I’m writing this on the dreariest January day ever with rain pouring down and freezing cold hands; it’s barely surprising that we are likely to feel depressed at this time of year. Some are lucky enough to only feel low in spirits every now and then, while others suffer with melancholia so bad they lose hope of never feeling that way again. The best way to deal with those times is usually distraction. By all means, take a little time to yourself if you need it, but then I think the best thing to do is find something else to keep your mind occupied. Here are some ideas…..
Weekends with no plans or the gap between the end of work or school and bed-time can be dangerous times for those low feelings to creep in. I’m afraid I’m a little old school and believe that faking it can help you make it and if you put a smile on your face, even if you have to summon your absolute best acting skills, it always helps. People respond warmly to a smile, which in turn makes you feel a little happier.
By the way, I’m not being flippant, and always seek help if you need it. If an awful event has happened in your life, then take all the time you need to recover from it – I’m talking about occasional days we’re hit with depression for absolutely no apparent reason at all. And of course I’m no psychological expert on these things, I’m just offering ideas for what I think might help.
1.We can often live in a household sharing spaces, but without spending any real time together. Ask your parent or your child or your flatmate to show you something they enjoy doing. Race them on their favourite car game on the x-box; design a character on World of Warcraft and go on a quest together; play table football or make a candle… you get the idea.
2. Take a pack of felt tip pens and an adult colouring book and sit in a cafe until you’ve finished the most complicated one.
3. Take a dog for a good long walk. If you haven’t got your own, borrow one from a friend pretending you need the exercise or have a desire for fresh air. Extra brownie points if you walk a dog for an elderly or disabled person who can’t manage to. Have a good old out-loud chin-wag with it and tell it all your troubles. It honestly works.
4. Learn something. What have you always wished you can do? If you can afford a course, then even better, the money you’ve spent on it will force you out the house and the company will help you feel better. If funds don’t stretch, then browse You Tube and you will find someone teaching you languages; yoga; how to play an instrument or paint watercolour landscapes.
5. Cook a full meal you’ve never made before. By the time you’ve gone to buy the ingredients and followed all the instructions, if you’re anything like me, you’ll have passed by several hours without even trying. Invite a friend to join you, or if you’re on your own, sit in front of a programme that always makes you happy. (Mine is Location Location Location or Grand Designs. (Or secretly Dance Moms.))
6. Join an interest or hobby group. This may be the most difficult of all, but if you can face it, then it’s worth it. I go to choir weekly and writers’ group monthly and I almost always never feel like going beforehand, but I’m always glad I did afterwards.
7. Scour the local paper for events – pre-school fetes; church craft fairs; medieval jousts on the green or out-door operas. Take yourself (and preferably someone else too) along and wander around or experience something new.
8. Reading a book or magazine is a popular choice. If you have too many distractions at home, then take yourself off to the library and stay until your bum gets numb on the seat.
9. Volunteering is a good way to use your time and gives you a warm fuzzy feeling knowing you’ve done some good in the world at the end of the day. However, I am talking about litter picking in your nearest park or volunteering at the community shop or something like that. If your own mental health is a little delicate, then working with ill elderly or difficult teenagers may be too stressful for you.
10. If it’s one of those days when you can hardly bare to move out of bed; challenge yourself to just half an hour towards getting something done that you’ve been meaning to do for ages. Something like cleaning the bathroom; sorting out the pile of crap in the corner; writing an e-mail; painting the fence. Half an hour is nothing – you can manage half an hour. Allowing yourself to stop after half an hour makes it easier to begin with; and usually when I use this technique I end up keeping going with no trouble at all anyway! However long you spend on the task; it’s a step nearer to getting it finished and you’ll have a sense of accomplishment at the end of it.
Be gentle on yourself. If you go to bed at the end of the day and still feel low; it is not your fault. Just keep trying. Try something new the next day; and the next; and the next; and one day; though you probably won’t even notice it at the time; you’ll go to bed with your mind too relaxed or too full of other things to feel bad. Make your own list of things as you think of them so you always have something to turn to should the need arise. Everyone has their own forms of relaxation or mindfulness. I find pulling up stinging nettles surprisingly therapeutic, but cannot for the life of me understand those people who say the same thing about cleaning! I also always feel better after washing my hair. Feel free to add yours in the comments to help give others some ideas.