When you’re feeling down, or really “going through it” as I like to say, it takes a concerted effort to do the things that will actually help you feel better. Trust me, I know.
As someone who has been managing depression for 15-plus years, I can personally attest to how hard it is to want to do anything, especially the things that take a little bit of effort. But I also know that I have to, and the sooner I start doing those things, the sooner I feel better.
It’s helpful if you have a go-to list of the activities that help you feel even the smallest bit better—a short list of simple things you can do to uplift your mood when you’re feeling low. But first, you’ve got to know what those things are. My list includes things like going for a walk, drinking more water, sitting in the sun, being in water, meditating, and so forth and so on. Once you have your list, you no longer have to think about it—you just have to do it.
To help get you started, below are a handful of support strategies to help you get through those tougher times. Read through them, try a few of them on for a week and see how you feel. Begin making your own go-to list, and when the time comes, make the effort. It’s worth it.
Master your morning
Mornings can be tough when you’re really going through a low period. Just getting out of bed can sometimes feel like a huge feat. However, how you spend your mornings really sets the tone, or vibe, for the day ahead. While it may take a concerted effort, making your mornings more mindful will help you slowly shift the way you’re feeling.
In order to give yourself the best shot at the day ahead, start mastering your morning with these five steps from inspirational speaker and 24Life happiness expert Petra Kolber.
Spend time in nature
Changing your environment is a key strategy for shifting your mood, and now science has proved that spending time in nature reduces stress, anxiety and depression. Learn how nature affects humans (and why we all need more nature in our lives) in 24Life’s interview with Richard Louv, journalist and author of “Vitamin N,” a resource for living a “nature-rich life.”
And then get outside! Since the beginning of time, nature has served as a reset button we can press to realign our daily rhythms for their optimal function. Nature also offers the perfect place and space to experiment with a new meditation practice—and you don’t need to be in the woods to do it. Check out these three simple nature meditations to help you reconnect to your inner light.
“The opposite of play is not work, it is depression.” —Brian Sutton-Smith, Ph.D., play theorist
The research is out: Playing boosts our mood, fosters empathy, enhances connections, renews optimism and cultivates openness. It even helps us stay focused and motivated. While you might not be in a playful mood, forcing yourself to play (perhaps outdoors) will likely give you the boost you need.
We find play not only pleasurable but also energizing, helping us preserve and refuel while having fun. Both enjoyment and movement activate the reward centers in the brain, which means they elevate dopamine, creating a powerful pleasure cocktail.
Learn more about the science of play and make your own play list. What does playtime look like to you? Your play could be active, like surfing or rock climbing, or it could be more passive, like cooking or reading. You may get lost on a walk in the woods or nesting in your own home. Whatever you enjoy doing, whatever you get lost in—scrapbooking, tossing a ball around, gardening, playing cards, building a sandcastle with your kids—is considered play for you.
Don’t think you have time for play? Think again. Kolber explains why you have to schedule play into your week if you want to stay connected to the best parts of yourself and move forward in life.
Everything can have a slightly negative spin on it when you’re really going through it. However, I’m willing to bet that if pressed a little harder, you could come up with three things in the present moment to feel grateful for. Whether you simply pause to acknowledge the good in your life or keep a gratitude journal, practicing gratitude is extremely beneficial for shifting your outlook and has scientifically been proved to reduce depression, improve self-esteem, increase resiliency and even boost immunity.
Need help getting started? 24Life asked a few motivational experts to share how they practice gratitude and how they’ve seen it change their lives—and the lives of others around them. Check out these five ways to practice gratitude from the experts. And if that’s not enough, here’s 24 more ways to say thank you from 24Life Editor-in-Chief Lashaun Dale.
Spend quality time inward
One of the most beneficial (and necessary) things you can do for your own self-care and personal perseverance is to spend time with your attention turned inward—attuning to your inner world.
Turning your awareness inward is a profound act of self-love, signaling to all aspects of your being that you matter, that you are worthy of your own precious attention. Just being with yourself, in your body, allowing and accepting whatever arises can be a deeply healing experience.
Try yoga nidra for deep reset. Yoga nidra is a profoundly powerful yet simply guided meditation technique that promotes a deep state of relaxation where healing can take place. The practice calms the mind, relaxes the body, re-balances the nervous system and restores your connection within.
Bonus video! Check out this Practice for Instant Joy from the creator of Energy Yoga Medicine, Lauren Walker.
Photo credit: Igor Alecsander, Getty Images