Depression rears its ugly head, grabs our reins, and off we go to that dark place again.
I know that little bugger. I’ve dealt with him a few times, and I’d like to share with you how I beat him whenever he shows up.
First I’d like to say, if you’re going through depression and reading articles like this—bless you, it’s tough. More importantly, though, congratulations, you’re taking action and doing what you can to overcome the little devil, and that takes courage and willpower that is hard to muster up when he’s in our house. I’m proud of you, and you should be proud of yourself for what you’re doing right now.
To beat depression like I did, there are a few core concepts that we need to understand:
- You are not depressed. You are you, and you are experiencing depression. The clouds are not the sky—they are temporarily moving through it and occupying space, but the sky is the sky and you are you. Depression, joy, anxiety, angst, anger, and every other experience you can name are clouds in our sky.
- Motion creates emotion; how we act and how we feel are intricately connected and inseparable from each other. What we do influences how we feel and vice versa.
- You are a miracle in the universe. You come from a species who can build rocket ships and go to the moon, create structures as tall as mountains, genetically alter DNA, and create new forms of life. Humans are so capable, there is no reason why you won’t be able to overcome this. You are strong, and you can win.
- You cannot experience opposite ends of a spectrum at the same time. A magnet can’t be positive and negative at the same time—neither can we. You can’t experience love and hate at the same time, joy and sorrow, elation and depression.
- The longer and more severely you have been depressed, the stronger and more resilient the demon is and the longer it will take to defeat him.
In the opening statement, you’ll see I refer to depression as “he,” “devil,” or “little bugger.” In the mindful method of beating depression, this is key.
So where do we begin? Well, we begin with visualization and a mindful scan of ourselves. How do we do that? We sit for a while, and we turn our mindful eye inward, we focus our attention on that darkness and heaviness we feel in our hearts and our minds. When we have the feeling in our spotlight, we give it a name and a form.
Use your imagination to take that heavy darkness and visualize it coming together into a form. If you haven’t done much visualization in your life, it may take some time, but with practice I know you’ll be able to manifest it into a form—a little demon, a black horse, a wraith. Whatever form it takes doesn’t matter; what matters is now that you have manifested it into a reality inside of yourself, you can interact with it.
Time for the tough part. We wake up, we feel exhausted, we don’t want to get out of bed. I get it, I’ve been there. How can we break free when we don’t even have the energy to approach our day?
Time to use our miraculous nature and aptitude (you have it, I believe in you). Close your eyes, bring your focus back to the darkness inside, manifest the little demon who is holding your reins in his hands at the moment, and say (or shout) out loud at him, “No! I won’t let you!” or, “Not today!”
With enough of that miraculous strength that you inherently have by simple virtue of being a human, watch as he drops the reins. Then immediately get out of bed. Don’t delay, it’s time for the next step. Remember, he is an unwelcome guest in your inner house, not the other way around. We would throw an intruder out of our outer home; this is no different. Go at him with the same passion you would a burglar.
Now, we have some control back and we are out of bed, but he’ll try to come back soon. Our next step is to make our inner atmosphere as toxic as possible for him. We don’t go into garages full of carbon monoxide, and he doesn’t enter places full of positive emotions for the same reason.
To do this, we need to crank up our dopamine (happy brain chemical) and serotonin (calm brain chemical) as quickly as we can before he returns. This is where our actions will impact our emotions. There are a ton of things you can do to accomplish this. I won’t get into all of them here in the interest of keeping the article concise, but exercising, cleaning, accomplishing a goal (however minor), eating a treat, meditation, walking in nature, singing our favorite song, or dancing are all good choices.
What matters is we immediately set about doing some activity that brings us joy. And be wary of the opposite; just as we might associate our favorite song with our favorite memory, so too might we associate lying in bed or eating ice cream with depression. It is of paramount importance that you do not partake in any actions or activities that you do when you are under the control of depression. If you are wanting to rest and lying in bed is something you do when you’re depressed, sit in a chair or nap on a couch, for example.
So now we have kicked him out and immediately set about creating a “toxic” inner atmosphere, full of positive emotions.
But he came back, so what do we do?
We do it again and again.
Every time he shows up and we throw him out and pump up the “toxicity,” he gets weaker. Weaker and weaker, until he no longer has the strength to enter our inner home, and you can enjoy some time without him in your life.
He is an addict, though, and he is persistent. He will gather his strength in the shadows, and he will come back again. But now we are ready for him, and when we see him, we will once again grab him by the collar and say, “No, I won’t let you.”