What I hate most about my depression is how sometimes I don’t even hate it. Sometimes it is a warm fuzzy blanket saving me from life’s winter. It’s comforting. It knows me, and I don’t need to put on an act for it. My depression is okay with not putting pants on. My depression is okay with an entire day spent in bed. It still wants to hang out with me after three days without showering. The world feels better when it’s a darker shade. Sometimes I like my depression because it feels more real. Like being happy all of the time is not reality, and so if I’m depressed at least I’m being honest with myself. My depression is a sneaky bitch who knows I get to like her even though she’s bad for me.
This is why I try to live my life, every single day of my life, with over-enthusiasm. Mary wrote really great words about the importance of active happiness and it remains my favourite blog post ever. My default emotion is not happiness or contentment. Every day I have to make myself happy. Some days this is easy and it just involves Griffin licking my face until I smell like puppy breath. Some days it requires more effort. Today is one of those days. I have been lax about the previous bit of time, and allowed it to develop. Today I won’t let it take over, and I’m fighting hard. I’m reminding myself how I make myself happy.
1. I trick my brain
You know what makes me smile ? Smiling. Pulling my lips away from my teeth and pushing them up to my eyes makes me smile. I look in the mirror and pretend to like what I see. Like I’ve got my shit together. I put clothes on like a happy person would, and get out of bed early. I stop the thinking, and start the doing. Eventually my brain thinks “oh this is how it’s done” and starts doing it.
2. I make other people happy
I greet every person I come into contact with with a huge smile. When I ask them how they are I wait for an answer, and I start a conversation about something other than the weather. I tell them how happy I am that it’s Monday. That their bag is the best I’ve ever seen (only if it’s the truth), and that their hair looks nice today. Usually the person is left a little bit happier than before. That makes me happy. They might only laugh because that’s what we do at crazy people but that’s fine. Pretending to be “that happy girl” in the office makes me feel like I am the happy girl of the office. Happiness is one of the few things that grows the more you give away.
3. I get away from reflex tasks
I make an active effort not to check Instagram or emails. I don’t allow myself to open reddit. I don’t want series. These things trap me into a loop where I am getting tiny bits of positive reinforcement, but still nothing to show for it after an entire hour of time. Even finding inspiration on Pinterest is a no-no for me during this time because I’ve learned that I won’t find inspiration in this mood or under these forced circumstances, and I’ll just be left with a few mediocre pins.
4. I create something
I create my best work in the darkness, and I might as well benefit from it. Perk: vomiting my emotions onto paper makes me feel better automatically. Win.
5. I brainstorm projects and ideas
I don’t need to do anything. I just need to plan how exciting my life could be if I just started something. Optimism is a great fighter against depression. Brainstorming in general makes me happy because it’s planning, and organising my life, and putting everything neatly into little boxes.
6. I make to do lists
I work well with to do lists. GTD is my jam. A specific one that helps me is a list of things I am unhappy with. I write them all down and I instantly feel better. Now that they are words they are so much less intimidating. I can cross them off one by one until I don’t care that they’re on the list anymore. Another list that works for me is my List of One. I make every single day a non-zero day. I can’t muster the strength to complete a work task, but I can get up, put pants on, and get to the office. That’s greater than zero. For more info on that, look here for the rule that has changed my life.
7. I get outside
I hate being outside. I pretty much dislike any place that I can’t be on my computer. I still can’t deny how amazing it feels to take Griffin to a patch of grass and just be there. This works especially well if it’s cold outside. It gives my body something to focus on other than the fact that it’s sad. Getting outside is usually also be figurative, and for me this means praying and meditating. Being away from myself helps.
8. I rely on someone I trust
This is a really tough one. I rely on and expect too much of other people. I’ve been hurt so much in the past because of this and sometimes it sucks me further down. But every now and then, it’s just worth it. Sometimes there is someone who can carry me. I’m lucky enough to have a husband now, and one who rocks at this, and won’t allow me to feel bad for relying on him. Sometimes things are just too tough, and I am too broken of a person to pick myself up. This is usually my last stop before giving up.
TL;DR I make myself happy by making myself happy
These eight things don’t always help, but they’re helping me today. They also definitely don’t help everyone, but after exhausting each number on this list today alone, they have done something for me. Depression is confusing and there never really is an answer to it. I’m lucky enough that right now I can still see the spark of light, but I never forget how often there has been nothing but darkness. If you’re currently in that dark dark part, here’s a virtual hug. O
I didn’t want to add an emo pic to this post. The photo is from the happiest night of my life – 2012.09.29 – T and my engagement party.
What do you do to create intentional happiness ?