Everybody gets the blues once in a while. Unless you are clinically depressed, however, it’s safe to say that the negative emotions you experience in those times are, to some extent, within your control. Therefore, it’s important to recognize when a blue mood has been triggered and nip it in the bud as quickly as possible so as not to fall into a rabbit hole of emotions which zap your energy, your creativity and drag you deeper into a state of depression.
I’m no expert in these matters– not professionally, at least– but I do have a bit of life experience and a few nuggets of wisdom to share.
The following are a few suggestions which may help you stop depression before it starts:
1. Stop Listening To Your Mind
At best, your mind is a fair-weather friend. It’s right there with you enjoying the good times, but when the blues come for a visit, your mind likes to kick you when you are down. It tells you all sorts of negative stuff and reminds you of every single one of your imperfections. It tells you all sorts of weird stuff like that you are a failure or that you’re not good enough or that your life is in the dumps because of your own mistakes and character flaws and that you don’t deserve to be happy at that moment.
If any of your friends spoke to you (or about you) the way that your mind does when you’re feeling down, would you want to continue hanging out with them? Of course not! Because even if everything that this so-called friend says to you is true, it’s not what you need to hear when you’re staring down a steep cliff…you don’t need a friend who’s going to push you over your tipping point. So, silence the mind immediately!
2. Live In the Moment
Living in the moment ties into silencing the mind. Notice how depression typically starts with an event, some sort of outside stressor or maybe even something someone says to you. As soon as that trigger happens, it’s technically already over with, BUT your mind dwells on it and won’t let it go. Before you know it, you’re completely distracted by thoughts of things past or worry over possible future events. Completely detached from the exact moment that you’re actually in, you become absorbed into a space that no longer exists or that, perhaps, never will. Mentally, you are not here, you are there— and wherever your there is, it isn’t good if it makes you sad.
One really good way to live in the present moment is to stop, take a deep breath and focus all of your mind on that breath– on how it feels entering and leaving your body. And, speaking of the body, refocus your mind on what is happening with your body at that moment. As you continue to breath in and out at a deliberate pace, concentrate on every inch of your body starting from the crown of your head all the way down to the tips of your toes. Is your brow tense? Are you clenching your teeth? Is your belly tight? Breathe in and out while becoming aware of and taking control of your physical reactions at that moment.
After you’ve refocused your mind on what is real at that moment, keep it focused on whatever tasks you’ve got to perform then and there. Like right now, I’m typing on a keyboard and watching words on a screen. Of course, I’ve got to think about what I’m saying to you, but I’m completely focused on this task and not what happened a week ago, an hour ago or what may become of my life tomorrow. This sort of deliberate focus helps you stand guard over your thoughts and take control over emotions that may otherwise derail you.
3. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others
Few things will steal your joy faster than comparing yourself to others. Notice how often you use other people’s accomplishments, lifestyle, relationships and material possessions to measure and assess the worth of your own. We are all guilty of this, so even if you don’t compare yourself to an individual person, you may compare yourself to society-at-large in order to determine whether your life is in a good place or not.
Stop telling yourself that you should have accomplished goals X, Y and Z already because so-and-so has or because society says that this is where you should be at this stage in life. It’s okay to be inspired by others– to allow their accomplishments to reveal what is possible in our own lives, but it is to our own detriment to become obsessed with judging ourselves in comparison to others.
4. Count Your Blessings
When you feel an emotional trigger pulling you into a blue mood, start counting all of the good things in your life and all of the wonderful blessings you’ve experienced to date. I have a little method I use of not allowing myself to think about anything else until I’ve counted 10 blessings. Doing so helps put me in a place of appreciation and reminds me of all that God had done for me, thus far.
When counting your blessings, try to think about things that you aren’t routinely thankful for when you pray or meditate. Those things are without a doubt wonderful, but searching for blessings that you may not have thought about in a while or that you don’t always immediately recognize help you really get into this activity without going into what I call auto-pilot and just feeling thankful for the stuff that’s obvious and that regularly or automatically come to mind.
Why am I thinking about Cool Whip right now? Sorry, inside joke. *wink, wink*
I give concerts where I pour my heart and soul into singing my favorite tunes. Mind you, I sound like a cat in turmoil when I sing, so I usually do it alone, but it makes me feel oh so good. Singing is a way of releasing emotion while, at the same time, inviting new ones in to replace them.
I’d advise against sad songs during your personal concert times, but sing songs that are mentally connected to happy times in your life. Belt them out with a passion and let that energy help reset your mood. Don’t forget to dance, too!
Physical activity releases endorphins that help naturally lift your mood. It helps deliver much needed oxygen to the brain and forces you to focus on your body and your own strength and power. Whether it’s taking a walk around the block, doing a set of jumping jacks next to your desk a few times a day or going for a full body workout, regular exercise helps keep those depression triggers at bay.
7. Watch What You Say
We’ve already covered the importance of harnessing your mind, but don’t forget to harness your tongue, too. In addition to your self-talk, pay close attention to what you discuss with others when you feel the blues headed your way. Do not allow yourself to engage in negative conversations with (or about!) others and refrain from complaining and enumerating your problems when speaking to people.
Now, this does not apply to opening your heart to a loved one when you need a little support, that’s not what I mean here. Rather, don’t fall into that deceptive pit of negative speech where your focus is on what’s wrong with your life and an endless rant of complaints. Remember, the words that you speak are indicative of where your mind is at that moment, so refer to suggestion #1 in this post and root the negativity out if you hope to stave the blues off.
