Keep Depression at Bay: 8 Ways to Cheer Yourself Up

Sad moments can creep up on you when you least expect it. You were feeling ecstatic a moment ago but now you are not in the mood to celebrate. We all experience this feeling.

Sometimes we just get overwhelmed when the pressures of life weigh us down. You wake up and you don’t feel like doing anything. Making breakfast is a chore and you are looking forward to the moment you will sit down and just be. You can’t seem to shake the feeling so you allow yourself to wallow in sadness. All attempts from people to raise your spirits are met with anger and irritation. “Why won’t everyone just mind their own business”, you say.

There are many articles online saying that you should not try to get out of your slump; rather, embrace the slump as a reality and it will go away. While this course of action might sound deep, there is also a risk that your mini mood slump can quickly evolve into depression. Now you have a big problem!

Perhaps a few of these methods below can assist you to get back the joy in your life:

Happy woman with headphones

  1. Listen to Music… and Sing

There is probably a song for everything. Think up any topic and a musician has probably sung about it. When you are sad, you’ll naturally gravitate toward sad songs. It seems that this guy or that girl gets you. That musician understands exactly how you are feeling. Perhaps it would be best to listen to uplifting music. Singing will make your mind active and responsive to mood changes. If you really let the music sink in, you might even start dancing. It’s a form of exercise and we’ve already seen how exercise can be great for your body.

  1. Get perspective

As Dan Gilbert says in his ‘Surprising Science of Happiness’ Ted Talks speech, human beings tend to overestimate the pain or pleasure they will experience. Thus, it is important to get some perspective as to why you are feeling sad. Try to get an objective view of the situation you are in rather than a subjective one. By doing this, you remove the emotions that cloud your judgement as to what really happened to you to make you feel sad.

For example, sometimes people can hurt us unintentionally. Letting that pain fester in your mind can keep you from focussing on the fact that the person who hurt you loves you deeply and they would never do anything intentionally to bring pain to your life.

You have to find out exactly what it is that is making you feel down. Normally, when people are sad, they tend to make blanket statements that their whole life sucks. In truth, before getting into a negative mindset, these people were thinking their lives were amazing. What changed? Focus on what’s wrong and fix it.

  1. Exercise

Working out brings more benefits to your life beyond the physical. As you know, exercising makes the body release endorphins, which are neurotransmitters from the brain that make you feel good. If you want to feel good, exercise.

  1. Share your problem with someone you trust

A problem shared is a problem half-solved. Confidants can help you make sense of issues and find solutions for them. You have to surround yourself with people who will give you sound counsel. This will get you on your way to resolving your problems and being happy again.

Trusted friends can also give you the support you need if you require a shoulder to cry on. Another interesting thing is that if you manage to get a couple of hugs, your mood instantly changes. Try it.

  1. Find a source of laughter

You’ve heard this before, but laughter is the best medicine. To get out of your bad mood, you need to find someone who can make you laugh or watch a comedy show. Laughing makes you feel alive and grateful for your life. It will make you feel happy

  1. Remember that you are what you eat

There are a couple of foods and snacks that should be included in your diet, which act as mood boosters. Top on the list is fish, which gives omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 raises the levels of a brain chemical called serotonin, which boosts our mood. Another booster is chocolate. Chocolate not only tastes good, but also acts as an anti-oxidant and as a serotonin stimulator. You need to eat the chocolate in moderation though, as eating a lot of it will leave you feeling queasy and ruin your mood even further.

  1. Volunteer to help other people

It is said that, “If you think you have problems, just visit the hospital and see for yourself what other people are going through”. This is just a way of bringing perspective to your problems. Volunteering has a two-fold effect of not only helping other people, but also giving you a sense of gratitude and joy. There are so many people going through a lot of issues that sometimes you just need to ask them whether they are okay. We all need each other. We can lift each other’s spirit by simply being kind, caring and generous.

  1. Get some fresh air by going for a walk

Going outside can do wonders for you. It has been theorized that staying indoors causes anxiety and depression because the body is not getting enough Vitamin D from the sun nor taking in fresh air into the lungs. Walking is a form of exercise as well and it allows you to clear your mind as you analyze everything that is making you feel sad. Being outside is soothing and it rejuvenates your spirit as you take in deep breaths.

sunny day

Take Action

All these methods have one thing in common; they all involve taking action. People focus too much on their feelings and talk about not “feeling like doing anything”. In truth, feelings follow actions and not the other way around. Notice how when you don’t feel like doing something but you do it anyway, you stop ‘feeling’ like it was a bad thing. It’s all about taking action.

