Doesn’t just hearing that word make you feel down in the dumps?
In the UK, it is estimated 1 in 5 of us will be affected by the big D at some point in our lives. Suffers have described it as feeling helplessly alone and even numb to emotions. Things that bring joy to your life may no longer even raise a smile. Sometimes they lack the motivation to get up in the morning… or afternoon.
We live in an ever changing digital society. Adverts gleefully tell us how communication and technology are bringing us together, whilst social media and selfie binges are reinforcing the message that vanity, instant gratification and likability are the key to a successful life. Yet are really happy?
A simple Google search will reveal that there has been a steady rise in mental health concerns, particularly amongst youngsters. Surprisingly, many often do not communicate this to their loved ones due to fear of the isolation or stigma for seeming ‘weak’ or ‘crazy.’
Yet what causes this? Job stress? Breakups? A significantly bad life event? More often than not, sometimes there seems like there is no cause.
How does it feel to be depressed? Some have described it to me as if they were drowning in a negative rip tide, continually being dragged underneath the surface of the water. Yet, in the corner of their submerged eye, they spot the shore. On this shore, they spot others who appear jubilant and loving life.
I feel it is more akin to a ravenous, hideous monster. It is constantly nourishing itself on me, absorbing my glee and positivity in it’s hunger for happiness. I punch, kick, karate chop and shout obscenities at it. Startled and bemused, it bellows out a laugh and then consumes me even more. I’m probably not even that yummy, yet I just feel so trapped in it’s jaws.
Have you ever felt like you are trapped by a depressive beast or you are somewhat sinking into the abyss, then I think it’s time to get you the happiness you deserve! Here are some tried and tested ideas. There is no ‘be yourself’ style rubbish as found within a fortune cookie, or ‘patience is a virtue’ type sayings that come sputtering out the lips of a know-it-all relative. I’ve done my time in the metaphorical temple of doom, and I want to share with you how I began to find my escape.
1. Talking to someone.
When you feel isolated, depression deepens. When I’m alone in my room, I feel that is when the mental darkness gets its foothold on me. I lie on my back, void of feeling and I don’t know what do. I don’t want to go out. I feel like my motor of life has burnt out and I simply have no future.
Experts have found that spending time with loved ones and people you care about enhances general self esteem and keeps negative thoughts at bay. Through my experiences, embracing time with friends who are warm, comforting and understanding have really helped raise my spirits. Avoid the ones who say, “You’re just in a bad mood. Get over it.” Also, sarcastic acquaintances aren’t the best ones to open up to.
Opening up to people you trust can really support you in a time of need. A metaphorical shoulder to cry on can really help the burden of life and the feeling of overwhelm.
Ideally, we’d have these people on standby each time we feel down. However, life happens, meaning they might be not around when you need them. There are many charities available to support you such as The Samaritans. They give you the opportunity to talk freely and confidentially, and provide emotional support when life gets tough.
2. Listening to music
Did you know music has been used as a survival technique? Many years ago, native tribes sung and danced in a collective which not only raised group morale, but built loyalty amongst the tribesfolk as well as warding off possible outside threats.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to live around a camp fire or wear feathers in your hair to get the full musical affect. Instead, load up the Ipod, switch on the vinyl or check out a Youtube playlist to listen to your favourite songs. Enjoy them. Loud.
How do tunes help tackle depression exactly? Music releases dopamine in the brain, a feel good chemical, that reinvigorates a saddened soul. Music also works on the automotive nervous system, which affects both your blood pressure and heart beat. Studies have concluded that the health of those who suffer from high blood pressure or anxiety has improved after listening to music.
I made a playlist on my phone which features my favourite tracks, most are circa 1995. This features Oasis, The Cardigans, Magic! and more embarrassingly, the musical talents of Cindy Lauper and Aqua. Cheesy music I find the most effective from my experiences and if you are feeling really brave, then singing along to your favourite song can really boost your spirits. Experts say that engaging with your music releases endorphins, whilst the deep breathing required to sing draws more oxygen into the blood and causes better circulation. Actual talent not required!
3. Physical Exercise
When you wallow in the darkness of depression, the least thing you might want to do is slip on some Lycra for a 5k sprint down the high street or dare go to a ‘Calorie Cruncher’ class. Fitness however, can do absolute wonders for your brain. Ideally 3 days a week of exercise (I know, I know) can really pump up the body and improve breathing, stamina and mental wellbeing.
Doing something physical again releases endorphins and triggers a positive response from the brain. The focus of building muscle, trimming fat and staying in shape redirects attention from negativity and enhances general productivity. Taking part in a sport also allows you to meet new people, whilst the activity can regulate the nervous system and help prevent the destruction of brain cells that are caused by depression. It’s a win-win.
How can you not have a big goofy smile on your face when doing a star jump?
4. Shiny Happy Post-it Notes
This is another tip that you may find on the wrong side of cringe. Refrain from chuckling, but but little notes of positivity can really go a long way in getting you through the worst of the day.
I have used a motivational quote on my phone background, as well as a series of cleverly placed positivity packed post-it notes. (Try saying that out loud.) Humans (that’s us) thrive on appreciation and acceptance, and sometimes the people (i.e. bosses/significant others) don’t always remind us how amazing we actually are.
I have found writing down a positive thing I do each day, really helps me identify fantastic things that I have done, whether that be giving some pennies to a homeless person or donating my last Rolo to Bob in the office. The mental power of depression deviously trains the brain to funnel out positiveness from the past. This leads us onto the next top tip…
5. Remember Positive Memories More
When I feel depressed, all I can feel is moany,miserable thoughts. “I’m not going anywhere in life,” or “I feel so alone,” or even, “I’m not good enough.“
With these bad boy thoughts swirling in my head, I start to believe them, which has led to self destructive behavior and a symptom that I call ‘moping’. I feel I’m completely oblivious to some fantastic and positive memories that have happened in the past.
I really recommend building what I call a memory wall. Add in photographs, motivational mottos and souvenirs of events that really make you smile and think fondly over past achievements. For instance, I have a large collage of my time at Camp Starfish, where I spent a brilliant summer in America working at a summer camp for very unique children. I even have a can of Axe (a US version of Lynx) that I bought over there, it’s scent reminds me of one of the happiest few months of my life.
However low you may feel, don’t forget how much of an amazing person you really. Appreciate yourself, and remind yourself of all the things you have achieved so far!
If you want to share your experience in tackling depression, feel free to write in the comment box below.
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