For most of my life I have battled with depression and anxiety. Anyone who suffers from these mental illnesses knows the struggle it is to complete even the simplest tasks. You wake up in the morning and your energy is already drained just from mustering up the strength to get out of bed and get ready for the day. You cancel plans because being around people is just too exhausting. It can be so difficult to find the motivation to do just about anything. Your mind becomes a negative place that you don’t want to be in so you try to drown it out with television, music, mindless scrolling of social media, etc so that you don’t have to be alone with your thoughts for even a minute. Its a constant spiral. Recently I have been working hard at shifting my mindset to make depression easier to live with. I know that life is worth living. I know there is joy inside me busting at the seems to get out. I know that I can live a beautiful and abundant life, but first I have to do the hard work of breaking through the dark cloud I have over me. I didn’t choose depression, but I do get to chose how I live each day and what thoughts I allow to go through my mind. In this post I want to share with you a few of the things I have been doing to make that mindset shift so that I am able to live the joyful life that I deserve.
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First and most importantly: GRATITUDE. If you only take one thing away from this post, let it be this. Gratitude is the key to happiness. You can shift almost any negative situation into a positive one when you find something to be grateful for. If you are feeling angry, stressed, sad or any other unpleasant emotion, take just a few seconds to list off some things you feel gratitude towards. It can be anything at all, but actually take the time to truly feel it. I can guarantee you will feel a little lighter when you are done. Take a deep breath, close your eyes, and just feel the gratitude pour over you. Imagine its like a shower and the water is cleansing all those negative emotions out of every corner of your mind, heart, and soul. The more you take the time to practice gratitude, the more you will realize that it becomes your natural reaction to a situation.
Right now our house is a complete disaster. It looks like a tornado swept through it. We had some unexpected water damage in our bedroom so while the contractors are putting it back together we are in a hotel. The first week was very stressful. We bounced from hotel to hotel and we didn’t even know where we were staying until 7 pm some nights. We are staying in a hotel room with a 16 month old and two dogs that bark at every noise they hear. On top of all of this I have a kidney infection which is causing a lot of back pain so all I really want to do is curl up in bed. There is so much of this situation that is unpleasant and inconvenient, and I could easily mope around every day angry with the world for this happening, but where would that get me? Instead I am choosing to be grateful. I may not be home, but I have my baby sleeping beside me cuddled up to her dad in the sweetest way. We are able to stay in a hotel that allows our dogs to be with us instead of kenneling them. Insurance is taking care of almost all of the repairs and are paying for our hotel stay through all of this. The hotel even has a bathtub! I have missed taking baths, because our house has a stand up shower. While we are here though, I get to take all the relaxing baths I want and believe me I am taking full advantage of this.
I could go on, but I think you get the point. There is so much to be grateful for in any situation if you just take a step back to see it. Full disclosure: I had my moments through all of this where a cried and had a few meltdowns. This is a journey. I am by no means perfect. The important part is that I am able to shift my perspective.
I have seen the messages of the many benefits of meditation being spread around for so long. I tried it a few times, but I found that I didn’t like to be alone with my thoughts for very long and I quickly gave up. Depression has this way of turning your own mind against you. The voice inside your head starts to become your enemy. So I learned to drown mine out with TV, music, social media, etc. That’s why mediation is so important. It is a gentle process of reconnecting with yourself and learning to love yourself again. You don’t have to go all out with candles, crystals and sage, spending hours at a time in silence. Even just a few minutes can be so beneficial.
Try it when you first wake up before you pick up your phone, before your feet touch the ground, before anything else. Just sit still and breathe deep. Notice the sounds you hear, the sensations you feel, the smells, take it all in and connect with the present moment. Allow your thoughts to come naturally without trying to force them. Allow them to come and go and just observe them. Just a few minutes a day will really start to make a difference. You can practice this any time and anywhere when you feel you need to sort of reset and ground back into the moment. There are even guided meditations out there if you prefer following along.
One of the most important things you can do for yourself is taking time to breathe with intention. I think we take for granted how powerful our breath is. If you are feeling overwhelmed just taking a few slow deep breaths can be exactly what you need to ease the anxiety. Taking deep breaths can help to bring you back into the present moment and remind you to slow down. As you inhale focus on feeling the air deep in your chest and the way your stomach expands. Hold your breath for a few seconds and as you exhale imagine all your stress and worries being released. This is such a simple way to check in with yourself and ground yourself back in to the present moment. Doing this even just once a day this can make a huge difference.
I heard someone talking recently about a strategy their therapist had shared with them and it really resonated with me. The strategy is to take note of your emotions and thank them for serving you then release them. It looks something like this: Thank you frustration. I see you. I acknowledge you. I appreciate you, but you are no longer needed. You are no longer serving me.
