Beating Depression: Decide to Be Happy
I thought about filing one article together with the top 10 things I do (and some things which others recommend) to help get through depression, however it struck me, that may be one very long article. So for time’s sake, I decided to break these out and devote enough discussion to them individually rather than writing a super-long article at one time. Plus, it will help me publish them (one-by-one) considerably more quickly.
Let’s start with a tough one, and one that may spark some debate. Debate is nice, but remember, I’m simply telling you what works for me, and why I think it works for me. My hope is that if it works for me, it could meet your needs as well. But, before I hit you with the first of ten, keep in mind that I’m not suggesting that these are easy. One of the first symptoms of depression is apathy and insufficient motivation to do anything – including helping yourself. So the fact that you are here right now looking for help is an excellent sign, and you should keep with it. The only one that can change you… is you. And, you have to DECIDE to make the change.
So here we go… A simple truth I have found: we can choose to be happy. (OK, my flak jacket is on now.) In a strange way that sounds insensitive – at least as it relates to beating depression, and perhaps it really is. “Hey man, don’t be depressed. Just choose to be happy.” As though it’s just that simple, and all you need to do is push a magic button found on the back of your head that makes this happen. Cynicism aside, I’ve found it to be the truth; you CAN make a choice that you WILL be happy. Choosing to be happy is work; it’s damn hard work, yet it’s doable and doing so is often where I go first when I am feeling depressed.
Emotional state is obviously a lynchpin of depression. And yes, I will concede that chemicals and hormones in our brains and bodies often (if not always) play a significant role in our emotional state. So if our depression can be (or is) chemical-driven, how could I choose to get happy and magically rise out from depression?
Let me use an example with a different emotion: L O V E. My wife hates when I use this example, because the traditional, romantic notion of love is extremely different than what I think love really is (or at least, exactly what it becomes). Sure, love begins as a flighty, excited, goose-pimples-filled feeling which has you thinking about that someone every second of every day. This first love gets us involved emotionally, and all we can focus on is that person; it’s romantic and charming. It drives us to do things that we might not normally do. It consumes us.
At some point, though, the feeling fades (though it doesn’t necessarily disappear), and if you are to remain in love, love has to become an engaged decision. That decision and effort must fill in those areas where pure emotion was previously in control. If that decision does not occur, or rather, when that decision to love does not occur, the love will not last. People who get into relationships or marriages while they are still within the flighty, heavily-emotional phase of love and expect it to stay that way forever are those who get a rude awakening when they realize that maintaining the relationship is incredibly hard work. Staying in love is very hard work. It’s absolutely worthwhile, however it is work.
In my experience, both of these topics are parallel. My love for my boyfriend begins as a pull on my emotions, but eventually pivots into a decision or devotion of myself to him. Depression typically begins as an emotional event, but we’ve got the ability to decide to lift ourselves out of it. My decision to keep an optimistic perspective on my life, my job, and my family is my decision to not be depressed. Focusing on those things in everyday life that are good is a choice I make, and a choice that helps me stem any depression or fight off any bad day which comes my way. Always looking for the silver lining in things that aren’t so positive is an excellent method of getting started on optimism.
Being optimistic and deciding to de-emphasize negative emotion is work, but it’s absolutely worth it. If you’re in a rut or perhaps a low point in your life, decide right now to pull yourself out of it by beginning to focus on the positive in the world around you. I promise you will see a difference in the way you feel.
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