8. Regulate Your Mental Diet
As a teenager, I learned an acronym that I’ll never forget: GIGO or Good In, Good Out. Admittedly, I sometimes fail to put it into practice, but it’s a nugget of advice that really works when I do. Essentially, if you take good into your mind, you’ll regurgitate that goodness through your thoughts, words and actions. Ditto for bad or negative things. So, if you want to back away from depression’s ledge, put yourself on a strict diet of not reading, watching or listening to anything that is going to drum up negativity in your thoughts or emotions. Instead, replace your intake with positive and uplifting music, television programs and reading material.
I’m a bit of a news junkie and I like certain gory programs, ratchet reality shows and a little gangsta rap here and there, but I find spending too much time on this “programming”, especially when I’m in a glum mood, to be the exact last thing that I need when I’m trying to find a positive momentum. More than anything else, the news often depresses me because, unlike tv shows and rap music, stories about crime and tragedy are real life and I find myself grieving for people and the world. It’s good to have this sort of compassion, I guess, but it can also be a double-edged sword at times when I’m feeling mentally or emotionally exhausted and I just have to tune it all out sometimes in order to get a grip.
9. List Your Accomplishments
Similar to counting your blessings, writing your accomplishments down can really help snap you back into the reality of who you are and what your life has meant, thus far. This is particularly important when you’ve allowed your mind to go too far in its ranting against you and when you’re already teetering on the edge of depression.
And I’m not talking about just thinking about your accomplishments, but I suggest you actually take out a pen and pad (or, if you’re like me, open a digital space where you can keep notes on any device) and literally create a numbered list where you’ll write them down. Not only does this force you to think about the great things you’ve already done, but you’re creating a record of things that you do well and that you can reflect on at any given time…like the next time you’re feeling down and out!
10. Call a Friend
We all need to vent at times and, hopefully, you have someone whom you can trust with your heart when it’s your turn. It is important to choose this person carefully, however. Single a loved one out whom you can rely on to counter your ‘woe is me’ attitude with an honest, ‘I think you’re great’ one, instead. While pobody’s nerfect, you don’t need to talk to someone at this time who’s willing to tell you everything that is wrong with your life– when you have the blues, you already have this base covered. Instead, seek someone who will honestly help you identify all that is right in your life and assist you with finding a road map out of Bluesville and back to normalcy.
11. Avoid Downers
Avoid alcohol and non-prescription drugs when you’re feeling down. As for alcohol, it’s a downer and, though it helps you escape reality for a bit, it also helps plummet you into depression when you’re in a ‘mood’. Drugs and alcohol are particularly easy to become addicted to when you rely on them for emotional and mood purposes, too. You may begin using them as a temporary crutch or escape and soon find that you have only made your life worse by becoming (physically and mentally) reliant on these substances and no longer able to cope with your issues without them.
12. Cry Your Heart Out
I sometimes feel indescribably better after a huge, gut-wrenching cry. I’m talking about that ugly, snotty nose cry where you wallow in self-pity until you wear yourself out from sobbing. Now, this may sound counter-productive to the other tips above. After all, this sort of release does require you to dwell on a lot of negativity in order to bring it all to the surface, but it also allows you to release that pent up energy that you have suppressed for too long. Sometimes you just have to let it all out.
Being careful to choose when this tip is an appropriate remedy and when it is not (there’s a fine line here that you almost intuitively have to be aware of in order not to get stuck in your tearful state), crying can be a part of your healing process. For me, I know it’s time to stop when I feel a wave of relief and strength wash over me. It’s in those moments that I know that Spirit has stepped in and is telling me that I will survive and that I am better than any circumstance that is trying to pull me under. Crying is sometimes just what the doctor ordered when I need to rejuvenate myself and gather my inner-strength.
13. Lose Yourself In Something Greater Than Yourself
When you find the blues at your front door, rest assured that this is a time when everything has become about “you”. Too much so, in fact. After all, in order to even be depressed, you have to be focused on yourself…albeit in a negative way, but still your thoughts have become wholly focused on yourself, your life and your problems. What better way to hack the blues, then, than to take your focus off of self and lose yourself in something greater?
Flip the script on your mood and look for ways to help other people. Volunteer in your community, help someone out who is struggling, write an encouraging blog post or spend some time giving a pep talk to someone who has been having a rough go of things lately. What you’ll find is that life is not all about you and this thing that you’re going through may even pale in comparison to what others are experiencing. If you can help someone or support a cause in a real way, you will automatically begin to let your value on this earth shine and find it difficult to allow the blues to settle in since you have too much good work outside of yourself to now focus on.
Affordable Mental Health Care
Lastly, please bear in mind that depression can come in many different forms. In some cases, it is tied to a current stressor such as a situation or an event that is happening right now or that you’ve recently experienced. In other cases, it may be more of a clinical condition and not something that you can necessarily control. If these tips do not help and you find yourself consistently sad, depressed or angry, consider that it may be time to get a little professional help. And if you are looking for low-cost, top quality mental health care, look no further than Open Path Psychotherapy where you may be able to access the intervention you need for as little as $30 – $50 each session. Not a bad deal, eh?
For more information visit: http://openpathcollective.org/
How Do You Chase the Blues Away?
So, there you have some of my top suggestions for avoiding depression when possible, now it’s time to hear yours. We all can learn something from one another, so please don’t be shy about sharing your thoughts in the comments section below.