"My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I try never to go there alone."
~Ann Lamont; author
No doubt about it.
Having treated dozens of individuals with depression over the years, while reading countless books on the treatment of this "noonday demon", I still believe that the number one factor that really enables me to get to the heart of this malady is my firsthand experience with it. That's right. Not only am I a psychotherapist, I am also a bonafide client as well.
Depression started tugging at my heels by the time I was 8 years old. By 16, the dean of my high-school would call me each morning to make sure I got out of bed and showed up at school, instead of sleeping all day. By 30, I had two boyfriends; Ben and Jerry. Today, I still have low moments, but they are far less often, and last far less long. When my clients tell me that they are surprised that I really "get them", I often share that I have had my personal struggles with depression.
"The mind is a terrible thing to watch." ~Ann Lamont
I agree. Imagine if we had a scribe in our heads, even for a day.
I know I would be ashamed to think of what mine might write.
Having done a great deal of research on depression, I have heard many expert opinions regarding its etymology, hypothesizing everything from environmental, historical, genetic, energetic, past-lives, DNA-related, trauma-based, kharmic law. One thing is for sure; when we got it, we got it, and it can be crippling.
What folks may not know is that there are very useful tricks we can use to alleviate a sour mood. The brain is plastic. It is the last part of our body to really know something. When we tell our brain that life is awful and we are doomed, our brain tends to agree. In fact, I have noticed that when we when I experience a bout of depression, it is often triggered by events where I feel exposed as a "failure". My way out usually begins with a decision. A decision to feel better.
So, I decided to compile my "Top 10 Tricks to Kick Depression out of Bed, and Snuggle up with Joy Instead."
Write these down, stick em on your wall, and put them in motion.
Get out of your head and into your feet
The body craves movement. Exercise really works. Let's not think of it as exercise though. Nothing is gnarlier to the depressed person than imagining him/herself at the gym in ill fitting sweats, panting on the stair master while svelte athletes are bopping around in all directions.
As Woody Allen says, 90% of success is showing up. Once we've got our walking shoes on, once we get endorphins cooking, the doldrums have less power to penetrate .
Turn on music! Now!
I recommend that my clients have an arsenal of inspiring and fun music at their fingertips.
I have even been known to make CD's for my clients. When we're depressed, the smallest task feels overwhelming. If I can kick-start someone's joy, then I am thrilled.
Turn on the light and sit in the sun.
Many of us work in windowless cubicles or offices, and wonder why we feel blue.
This time of year, when the sun sets earlier, we must 's dark out in autumn and winter, get a light, get some sun, get some more sun. And if there is no sun in your world, then buy a full-spectrum light. Get one cheap on E-bay.
Hang out with 4-leggeds. (Unless of course, you're allergic)
Having an animal companion near can instantly relaease oxytocin, that magical hormone that we secrete when we fall in love, give birth, or are nursing. It releases a feeling of goodwill, or trust in the world.
OK, so not all of all are blessed to be in love all the time, or be breast feeding, so I recommend my clients find other ways to bring on the joy chemical. Read on.
Change your thoughts. Right now.
We have around 60,000.00 thoughts per day. 87% of them are negative and are the same thoughts we had yesterday.
Experiencing joy is a deliberate choice. Joy takes practice. Joy is hardcore.
I use realistic affirmations, which, at times are posted all over my room. Notice I said realistic.
We must remember that affirmations don't make something happen, they make something welcome.
People tell me, "I put an affirmation up on my bedroom wall, saying:"I am ready to meet a gorgeous, successful, charming man who will adore and worship me." It's been 3 months. Where is he?" I tell them; "You have made yourself more open to meeting this human. Finding him is another story. Sorry."
Follow a joyous lifestyle. Choose joyous entertainment.
find a class, a workout, anything that gets you in your body, preferably sweating a bit.
Affirm joy with words.
Rudyard Kipling said "I am by calling a dealer in words. And words are by far the most powerful drug in the world". It may seem trite, but changing the way we speak can be extremely influential in changing our moods.
Grab hold of a goal.
Make it a do-able one. Happiness and joy come from goals. We mustn't put off our lives.
Cultivate a relationship with the divine.
We are whom our higher self wanted to experience.
There is some truth to the pithy phrase: There's no aetheists in foxholes.
Have a smidgens of faith and the world can be a gentler space.
Choose joyous companions.
When we are depressed, we take our bored, sluggish selves wherever we go. We need distractions. We need company. We need intimacy. It is very important to be around authentic people. We need someone who believes in us. No nay-sayers!
Posted by Rachel Fleischman, MSW, LCSW
Rachel Fleischman, MSW, LCSW is a highly-skilled psychotherapist and dynamic workshop leader, based in San Francisco. Throughout her career, Rachel has pioneered the combination of traditional psychotherapy with movement, body awareness and spirituality.
Embodying 20 years of expertise, Rachel's body of work synthesizes a vast repertoire of movement and healing arts.
Rachel's fascination with spirituality, soul, mood disorders, and movement, has led her to develop a movement system called Dance Your Bliss, a playful powerful and highly original movement form which she leads across the globe.