I’d been feeling depressed, gloomy, and definitely NOT happy – yesterday, and maybe the day before. I had no motivation and there was nothing I could do to fix it. Or rather, I had so many things that would fix it if I would only get them done that I was shut down. When I get in this state, I always feel like I’ve been depressed a long time and I don’t know how to get out of it. How could that be? I help people recover from depression on regular basis: I should be able to help myself!
First, a reality check. I haven’t been depressed long, it just feels that way today. But, what to do about it?
Sometimes I think I love challenge, trying new things, and getting out of my comfort zone. And then, pretty soon, I don’t. I hate being out of my comfort zone. I wonder if my brain even works to learn new things anymore. I don’t remember the feeling of confidence and competence. Why did I make this big move? Am I too old for this?
Today, I am happy. So what happened between yesterday and today? More importantly, how can you make that shift too? I’ll tell you what I did. It’s not a permanent cure, but it did help me shift and it will again when I need it. Here’s what I did – I picked up a book. In this case the book was The Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. This book is full of ideas that cause a mood and thought pattern shift. It’s on my bedside table and I read it from time to time, in small chunks. It’s that kind of book. Dense.
I skipped to the chapter called “The Path of Unconditional Happiness.” Here’s a paraphrase of what it said to me last night: I can choose to be happy. I can CHOOSE. Really? Just choose and start being happy? Yes, but you can’t be happy as long as you are waiting for things to be the way you want them to be. Thinking you’ll only be happy if you have a stable income or a good relationship or are cancer free or get the house clean, it is not going to work. It has to be unconditional.
Here’s what I realized: if I am waiting for my practice to fill, insurance payers to send checks, warm winter weather, enough yoga, enough exercise, healthy food, a clean house, just enough social life but not too much… I will never be happy. Conditions will never be perfect for me to be happy. Or if they are perfect, something will change, pretty damn quickly, and then I won’t be happy anymore!
It took a while to sink in. It probably took all night to sink in. I woke remembering that I can choose to be happy. So I did. I chose it today.
It’s working. I disconnected my happiness from events happening to me or around me. I enjoyed yoga, did some work, and read my to-do list. I realized that I could do a few of those things today, but not many. When I began to feel the dread of failing to get all those things done, I disconnected from it. I acknowledge that I will need to keep working. I can be happy anyway. I’d like to be farther along on my projects. I can be happy. When I pause to savor a moment, I smile. As I shovel the sidewalk, I’m happy. As I write this blog, I’m happy. When I worry, “Is it good enough?” I’m still happy. Not jumping for joy, a quiet happy. Much better than yesterday’s quiet gloom!
Now, I know that many people have been depressed much longer than a few days or a few weeks. I don’t mean to minimize that painful, soul sucking, deep hole that is clinical depression. But I don’t think this was that. Most of us skim the surface of mood disorders from time to time. For major depression to lift takes a bigger effort and more of a team. Still, this idea can help. Try it.
If you need more help, call me for an appointment.
Lisa Yaeger, LPC