How To Deal With Depression And Start Living The Joyful Life You Deserve

Photo: weheartit
How To Deal With Depression
Family, Self

The Rx for battling the blues and reigniting your soul spark during the holidays — and beyond.

I’m a pretty positive person, definitely one of those "glass-half-full" gals. I even had a guy tell me in high school that I was depressing to be around because I was always so cheerful, which turned out to be more a statement on his mental health than mine.

Even so, I’ve definitely had my share of down moments and blue periods…really, do you know anyone who hasn’t? 

Whether you’ve experienced the debilitating effects of chronic depression or the occasional, "episodic" kind, the numbing feeling of being disconnected from your core self, what I call your "Circle of One", is the same.

Please know that I’m not equating the impact of both; feeling periodically "down" is not anything like clinical depression, but each affects our well-being to different degrees. 

My father struggled with anxiety and depression for most of his adult life, and in fact, was in the hospital being treated for it when I was born. Thankfully, he received terrific support from his doctors, employer, and family, and went many years before he experienced those depths again. 

That said, he was also one of the most optimistic people I knew…always encouraging friends and family to do things that seemed impossible, whether it was buying a bike, building a house, or finding a job.

He wasn’t just a sidelines cheerleader either — my friends knew he was always ready to jump in and help them with their college applications or resumes. And that fancy new bike? His response to our pleas was, "If you earn half the money, mom and I will pick up the other half."

Are you getting the picture? I think he had figured out that one of the ways he could keep his depression at bay was to help other people, to push himself to expand his heart and attention outward instead of isolating himself. He was a great model for me and many others to live our lives that way, too. 


RELATED: 6 New, Holistic Ways To Treat Depression Without Medication


So, when you feel yourself descending into that abyss, what are some of the ways you stop the downward spiral? They might be ongoing habits that you know you have to commit to, or maybe emergency techniques to regain your equilibrium. It’s actually a good idea to have a toolbox with both. 

Here are 9 ways I’ve found on how to deal with depression that re-ignites my soul-spark and lightens me up when life feels heavy: 

1. Give back.

Of course, I have to start with one of the biggies my dad taught me. Who hasn’t felt that "buzz" you get when you’ve helped someone out and made a difference in their life?

Whether it’s supporting a friend in need, or volunteering at a hospital or at your kid’s school, studies show that helping others actually increases your happiness quotient and leads to a healthier life. A win-win proposition for everyone! 

2. Spend time with someone special in person at least once a day.

It’s great that we now have the capacity to stay connected with people more regularly via social media, texts, and emails, but that kind of communication can actually seduce us into hibernating at home…a big no-no if you’re depressed.

Sometimes it’s a catch-22…when you’re feeling blue, you may not be inclined to be very sociable, but according to the experts, that’s exactly the time when you need to reach out.

Using Skype or Facetime is a little closer to a "live" connection, but nothing beats a face-to-face conversation or a good hug. So, be proactive about scheduling time for both on a regular basis. 

3. Create time for yourself every day, preferably in nature.

At the same time, it’s not a good idea to fill your days so completely with people or activities that you don’t have a moment to just breathe and re-connect with your "circle of one", that still, small voice of wisdom within that represents the essence of you.

Of course, you can always close your office door and take a moment there, but if you can get outside and find some green-space, even for just 5 minutes, the benefits are huge. In fact, there are some doctors who are now actually prescribing time outside for their patients to help bring them back in to balance. 

It doesn’t take much…I live in New York City and have my favorite trees in nearby parks that I commune with every day. How about you? Where can you practice a little bit of that "eco-therapy"?

4. Do something soul-nurturing as soon as you wake up.

It really doesn’t take a lot — literally just setting your alarm 10 minutes earlier and sitting quietly in bed can be a great grounding practice to start your day…just be sure to do it before you check emails or how many "likes" you got on your last Facebook/Instagram post!

Once you get into the habit, you may even get inspired to expand your routine, adding some meditation or journaling, or doing something physical like yoga or going for a walk. Use your imagination and then notice what produces the most positive results. 


