by Jacob Gross
No matter what anyone says, depression is not something that can be toughed out. No amount of white-knuckling and teeth-gritting can cure depression. Even positive thinking fails when faced with a powerful depressive episode. This is not to say that a good attitude and positive thinking does not help, but depression is a big thing. I will give this disclaimer a few times because it is important: if you are depressed, go see a psychologist, psychiatrist or other specialist. It is not something to deal with on your own without help. However, if you are a depressive person or if you have recently come out of a depressive episode, positive thinking, a good attitude and hard work can help stave off the depression.
Depression is not an impossible enemy
Depression is not a black hole that sucks up all the light around it instantaneously. It is not an all-consuming monster; it is not the abyss. Depression is a sink drain, a leak in the pipes, a hole in the pocket. The harder a depressive episode comes on, the less you want to fight it. It slowly drains you of desire for anything, let alone putting in an effort to stay happy. At some point, when a full blown depression sets in, it is unlikely that any amount of happy thoughts will put you in a better mood. If you are not yet fully depressed but are worried you are heading that direction, forcing yourself to be happy is the best possible decision.
Forcing is the key word here. When depression starts to put its claws in you, it becomes harder to engage the world in a positive way. You have to force yourself to go out and do the things you love or find new things to love. There is nothing as conducive to depression as inaction. Likewise, a great way of battling a creeping depression is to stay active. New activities excite your mind and keep you from dwelling on the same old thoughts and feelings. Furthermore, staying indoors in the dark is a recipe for depression, so anything you can do to get yourself outside will help. There is a reason Seasonal Affective Disorder is a thing. Lack of sunlight and staying inside makes people depressed. Get out and do things.
Trick your mind
Another part of forcing yourself to be happy involves some neat psychological/neurological tricks. Your mind is not a computer with perfect programming that follows clear rules. Your mind is more like, well, a broken computer. Sometimes things work exactly how they are supposed to and sometimes they don’t. Depression is one way that things go wrong. However, another way that your brain malfunctions can help relieve the symptoms of depression. Your brain has an interesting feedback loop with emotions. If you feel an emotion – say, happiness – you will smile and act like a happy person. Strangely, if you act like a happy person and smile, you will start to feel happy. It’s your body confusing your brain. Strange as it sounds, it is incredibly effective.
When depression starts to set in, it is hard to stay positive. Well, here’s a news flash: everything worth doing or being is hard. It’s worth the effort to be happy. Even if you feel like the sky is pressing down on you and trying to crush your very being, force yourself to think about teddy bears or the Wizard of Oz or anything that makes you happy. Push those negative thoughts and feelings as far out of your mind as you can. Focus on something bright, even if you really are not feeling it. A funny thing will happen – you’ll start to feel a bit better.
Remember – this is advice for how to keep depression away and at bay. If you are suffering from a serious depression, go seek immediate help. Depression is a serious mental illness and nothing to be ashamed off. Often times, serious depression has nothing to do with attitude or outlook and everything to do with a chemical imbalance. There are some great drugs out there to help people with these imbalances. If you seek help and your physician or psychiatrist recognizes the symptoms of clinical depression, they can put you on these drugs. It can make a life infinitely better.
If, however, you are trying to keep away from a depressive episode, be positive. Force yourself to be positive. You will stop faking the happiness and start feeling it faster than you think.
Image Credit: Ashley Webb – http://www.flickr.com/photos/xlordashx/8619562772