It’s important to allow ourselves to freely feel all of our emotions. Yes, even the sucky ones. We are human and we have so many big emotions and we are supposed to feel them. Allow yourself to feel what you need to in any situation and don’t try to force yourself into a happy mood because you think you should be happy all the time. That’s simply not sustainable and not healthy. Instead feel the emotions you are needing to feel and then release them when they are no longer needed. If you acknowledge the reason you need to feel them you will have a better understanding of yourself and even others. I have found this helps to just bring awareness to what exactly I am feeling. Sometimes we just feel bad and when you use this strategy it helps you to pinpoint exactly what it is. Instead of anger maybe it’s actually disappointment or betrayal you are feeling. It helps you to really check in with yourself and how you are reacting to a situation and allows you to more calmly evaluate it. When you learn what you are truly feeling in a situation it changes how you react to it.
Time in nature
One of the best things you can do for yourself is to simply get outside in nature. Soak up the vitamin D, feel the sun across your skin, feel the breeze sweep across your skin, feel the ground beneath your feet. Listen to the sounds of the birds chirping, the trees rustling together, the rain falling all around you. Get your hands and your feet dirty. Watch the sunrise and sunset.
Take even just five minutes out of your day to reconnect with Mother Earth. I notice my mood is GREATLY impacted by how much or how little time I am spending in nature. This goes for children too! If you have a child that is having a hard time emotionally, try taking them for a walk and see if they start to become more grounded. Every time Lilly is feeling overwhelmed and I am having trouble calming her down, I take her straight outside. She almost always calms down immediately. We can learn a lot from children. They are extremely intuitive and most kids are eager to be outside. As adults I think we forget that connecting with the earth is just as important as eating and breathing is to thrive.
Take a Step Back
This one may be the hardest strategy for me so far, but also one of the most rewarding. When someone is doing something you find wrong like saying hurtful things to yourself or others for example, try looking at the situation from their point of view. It doesn’t make what they are doing right or okay necessarily, but it does make it easier for you to understand why they are doing it. It also makes it easier forgive them even its for your own sake.
If I see someone on the internet for example saying things to another person that I find to be so cruel that I can’t even understand how someone can be that way, instead of getting angry at them, I’ve been praying for them. I’ve been praying that they find some joy in their lives so that they don’t feel the need to be hurtful to other people to fill whatever void is in theirs. It may seem silly to some, but it’s actually been really helpful for me to redirect some of my negative feelings towards others. I think most of the time when we feel a certain way about another person it can be from lack of understanding and also sometimes a projection of our feelings towards ourselves. Taking a step back from the situation to see it from a different perspective can be really helpful.
Listening to podcasts has been a wonderful tool for me to change my mindset. It has opened up so many different perspectives for me. I don’t always agree with every thing I listen to, but I do find it very interesting to hear what other people believe and practice. This goes along with my previous point that it can help you to see things from another person’s point of view. It allows you to spend a little bit of time inside their mind.
There are many podcasts I have listened to that I have actually resonated very strongly with and they have given me tools and perspectives I never knew I needed! Especially on topics like parenting and also positive mindset or living an abundant life. Ever since I became pregnant I’ve been drawn to respectful parenting or gentle parenting, without fully knowing what all that means or how to even approach this parenting style. I have found many podcasts that are great at teaching these parenting techniques and as I listen to them I have so many “A-ha!” moments because it all seems to obvious. I find listening to these different podcasts are a much more productive use of my time and helps to keep me from falling into the Netlfix/social media vortex. You know the one where you throw on a show just to fold laundry and before you know it you’ve binged an entire season and the laundry still isn’t folded. Next time you are going to put on some music to do chores or drive home, trying putting a podcast on instead.
Self care. This can mean so many different things. Sometimes self care is putting on a face mask, lighting some candles, turning on some music and soaking in a warm bath while drinking some tea. Sometimes this can mean exercising, going to the grocery store alone, turning on your favorite song and dancing around in your underwear. Sometimes it means journaling, going for a hike, baking a new recipe, going for a drive just because.
Self care can mean and be so many different things. Its important to find out what self care is for you and to take the time for it regularly. Take one hour a week, twenty minutes a day or whatever feels right for you and practice some self care before you really need it. Take the time to fill your cup up before its completely empty. Don’t wait until you are so overwhelmed and at your breaking point before you decide its time to take a moment for yourself. You can’t give your best to others if you don’t give back to yourself. Its just like the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I know it sounds cliche, but its true.
So there you have it. These are a few of the tools I have been using and I am having success with. I hope something in this post resonates with you in some way and I really hope you find at least one of these strategies helpful. I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you put any of them to use. Tag me on Instagram or send me a DM to connect. Make sure to let me know and thanks for stopping by!