Wherever you are right now, you can choose to be happy. Life will throw all kinds of problems your way. In times like these, you will need to summon your willpower and take action to be happy again. Realize that happiness is a state of being and embody happiness.

You can choose to be happy right now. Don’t wait for the sadness to overwhelm you.

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Seasons of Happiness, Seasons of Suffering

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We all want to be happy. There’s no doubt about it. Just eavesdrop on any conversation (it’s not nice but I just want to prove my point 🙂 ) and you’ll hear people talking about that car that so and so bought; that trophy wife that your new neighbour has; or that recent promotion that came with numerous bonuses and benefits.

And there’s that clamour for people to want to match what their friends or rivals have achieved (in truth, it’s more about exceeding their successes). He bought a new Mercedes; I’ll buy a new BMW. She gets her hair done every week; I’ll be going to the salon every 3 days. People just want to keep up with the Joneses. 

People want to be successful because they equate success with happiness. You can even argue that people who steal are not really greedy and selfish, just that they want to be happy. Stealing is VERY WRONG but people will take extraordinary steps to ensure their happiness. No evil is evil enough and no deed is unethical or immoral if it will help them reach their goal. You read stories that corruption is rampant in Europe. When you dig deeper you discover that people who engage in corruption have one goal in mind: To be happy. They may be trying to live a life that is beyond their means but they believe having money will make them happy. You see it happening all the time even amongst your friends or loved ones. Someone will do something that will make you wonder whether they are the same person you knew. Where is the integrity, sense of responsibility, fidelity to the law, accountability to the community? We all want to be happy and how people achieve their happiness will differ widely.

But then, life doesn’t work the way we want it to. Things fall apart unexpectedly. One day you feel like a king/queen, and the next, you are nothing but a pauper. One day you feel like you are full of life, even your friends tell you that you have a youthful look about you, and the next thing, your doctor is saying you are actually very ill and have a few weeks to live. You’ve heard the statement, “The rich also cry”. Apparently no one can escape the vicissitude of life.

The truth is we will all go through seasons of happiness and seasons of suffering at some points in our lives. A lady from season 5 episode 8 of the series Royal Pains, put it aptly as she spoke to one of the main characters, Divya Katdare (played by Reshma Shetty). She said: “Life…ebbs and flows, like the perennials in my garden. Sometimes they’re in bloom, sometimes they’re not. But they’re always alive. Things change…unexpected things happen.”

source: usa network series image

source: usa network series image

But the real message that has been popping up recently is this: happiness is not something to pursue, it is a state of being. You can actually CHOOSE to be happy. It doesn’t have to be that something is making you happy. You find that place inside of you where you are grateful for your existence. You discover that you can change your mood instantly by just changing your attitude and thoughts.

Unfortunately, this ‘choice’ does not apply to all people. There are those with mental health issues that are silently suffering in our midst. While depressed people can find a way out of their state of perpetual suffering to a point of happiness, the same cannot be said of those who are mentally ill. That is a problem they will face personally and with people who love them. There will be moments of happiness, and there will be greater struggles that will cause a lot of suffering. It is the nature of our world.

I do believe we can give of ourselves to others. There is a Tibetan proverb I once encountered that said, “As I helped him up the mountain, lo, I found myself at the top”. I think we can all enhance our chances of being happy by helping the collective get to a point where they are happy to be alive.

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I heard another man say, “Our greatest wealth is our health”. I know many people will agree with this. If we could all be healthy, I think it would be a great step toward being happy. Mental health issues affect not only those suffering from it, but their families and friends. You feel helpless. What can you do to alleviate their pain? Why does life make us suffer?

There will be seasons of happiness and seasons of suffering. The human spirit is resilient. Every time I recite the words of Invictus, I know I have faced and will face any challenge head on. Not everyone is like this. Even as we marked World Suicide Day, there were many people we had lost. People we cared about took their own lives. Random people across the globe committed suicide. Everybody is suffering; some just know how to reach their point of happiness, while others are beset by mental health weaknesses that overwhelm them.

There is a quote from Wendy Maas that says, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about”. Try to make other people happy. Happiness is contagious. You always seek out those people who make you laugh. Those people who are the life of the party always draw crowds to themselves. It’s all about being happy. But it is more important that your happiness comes from within you. If you view the world from a point of happiness, from a point of gratitude, you will gain strength even in times of suffering.

