Depression is an epidemic in our modern world. Millions of people struggle with feelings of real sadness that don’t seem to go away. If you are experiencing depression, the following tips will help you to loosen the logjam in your brain so you can start enjoying life again.
[dropcap]1[/dropcap] Examine Your Negative Thoughts and Overwrite Them Forever
When you feel sad inside, everything can seem bleak. With depression, your thoughts become flat, dull and lifeless, like a gray cloud that has settled and allows zero visibility. To beat depression, try listening to your inner voice for just two hours. Every time you hear yourself tell yourself a negative thought, jot it down (or record it into your phone.) See if there are recurring things you say to yourself, such as:
- Things will never get better.
- Why am I such an idiot?
- How did I get myself into this?
- I’m such a screw-up.
Note how many times in two hours you repeat the same thing, then – as dumb and simplistic as it sounds – start with the most common one and literally force yourself to write out the exact opposite…100 times! Back in the days of one room schoolhouses, teachers made naughty students write something out 100 times on the board. They were actually doing something brilliant! The physical movement of holding chalk or a pen combined with the mental focus of re-writing the same phrase so many times actually anchors it in the brain. (Who knew?!)
For example, to counteract the four depression-induced statements above, you might write out:
- My life is getting better today.
- I’m a good, smart person who deserves to be happy
- I got myself into this and I’m getting myself out of it quickly.
- I make good choices.
[dropcap]2[/dropcap] Screw Up Your Brain to Heal from Depression
Have you ever seen a path in a field or forest? Whether made by animals or people, all beings take the path of least resistance. The path may not even be the most direct or efficient route, but “everyone goes this way.” Whether you know it or not, there are paths in your brain – ruts, roads, rituals that you take over and over. Some of them (called “heuristics”) make your life easier. One path is called, “How to Brush Your Teeth” and another is called, “The Route to Work.” Others may be called, “How to Make Myself Feel Bad About My Body” or “How to Stay in a Bad Mood About Anything”, etc. Get the idea?
To get clarity and freedom on these paths, the trick is to plot out the directions. Pick your least favorite but most common feeling and study it. That will show you that you actually do (quickly) follow a path to get to that feeling. For example:
Directions for How to Make Myself Feel Bad About My Body
- See someone (in real life or in a photo) who looks better/more handsome/prettier/healthier/younger/fitter than I do.
- Compare what I saw in the mirror to that image.
- Recite my body flaws to myself (so fast you may not notice that you do this!)
- Find myself feeling guilty/ashamed/worthless/unattractive/depressed/hopeless about my outward appearance
- Carry myself like someone who feels bad about how I look
That’s a path. If I wanted to teach a stranger how to feel bad about their body, I could give them these “instructions” and, if they followed them, they’d feel miserable too. You are following a recipe/path/instructions and you may not even know it, because it happens so quickly.
So here’s the solution: Write down your own directions to help someone else feel as bad as you do – about whatever you feel bad about. This trick will help you see what you do, which will help you realize you’re just really, really good at following your own rut. To get out of it, make a new choice. Do one thing differently. At any point on that path, do something childish, funny or insane.
Ideas: Take a wash-off marker to your mirror and paint a faux mustache at exactly your height; spin in a circle six times while you recite your body flaws; when you see someone you think is better looking, make your hands flutter like a butterfly; every time you pass a reflective surface, suck in your gut and draw back your shoulders; walk around with a book on your head; get a smooth stone and carry it in your pocket at all times – move it to the other pocket whenever you find yourself being negative about how you look; buy a paper cone birthday hat and force yourself to wear it (at home!) for 5 minutes every time you’re feeling negative about how you look; create a secret dance move you rush to the bathroom and execute whenever you start down this path.
WHY does this work? Because when you even just once go off the trail, you make the first dent in new grass. Do it enough times, you’ll create a new path entirely. You don’t HAVE to keep doing the same things and getting the same results…(You know what that’s the definition of, right?)
[dropcap]3[/dropcap] Get Mindful to Overcome Depression
Of course meditation will help anyone. That’s when you reflect on the present moment very consciously. There are a lot of people who strongly believe in meditation and do it daily – I’m one of them. But for those of you who just will not sit down and “contemplate your navel” (although really, it’s contemplating one’s breath!) here’s something utterly crazy that can have the same effect: build something.
The concentration to build something can reset your mind and make you forget the sadness. Weird, but true.
Try these ideas:
- A multi-story house of cards
- A perfect, tiny log cabin from toothpicks
- The tallest Lego tower
- A model airplane, car or tank
- A complicated (healthy) recipe
- A 4-high stack of plain old stones
- Origami (Japanese paper folding)
- A paper snowflake
These kinds of actions require focus, and when you focus so much on that task, it activates parts of your brain that have the power to push aside the sad feelings. Some of these take seconds, some hours. You don’t have to complete the whole project all at once – it is the focus of doing it that gives the most benefit.
You are not powerless. Sadness or even depression don’t have to consume your life and rob you of happiness. If you try one idea here a few times and it doesn’t work for you, try a different one. Search online. Talk to a counselor. Go for a brisk walk. Do yoga.
You are not a victim unless you choose to be. You have the power to improve your life and your moods. Start today by taking an action – any action in the right direction!
Your comments, thoughts, ideas, suggestions and input on this blog post are always welcome!