It’s just life, don’t take it so seriously.-Anonymous
I don’t know about you, but every time that I look up blogs, videos, and websites about how to be happy, they always end up saying one of three things:
- Think happier thoughts/stop focusing on the negative.
- There is no need to stress out.
- Be grateful for what you have
I’m here to tell you why these pieces of advice are bullshit for people with real depression and anxiety, but then I’ll tell you what has actually helped me with both.
Think Happier Thoughts/Stop Focusing on the Negative
Wow, if only I have thought about that! Seriously though, if you have ever suffered with depression, you may relate to me when I say that I know these thoughts are harmful and that they don’t make any sense, but I just can’t stop thinking them. The harder I try to stop thinking about these things, the more I think them! That is why this type of advice is useless to me.
There is No Need to Stress Out
The same argument applies for this advice as the one above, but rather than downplaying the symptoms of depression, it downplays the symptoms of anxiety.
Be Grateful for What You Have…
…even if you’re just grateful for being alive. This paragraph is going to be very dark very quickly; when you suffer with severe depression, you’re not grateful to be alive. It’s not right, but it’s the truth.
So, we know why these saying are useless and not helping us, now we can go through activities that actually helped me become happier and less anxious.
Step 1: Whatever you feel like doing, do the opposite!
If you feel like laying in bed all day and never seeing the sun, FORCE yourself to leave your house. Do it. Right now.
If you don’t feel like showering and brushing your hair, DO IT.
Even if all you can handle is putting on clean clothes so you can stay in bed in different clothes, Do it and then try to FORCE yourself to do just a little bit more.
You may, no, you’re GOING to hate it at first, I promise, but here is why you should still do it:
- Changing location/environment leads to changing emotions and thoughts
- Doing things tends to distract you to the point of decreasing the amount of negative thoughts you are having
- Convinces you at that you are way more capable than you first believe (even if it just means getting out of bed to eat)
- The more times you force yourself, the less often you would have to
Step 2: The goal isn’t to be completely happy, but rather, to be different than right now.
Sometimes I set my expectations way too high and think if I just follow the internet’s advice, I’ll be happy tomorrow, then when I am not happy, I label myself as a failure, then the cycle repeats.
I had to change the way I thought about why I am getting out of bed and forcing myself to do things. What is my actual goal? That answer was easy to answer: to feel different than what I am feeling right now. I HAD to stop doing things to be happy, because if I wasn’t immediately happy, I wasn’t destined to be happy. But, if I changed my goal to feeling different, more times than not, I felt at least a little bit better, making me succeed my goal. I don’t know if you have noticed, but people (and more specifically, their brain) really like success. It creates dopamine in the brain, and you know what that means? Happier. Exactly. Then when you’re happier, you want to do even more, and when you do more, you’re happier, and the cycle continues. Its a good cycle to be in, but the only way to start the cycle, is to start it. You got this. Go be different.
Step 3: No Judgement
This one may be harder than all the rest of them: no judgment upon anybody… anybody. This includes yourself. If somebody is wearing the most ridiculous thing on Earth, no judgement. If somebody’s art sucks, no judgment. If you make a mistake, no judgement. Here’s why: nothing can be bad if there is no judgment, everything is just the way it is.
This isn’t going to come very naturally or easily, so do not have that expectation going in right now. The goal when you first start is to just notice when you judge things, but don’t judge yourself when you do! It was a mistake and mistakes are okay. The more you notice when you label something good or bad, the less often you end up doing it. It takes lots of practice. You are literally re-routing the way you’ve thought about the world your entire life, so it’s going to take time. Be patient. You’ll get there. I believe in you, and trust me when I say, if I can judge less, so can you!
Conclusion: All the steps I have given you do not have any particular order, you can start whenever you decide that you are willing to change your life for the better. Just keep in mind, you are learning how to be happier and it takes a lot of force and discipline and you will make mistakes, and that’s okay! You can do this the second you decide that you want to. I know you can, and one day, you will know too.