7 Ways to Help Navigate Depression
As someone who went through a long and dark depression, I am always hopeful that the fact that I came through it will help others to know they can too.
As long as you see any changes you want in life as being a one step at a time process, you can get anywhere you can imagine.
Sometimes you feel yourself sliding down, and you want to stop it before it gets out of hand, so these things listed can be preemptive. Or, if you already are in a pit, please know that I admire you for reading this at all and wanting to take that first step. I was once where you are, and although I can't walk this path for you, I can at least show you some sign posts that helped me find my way.
You might choose one that really feels right at this time, or you may try each one, maybe one per day, until you find what you need at this time. The important thing is to do what you can and to know you're doing the best you can.
1 - Move your physical body
Your inclination will be towards immobility.
However, the more you stay put the more you will feel nothing ever changes. Not only does exercise release endorphins, but it helps you to remember two things: change is possible and you have innate strength.
If you can make your muscles grow and become strong, you can do the same with your mind also. Exercising your body will lay a foundation, a core belief, that will prepare you to do things that exercise and retrain your mind.
There's no need to start by going to the gym and running miles on the treadmill and pumping weights . Start by taking small walks. Taking daily walks is a habit I developed years ago that always brings me feelings of healing, clarity and rejuvenation. If I'm angry and upset, I take a walk. If I'm feeling uninspired, I take it walk. It gets your blood pumping, getting that crucial fresh oxygen all throughout your system.
Crying and walking can be one of the best ways to release. It will clear your mind, help you to focus, and also just give you something new to look at. The importance of changing your perspective cannot be understated.
In the same way you couldn't walk across the country in one day, you can't cross the landscape of depression in one day. But you can do it, and you can start by reminding yourself you are capable of movement.
And if you can't walk, because of the weather or a physical restriction, try moving stuff in your house. Move some picture frames. Put a lamp somewhere else. Anything that feels like movement is the key here.
2 - Shift your focus
Energy goes where attention flows. If you no longer want to be where you are (depressed or in some kind of funk) it's going to require you taking your focus off of it.
Not all at once. But bit by bit, try putting your focus on where you want to go, and let energy start building there.
It's okay if you spend most of your day thinking, Life sucks and so do I. This isn't about judging where you are or what you're feeling. It's not about hiding from your thoughts, or telling yourself negative thoughts are bad. It's about making a conscious choice to build NEW thoughts and feelings, which will start small, until eventually they are the majority. Once you reach that new momentum, whenever that may be, you'll find you no longer have to force yourself to shift your focus. Your energy will be flowing that way on its own.
One of my favorite ways to do this is with a gratitude journal. Sit down and write down what you're grateful for. Or write down the things that went right the day before, the things you enjoyed. Nothing is too small for this, and in fact, this will help you to appreciate the small things. Keep a journal ONLY for these thoughts. Put everything else in a different notebook. It's crucial you have one book for happy and grateful thoughts.
Over time, those few sentences you managed to get down each day will add up. You will start to see your book filling. You can go back and read past entries when you need a boost. This will increase your momentum, and in a time that's right for you, your attention will start to shift away from the dark thoughts and more to the positive ones.
3 - Breathe Deep
Shallow breathing is not just a symptom of stress, but a cause of it.
Take a moment to take some deep breaths in and out.
Do you feel a tightness in your chest? If so, it may help to meditate and breathe deep. Meditation is a great way to practice deep, focused breathing while also relaxing.
If you have never meditated before, you might want to try the Calm App. It's one of the tools I use myself, and it will guide you through the meditation process step by step.
4 - Get Some Indoor Plants
Having plants around is proven to alleviate stress, increase positive feelings, increase health, and boost productivity.
Part of it is the fresh oxygen right there around you. Being surrounded by the color green also helps people think of good health and healing.
One of the best things about having some flowers or a little bush around is that you have something to care for besides yourself. Each time you water your plant, for just that moment, you shift your focus to something else.
If you're not into plants, try getting a small fish. A fish or any type of animal is great because it helps you to feel love and gratitude, two essential components to getting to your feel-good place.
5 - Visualize
Use the power of your imagination to see yourself where you want to be.
For a few minutes every day, see yourself waking up happy and excited for the day. Ask yourself how it feels. Who do you talk to? What do you do first thing in the morning?
Taking a few minutes to do this, and to truly feel into the sights, sounds, and sensations, is not the same as spending all day in escapist thoughts. This is not the same as daydreaming and having your thoughts wander. Scientists have been learning so much lately about how visualizing can have the same effect as actually experiencing the thing.
In other words, if you tell you're brain that you're happy and see yourself doing it, your brain will believe you. It doesn't know the difference. Shifting our feelings is sometimes as simple as convincinging ourselves of a new reality before it happens. And you can do that.
If I said imagine a red fire truck, could you do that? Yes? Great! Then you can visualize. And if this feels like too big of a leap, don't be afraid to look for outside inspiration. Look at magazines of places you want to go and feel yourself there. Look at music concerts you want to attend and feel the music pulsing within you.
You will get the most out of this if you really hold your focus and consciously choose what each second of the vision feels like. Choose to see what you're wearing, how you hold your posture, what foods you eat, and so on. It might be hard to do this for more than a minute at first, but if you can do it for 5 minutes a day, you'll notice changes start to show up in your life.
6 - Create Variety
You have a routine, and with this routine comes the expectation that nothing will change.
By breaking routine, you will break the habitual thinking that has gotten you stuck. In order to get new thoughts flowing, and therefore new feelings, you must get into the energy of new people, places and things.
Not wanting to see new people? I get that too. But you can always take a solitary hike in nature. Or grab some paint and just paint for the hell of it. Anything other than what you would consider usual or habitual for you.
One of the best books I read on this is Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself by Dr. Joe Dispenza. I highly recommend this book for anyone who wants to understand their brain, brain chemistry, and the power of change. It's one of my personal favorites.
Pick one thing to change today. Anything at all. Do you always turn left to go to work? Turn right, and drive that extra block. Do you have coffee every morning before you leave? Grab a cup on the way, and step into a cafe you've never been to before.
When you feel ready, choose another step. Keep going until you can't even remember what your old routine was.
7 - Accept How You Feel
Positive thinking is definitely a current trend, and it can sometimes have a backhanded affect on those really struggling with negative feelings.
When we keep hearing "Think positive!" and then fail at it, we heap more feelings of self-doubt and failure upon ourselves. This one has been such a huge factor for me that I wrote an entire post on it. There Are No Wrong Feelings dives deeper into accepting where we are with full love and self-compassion.
If you don't feel positive then you don't.
The key here is staying open to the knowing that one day you will.
Don't feel you have to think and be positive today, because you are where you are. Just set the intention that you will do the above things until you are there. Remind yourself you're doing the best you can, and that you're committed to taking these steps. Each step is important.
You'll get there when you get there. This isn't a race. This is about you finding happiness for you.
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