I have the sort of depression that until very recently I just assumed everyone had. (What? You mean not everyone has periodic episodes when they are completely paralysed by their own failure and uselessness? It’s not normal to spend days feeling afraid to come out from under the patchwork, let alone answer the phone or leave the house? Oh…)
Anyway, it’s basically manageable, and definitely not as bad as lots of people get. But the whole experience has made me pay a bit more attention to my mental state – what helps, what doesn’t.
The following is definitely a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do kind of thing. And it’s subjective, not scientific. And you’ve probably heard it all before. But all of these tips for being happy are tried and tested by me, so hopefully they might help you too, whether or not you have depression. Perhaps you can add more in the comments section if there are things that work for you that you’d like to share.
1. Go outdoors.
Anyone else have a Grandma who believes there’s not much that can’t be fixed by a brisk constitutional? They might have a point.
Bake, make, write sketches, play music. The very important thing here is to remember you are not creating in order to be brilliant at it. If you find yourself making cupcakes and thinking: “But I’ll never be good enough for the Bake Off”, have a word with yourself. You’re doing it for the sheer enjoyment of bringing things into being.
3. If you are sad, have a big cry.
It’s allowed. It is not a sign of failure or weakness. It often helps.
4. See people you love who are not hard work.
Speaks for itself, really.
5. Savour things.
I really like this one. A well-known weight loss tip is when you’re eating, to only do that. Don’t watch the TV at the same. Concentrate on smelling, chewing, swallowing. Take your time over it.
You can apply this it to other things too. Are you ever doing something fun, at a party or seeing a film for example, but your mind is on where you could be instead? I have found for me that this breeds dissatisfaction. It’s a good mental exercise to really focus on what’s happening in that moment.
6. Find something to be happy about
My husband and I have been waiting for a date for his heart operation for quite a long time. I’m conscious it’s made me view life in a ‘once that’s over, everything will be good’ kind of way. A friend said God had challenged her recently, saying ‘learn to be content right now, or you’ll never be happy’. It really resonated. Yes, if you’re a Christian you can live in the light of the resurrection, knowing that a brighter day is coming. But try not to live you whole life in the future.
7. Do nice things for people.
I have never, ever regretted an act of generosity – either with time, or money. I gave someone a car once (a very old car, a long time ago!). Another time I had a tax rebate & bought a friend a coffee machine because theirs was broken. Years later, I’d forgotten all about it, they posted on Facebook how much they were enjoying breakfast and yes, savoring, their coffee. You really can’t bottle that feeling.
8. Sort out your self-image.
My brilliant vicar used an illustration in a sermon the other week about self-image. He said most of us have the wrong view of who we are. Our self-image is either overly inflated – I’m special, I should be listened to, I am Doing Important Work – or the opposite – I am bad at everything, my life is pointless, no one loves me. For many of us it cycles between these two states in a matter of days, or even hours.
Spend some time meditating about the truth of who you are. Holy, precious, chosen, dearly loved. Not alone.
I promise this helps.