If you’ve ever experienced a recurring problem then most likely you know what it’s like to feel depressed. I am not referring to clinical depression which is a mental illness, but situational depression that can occur when you aren’t living the life you want to live.
We all have our own personal variations but, generally speaking, the cycle of depression goes like this. When we cannot handle a situation we automatically respond the way we always have: some people confront their problem head on and go looking for a solution, some avoid and use distractions such as spending, eating or drinking, and some fall into a slump and do nothing.
When you stop reacting in your usual way, you have the opportunity to look within, learn and grow. Sometimes solutions are staring you in the face, but when you are so caught up in the problems and the feelings you are experiencing you don’t even see them.
I coached a young man many years ago who at 20 years old was $20,000 in debt. His problems started when he lost his job and couldn’t get work for six months. He finally got a job but the salary $10,000 less than he had previously earned. He was desperate because he was being hounded by creditors.
The first steps I advised Tod to take were the usual ones: contact the creditors and advise them of a change in situation, look for a job that paid more money. Tod had only worked six months of the financial year so when tax time came I suggested that he lodge his tax return immediately so that he could get his refund in two weeks. This would take some of the pressure off as he had a large tax refund coming to him. It was then he told me he hadn’t lodged his tax return for the previous year and that he had been told by his accountant that he would receive a refund of $2,000 for that year as well. He had lived through months of deprivation and harassment and here was money owing to him and he had done nothing about it. He commented, ‘It just all seemed such a mess I never got around to it.’
Sometimes when we become aware of our patterns we change them, but rather than overcoming our problems, we substitute one form of behaviour for another. The way to create permanent change is to adopt habits which support you, you may need to experiment at first to find the ones that work best for you, by doing this over time you gain control of your life and your emotions. Here are just a few that have worked for me:
- Pause before saying ‘yes’, ‘no’ or making any important decision. I have a tendency to be impulsive and this simple habit of pausing and thinking before I make a commitment has helped me break the cycle of taking on too much.
- When you feel down, feel your emotions. Some people think they are being positive by suppressing their emotions but pretending doesn’t change the way you feel. It takes a lot of energy to keep your emotions below the surface of consciousness. This is energy that could be used to help you create a life you love. Always acknowledge how you really feel then choose to act in a way that supports you. I forgive and give thanks for all the good things in my life when I feel down. When you do something positive to change your emotional state you don’t have to pretend to be cheerful, you become cheerful.
- It’s very hard to change your state if you don’t know what makes you feel good, so make a list. Your list could include having a cup of coffee in the sunshine, talking on the phone to a friend, going for a walk in nature, listening to uplifting music, meditating. Then record these things in a journal in which you only write about positive experiences, because at some stage you may stop doing them and you will have a permanent reminder.
- Do three things that make you happy every single day because doing this produces feel good hormones and it helps you establish the belief that you can have what you really want.
- Then work on creating permanent change by challenging any thoughts that take you away from the life you want to live, this is what Byron Katie calls ‘The Work’. Byron changed a lifelong cycle of major depression by asking herself these four questions:
“Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, move to Q3.)
“Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
“How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
“Who would you be without the thought?”
You don’t have to be depressed to use these steps, I suggest you try them for 30 days and see how much better your life can be. As Wayne Dyer said, ‘Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change’.