As you can imagine, following his death, my own depression took a turn for the worse. I drank day and night. Eventually, I was prescribed anti-depressants that helped me to sleep, and as a result, I was sleeping 12 to 14 hours a day. I had disruptive emotional breakdowns at work. I simply forgot what it felt like to be happy.
I don’t think anyone would blame me, but it was no way to live. The truth is, I didn’t want to live.
On September 2, 2018, I began making a change that would transform everything I understood about how to manage depression. It started with my first 12-step meeting and the beginning of a life of sobriety.
But that was just the beginning. Shortly after I began attending recovery meetings, I began learning about neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) and started adding some of the things I learned about that to my daily habits. You can read more of my story here.
Here are some of the things I did.
Look for the Positive Side of Bad Events
Studies have shown that you can improve your mood simply by thinking positive thoughts about things you can’t control. For example, because of my drinking, I had made a mess of my life. I was working below my abilities, deep into debt, and living with my parents. Instead of focusing on that, however, I took it as an opportunity to rebuild a new life. I reminded myself that there had to be a breakdown of the old in order to bring forth a new.
Become Part of a Tribe
We need people, but when we feel depressed, it’s difficult to want to be around them, so often we isolate ourselves. One of the things I learned in my alcohol recovery meetings was that avoiding people was not helping my mood. As soon as I started involving myself in a community of people like myself, I noticed that my spirits began lifting. I attended meetings to help with my sobriety, but I also looked forward to other activities supported by the group. I attended everything from Halloween parties to bingo nights.
Improve Your Environment
You can’t always surround yourself with people. Sometimes you will be alone, and when that happens, you need to make sure you are in an environment that helps you manage depression. Studies have shown that one way to do this is to bring elements of nature inside. Try opening windows to let in natural light, keeping house plants in the home, listening to soothing sounds of nature, and hanging landscape scenes on the wall. According to Kathleen Wolf from the School of Environmental and Forest Sciences, “Studies have proven that even the smallest bit of nature — a single tree, a small patch of flowers, a house plant — can generate health benefits.” While making these small changes in your environment are not the same as taking a walk in the woods, they can provide a similar effect.
There is always something to be grateful for. You just need to find it and learn to appreciate it as a gift. For example, you may live in a less than desirable neighborhood, but if you can see you should be able to appreciate a butterfly fluttering over the concrete sidewalk. And if you cannot see, then you could appreciate being able to feel a small child’s face or hear their giggle. There is always something to be grateful for, and that in itself can lift your spirits and help you manage depression as long as you focus on the positive instead of the negative things in life.
After all, it really does nothing to change the outcome. My mother is a worrying champion, especially during the Covid panic. She worries that she will get Covid. She worries that we will bring Covid into the house. She worries that we don’t wear masks, and at the same time, she worries that the masks don’t work. She worries that she will never be able to leave the house again.
Stop! In all her worrying, no one has lived because of it, the virus hasn’t gone away, and no cure has been discovered. The only impact worry has made on her life is that it has driven her deeper into depression. I decided that if there is something I could do to improve the outcome of a situation, then I would do it and move on. If not, I would let the worry go and enjoy life in the meantime.
Do Something New
Doing the same thing day in and day out becomes boring. In fact, when things become too repetitive for me, I end up wondering is this all there is? I start feeling trapped in a cycle of sameness. When this happens, I know it’s time to try something new. Start a hobby, find a new friend, travel to someplace you have never seen before. Do something that intrigues your brain. It may reward you with a laugh or two.
It is possible to help manage depression simply by shifting the way you think about the world around you and when possible making small changes to your environment. In fact, improving your mood can be as easy as thinking you’re in a good mood. If you believe it, your attitude will change. I know mine did.
What Can You Do to Manage Depression?
Is it possible to create a better mood for yourself? My own experience tells me that it is. But rather than take my word for it, I challenge you to try some of the suggestions I’ve offered in this article. Who knows. You might wake up one morning and realize you have nothing to be depressed about.