RELATED: 8 Subtle, Often Ignored Signs You're Actually Depressed


5. Dance or move your body.

Personally, nothing pulls me out of the dumps faster than playing a little air guitar and prancing around to Bob Seger’s "Old Time Rock’n’Roll", the final dance from Footloose (yeah, I know I’m dating myself), or Justin Timberlake’s "Can’t Stop the Feeling".

Seriously, I challenge you to watch any of them — or one of your own favorites — and not feel your mood steadily escalate. If nothing else, just getting out of your head and into your body creates a healthy shift from mental stagnation to physical action…always a good antidote for the doldrums. 

6. Journal, draw, paint, and create.

So, this personal form of art therapy can go two ways. You can use any creative outlet to express whatever deep feelings you’re experiencing — sadness, grief, hopelessness — in effect, creating a tangible homage to your blues, whether it’s artistic or in writing.

Sometimes, just the act of giving voice to those feelings in any form is enough to jumpstart a return to joy, or at least a more positive outlook on life. Or, the other possibility to trigger that return is to intentionally focus your creativity on uplifting colors, words or activities, like making a list of what you’re grateful for, writing a silly limerick, or maybe even finger painting or coloring.

Once you can nudge yourself in that direction, your natural instinct for wholeness will (hopefully) kick in and you’ll actually have fun


RELATED: If You’re Depressed, One Of These 3 Common Things Could Be The Cause


7. Express gratitude every day.

Yes, this can be part of your creative writing process just described above, but maintaining an ongoing "attitude of gratitude” is also increasingly recognized by experts as a powerful de-stressing practice. (You can read more about how that works in my YourTango article, "5 Simple Ways to Embrace Gratitude All Year Long".)

Whether you keep a gratitude journal, write a note of appreciation to someone, or verbally acknowledge others for their support, the result is a distinct, measurable shift in your mood. 

8. Give compliments, congratulations, or birthday wishes.

This one is probably a cousin of number 1, sort of a heartfelt, verbal "give back". And like expressing gratitude, you can also send a quick email, text or digital card for any reason – raving about the dress your friend wore last night, or congrats on a recent promotion or finishing the marathon.

I’m a big fan of Jacqui Lawson e-cards, but there are so many others as well. If you’re really organized (which I’m usually not), sending a card via snail mail always feels extra-special too. Or, one of my favorite ways to wish a happy birthday to family and friends is to call them and sing Tom Chapin’s birthday song…a little different than the traditional one.

However you choose to reach out, that "buzz" response can be as be as heartwarming for you, the giver, as it is for the receiver. 

9. Connect with a baby.

As a new grandparent, I’ve been experiencing the healing effects of "baby bliss" firsthand for the past 9 months. I describe my grand-cutie, Keira, as my favorite therapist! Of course, some of it is the whole Grammy thing. (Definitely check out Leslie Stahl’s wonderful Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting for more on that.)

But as I’ve raved starry-eyed to others about my little sweetie, I’ve also heard beautiful stories from all kinds of people feeling uplifted by that "baby high".

A few months after Keira was born, I was describing her effect on me in an email to a friend who had recently lost her mother. She asked me to send a picture, then almost immediately shot back, "I’m not even related to her and I feel better already!"

Another friend talked about the impact of simply making eye contact with any little being, whether you know them or not. Journalist Dave Mosher writes about this phenomena in a recent Business Insider article. Read it, then find a baby to cuddle or gaze at, and feeeel the love! 

Navigating your way through tough times and emotional lows is never easy, and there are no quick fixes.

Whether they’re triggered by deep conversations, specific events, the onset of the holidays, or just life, it does help to have some simple tools and ideas in your back pocket to draw on when you feel the blues setting in, or ideally, to practice proactively.

Pick some that resonate with you so you can be prepared the next time it happens and can maintain at least a thread of connection to your inner soul spark. It might make the return to balance, and maybe even joy, a little smoother. 


RELATED: The 6 Types Of Depression (And How You Can Tell The Difference)


Deborah Roth is a Life & Career Transition Coach and Interfaith Minister who founded Spirited Living™ to help guide spirited women and men through life’s big changes with joy and ease. She loves creating simple rituals to help people navigate those changes and is the author of “Circle of One: The Art of Becoming a SELF-Centered Woman”. To schedule a free 40-minute consultation, email her at Deborah@SpiritedLiving.com.

Author
Expert