“Once you choose hope, anything is possible.” ~Christopher Reeve
I have suffered from depression since I was a teenager. My experiences have also caused severe post-traumatic stress disorder.
My father has been abandoning me for my whole life. As a teenager, I went to live with him because my relationship with my mother was so difficult. He sexually abused me for the year that I lived with him.
At the age of seventeen, I sought solace by turning to what I thought was God. For the next twenty-eight years I held a set of beliefs that were angry and judgmental and made me feel cut off from others, including my family and those in my own church.
Because of my experiences with my father and the church, I had a hard time living in the moment and enjoying life. I lived with low self-esteem and had trouble establishing healthy boundaries in relationships, which caused me to continue to create painful interactions with others.
When I was forty-five years old, I sought relief from my depression and loneliness through self-help books. I quickly found my way to author and publisher Louise Hay and began my journey of enlightenment and healing.
Over the last couple of years, through therapy and continued reading, I have discovered some tools to help me feel more positive, peaceful, and joyful. I notice when I use them consistently, I recover faster from periods of depression. Perhaps they will help you, too, when you are feeling depressed.
1. Focus on self-love.
Some ways to do that are: be patient and compassionate with yourself, release perfectionist standards, remind yourself of all your wonderful qualities and talents, and give yourself praise and encouragement.
Doing a self-love meditation is especially comforting and uplifting for me. I talk to myself like I would to someone else that I want to express love to. It feels amazing to give myself what I want and need.
2. Listen to your inner child, without resistance.
Allow her to feel and express what she is going through and grieve when she needs to. Let him know that you are always there to listen and to love him.
When my inner child feels angry, I validate and soothe her. I let her know that she deserves to have relationships that feel good and have healthy boundaries within them.
3. Notice how you feel in your body when you are upset.
As you observe your unpleasant sensations, name them. For instance, I feel heaviness in my chest, I feel like crying, my arms are warm, my head feels like it’s going to explode, my stomach hurts, my muscles are tight.
As you simply allow your sensations to be, you will notice that they start to dissipate on their own. Try it. You will be amazed.
When I do this exercise, I may also notice the thoughts that are causing the troubling sensations. I have learned that in spite of my unpleasant sensations, I can still hold a positive thought or belief and when I do, I feel better.
So, I may say something like this to myself, “In spite of all of these unpleasant sensations, I know that things can work out the way that I want them to.”
4. Ask someone else for what you need.
One day I was feeling very disconnected from others, so I called a friend of mine and asked if she had time to come by and give me a hug. She said she loves hugs and she came over for a short visit to give me one, which gave me the sense of connection that I needed and wanted to feel.
Here are some examples of things you might ask for: a massage, a favor, someone to listen to you or to help you problem-solve, or a date with your partner or a friend or family member.
Something I do on a regular basis is ask the Universe for a gift. I always get what is perfect for me at that time. Sometimes a wonderful new thought fills my mind and lifts me up or I receive guidance on an important issue, and other times I receive an unexpected monetary gift or an interaction with someone that makes me feel loved or appreciated.
5. Participate in enjoyable activities to help you get out of your head and into the present moment.
Some things you can do are: meditate, spend time with (or call) a friend or family member, read, do a hobby that you love, listen to music, take a hot bath, watch your favorite television show or a movie, or treat yourself to something you have been wanting.
Spending time in nature helps me to ground myself in the present moment. It gives me an inexplicable peace and joy that surprises and rejuvenates me. I love going to the lake or for a walk or sitting on my porch, which has a beautiful view of the most wonderful trees.
6. Focus on the thought “All things are possible.”
You don’t have to know how you will receive your desires and you don’t have to figure anything out. Just rest, knowing that the possibilities will unfold.
I specifically remind myself that it is possible for me to: feel well physically and emotionally, be fulfilled and prosperous, and have love, joy, and peace in my life. When I do this, I sometimes get excited as I anticipate the changes and miracles to come.
7. Use a visualization to release your painful thoughts.
In your mind’s eye, place negative thoughts on leaves and watch them gently float away downstream, or place the troubling words on cars of a freight train and watch them zoom away.
When I do these exercises, I place distance between myself and what is bothering me, and I feel lighter.
8. Practice gratitude for the good times.
Notice when you are not depressed and take the time to be fully present in those moments and appreciate them. Notice how it feels in your body to not be depressed.
Now that I am more aware of when I am feeling good, when depression hits, I know that I am not always depressed. I acknowledge that this too shall pass.
9. Be productive.
Sometimes what you need to get out of the pit of depression is to be productive. You may get depressed because you are not getting important things done, or you may be depressed and therefore not get important things done. In both of these cases, productivity may make you feel good about yourself and lift your mood significantly.
When I feel depressed, I don’t feel like doing anything. So, I tell myself, “In spite of how I feel in my body and these upsetting thoughts, I am going to wash my dishes (or any other activity) anyway.” Once I get one thing done, I feel a sense of accomplishment and am usually motivated to get other things done.
10. Let love in.
Surround yourself with positive and loving people and healthy relationships. I remind myself that I deserve to have relationships that feel good and nourishing to me. I may give myself space in certain relationships and release others that are not working for me.
I remember that people do love me, even if they don’t show it the way that I want. I know they are doing the best they can, and if they don’t love themselves, then they are not going to know how to love me. I forgive them for the ways they have hurt me or let me down, and that gives me some peace.
I consistently practice using my tools when I feel depressed and I know that the saying “practice makes perfect” is not true. My human self will never be perfect, and that is okay.
Not all of my tools will work every time to help me move through depression. Sometimes I use just one tool and other times, I use additional ones. I listen to myself so I will know each time what I need. And you can do the same.