Be strong. It is part of everyone’s journey.

Be available. It is part of your calling to help others.

I don’t know where you are or what you are going through. But I want you to be happy. I hope that your seasons of happiness stay in bloom longer than your seasons of suffering.

Dying to Live

I know this is something that can resonate with many people. It is a song by Edgar Winter but the words seem to transcend time. It talks about the contrasts between the struggle to live and the struggle with death. I feel it captures some of the thoughts that people have when they are depressed. Why fight to live when it is easier to die? That is the question. The answer can only be found within yourself. There is something inside you that wants you to succeed. Something that wants you to live.

Here are the lyrics.

You know I’ve heard it said there’s beauty in distortion
By some people who’ve withdrawn to find their heads
Now they say that there is humor in misfortune
You know I wonder if they’ll laugh when I am dead

Why am I fighting to live if I ‘m just living to fight?
Why am I trying to see when there ain’t nothing in sight?
Why am I trying to give when no one gives me a try?
Why am I dying to live if I’m just living to die?

Hey, you know some people say that values are subjective,
But they’re just speaking words that someone else has said.
And so they live and fight and kill with no objective
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the living from the dead

Why am I fighting to live if I ‘m just living to fight?
Why am I trying to see when there ain’t nothing in sight?
Why am I trying to give when no one gives me a try?
Why am I dying to live if I’m just living to die?

Yeah, you know I used to weave my words into confusion
And so I hope you’ll understand me when I ‘m through
You know I used to live my life as an illusion,
But reality will make my dreams come true

So I’ll keep fighting to live till there’s no reason to fight
And I’ll keep trying to see until the end is in sight
You know I’m trying to give so someone give me a try
You know I’m dying to live until I’m ready
’til I’m ready
’til I’m ready
’til I’m ready to die

Suicide via Skype. That’s not the Shocking Part!

In life, you will never know the depths people are able to sink to. It truly beggars belief the kind of vile things human beings do to each other. Then I saw this story of a 26-year old man from Russia called Sergey Kirilov, who announced that he was planning on killing himself. As if that wasn’t shocking enough, he told people to link to his Skype account and watch him go through with it.

photo: DailyMail

photo: DailyMail

Now, at this point, you already have some expectations in your mind. Someone will step up and ask him whether he is okay, and another will offer an ear to listen to whatever problem this young man has and do their best to help him solve it. Perhaps, someone will be concerned enough to call the police and express their concerns that this young man doesn’t sound like he is joking no matter how casually he announced his impending suicide. It’s no secret that people are considering suicide for a variety of reasons. It could be stress, depression, or chronic mental health issues. The list is long. The opportunity was there for someone to make a telling contribution on another man’s life by saving him. No one did (one tried).

Admittedly, there is the social psychological issue called the Bystander Effect. It is a concept proposed by John Darley and Bibb Latané, and it states that people are less likely to assist you when they expect/assume someone else in the vicinity will volunteer to assist you. Yet, in the case of Sergey Kirilov’s suicide, that concept couldn’t be further from the truth.

In a vile, revolting, apathetic manner, the ‘people’ who had linked to Kirilov’s Skype account cheered him on as he took his life. I read that part and I was heartbroken. I took a long pause. I could not believe what I had read. But it is there, as clear as day. People celebrated the suicide. In some excerpts from the article, it says there were “dozens of spectators” and one of them said, “Come on, are you ready yet? Go on – do it” while another added that, “If a man says he’s going to do something, he needs to do it”. We exist with people like this in our world. I honestly don’t want to believe it. It is a great shame.

A spokesman (the article doesn’t mention who he speaks on behalf of, but I’m assuming it’s the Police or State Prosecution) called Leonti Zubarev, said that the people who encouraged the suicide could be charged with “negligent homicide”. The definition is explained here. I’m not sure that is enough. Those spectators broke the moral and ethical code of humanity. What is the punishment for their evil? Would you trust these people to be in your life?

In all this commotion and investigations, one thing stood out for me. Nobody asked what the young man’s reasons were for committing suicide. No one queried the mental health of a person who not only boldly announced his death, but also followed through with it in the presence of an eager audience. I have not seen any other articles following up on this story. Perhaps I haven’t looked well enough. There have been no further statements concerning this suicide. Perhaps it’s my fault I have not seen them. What’s striking for me then, is that this is a non-story! Not many people care. What’s done is done.

