an escape hatch.
Want to find it? Start wherever you are today, even if you have no energy, a totally bleak outlook on life, and are wondering why you bother to breathe. Perhaps you are fantasizing about ending it all. Perhaps you are feeling like you’re completely numb. Perhaps you are feeling like you’re dragging your body through the motions. It’s OK. This is where you really are, and this is what you really feel. Be with it. Start there.
The FIRST step: You MUST make yourself commit to giving yourself a few weeks to work on this. Before you pull the plug on your life, your relationships, your job, your dreams, just make a deal with yourself that you’ll give it one last shot to get things better. Just a few weeks won’t make any difference – but they may make all the difference in the world!
The SECOND step is to do ONE thing differently each day. You can do more than one if you want faster results, but its OK to commit to just one.
+ If you always sit home and watch TV when you’re depressed, FORCE your body off the couch and go outside to look at the stars tonight.
+ Or lie in the grass for half an hour.
+ Or go to a park and walk around.
+ If you always sleep too much when you’re depressed, set your alarm and make yourself get up an hour earlier than you prefer and go do 10 jumping jacks in your living room.
+ If you never exercise, go get two soup cans out of the cabinet and use them as weights for bicep curls – see if you can do 2 measly sets of 20.
The trick is to DO something. Something different.
Why? When you physically do something new, your brain says, “WTF?!?” (Forgive your brain’s bad language!) It gets startled out of its rut. It makes your brain think, “Hey! Wait! This is something new! Whoa! I have to do a little work here to process this…” Your brain likes to work. It gets it kind of excited. The more things you feed it that are different, the more excited it gets. Neuron by neuron, it starts to get addicted to new things. If you took a whole 2 weeks and did a new thing with your brain every day, chances are pretty good your brain would start to tell you you’re a little bit happier than you were. Maybe a LOT happier.
When your brain is getting happier, even a speck, it’s hard to stay depressed. I once yanked myself out of a several-months-long depression by going to the craft store and buying candle-making supplies – a hobby I’d learned from my grandfather but had not done since I was 11. Just the process of learning how to do new stuff made my brain turn over like a car that’s been sitting unused too long. Let your brain go back to its natural, happy state.
None of this stuff is a magic Insta-cure. You know as well as I do that that doesn’t exist. But if you keep doing nothing, you will keep having more of nothing. Force your brain to do something new, every day, for a few weeks. You’ll be surprised how much progress you can make if you commit to yourself and follow through on this.