This is our truth, this is our reality. There are those who claim that this suicide was only possible because of the advancements of the internet. I DO NOT agree at all. Yes, let’s blame the internet for the actions of human beings. While it played its role in facilitating the viewing of such vile actions, no one should excuse the actors in this shocking story. This issue can only lead to calls for invasion of privacy through monitoring our actions on the internet. But that’s a different issue.

So what are we to do then? I guess we can just try to change how people view issues dealing with mental health and suicide. As for those spectators, I’m truly saddened by their actions. No man should ever wish ill on another.

Let’s help each other and heal our world.

Is Depression Caused by a Chemical Imbalance?

The human body is amazing. Ask your doctor when he’s not focussing on your symptoms; a surgeon; or any health professional and they will tell you the same thing, “The human body is amazing”. Despite having all these great scientific minds and undertaking research running into billions of dollars, some biological factors of the human body remain an enigma.

Did you know that your eyes can alert you when your body is extremely cold? Did you know that (a mind boggling) 300 million red blood cells die every minute in your body? Did you know that your heart produces enough energy in one hour to lift a ton of steel? I also read in an article on Yahoo (can’t seem to find the link now, sorry) that all the computers in the world would have to be assembled to process the information released every second by your brain. Pretty impressive stuff!

But wait a minute. Could this overly impressive human body be at fault for causing one of the most dangerous mental health problems of our time? Is depression caused by a chemical imbalance? There are various factors at play here:

Role of the Media

Nowadays, people seem to look to the media to provide them with knowledge as opposed to looking to the media for information on current affairs. The role of the media is to set the agenda for the public to discuss. Unfortunately, many people see the news and take the information provided ‘as is’ without questioning its veracity or the intention behind it. It is this situation that has led to the belief that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance.

Role of Advertisers

When pharmaceutical companies analyse data, they look at the data with the intention of converting whatever medicinal drugs they have produced for a type of illness into a best-selling product. It is then the duty of the advertising companies to play on people’s fears and emotions to convince them that a certain drug will help them. The result is an attempted manipulation into believing that depression is caused by a chemical imbalance.

The Reality

depressed man

The truth isn’t really that simple. Depression is a complex mental health issue. The thing I hate about this kind of misinformation is that it deprives so many people of the courage to stand up to depression. After all, how can you fight against your own body? You fail to take responsibility and start wondering whether there is a drug that will ‘fix’ you.

Depression is caused by a lot of factors: our family’s mental health history; genetic vulnerability; the type of thoughts we have; how we relate to our environment; some types of medication; and our reactions to various chronic stresses in our lives.

Brain imaging scans have shown that depressed people’s hippocampus is smaller by about 10 per cent. The stresses in our lives prevent neurons from being produced in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is part of the limbic system, which includes the amygdala and the thalamus. It is this system which is responsible for emotions, behaviour and mood regulation. Depressed people have a high concentration of stress hormones such as cortisol and noradrenaline.

This is where drug companies come in. Here, take some anti-depressant. The medication boosts development of neurons and improves the nerve cell connectivity. However, these drugs also have a variety of side-effects such as: nausea, stomach-aches, heart arrhythmias, hallucinations and loss of coordination.

Is this really worth it? This is the same issue that led actor Rob Schneider to say that the late Robin Williams committed suicide because the medication given to him was known to cause suicidal thoughts.

What about Psychotherapy?

Psychotherapy has been heralded as having positive results in dealing with depression. Psychotherapists believe that depression is a learned behaviour. It is based on the behavioural theory of depression that says that a lack of positive reinforcement or meaningful, valued and rewarding activities leads to feelings of depression. These feelings are then multiplied when a person reacts dysfunctionally and exhibits avoidant behaviour, which, in turn, reinforce the symptoms of depression. Therefore, cognitive behavioural therapists try to help people ‘unlearn’ these negative trains of thought that lead to depression.

According to Robert C. Malenka, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine and a Brain & Behaviour Research Foundation Scientific Council Member, “This idea of chemical imbalance has been useful…but in truth, the… idea is no longer adequate.” He suggests trying newer ideas to try to solve problems relating to the brain. Please read the entire post here.

So what have we learnt so far?

The brain is a complex structure and depression is a complex issue. One moment you think you have found the solution, and the next, you realize the solution is not that simple. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution. We all have different life experiences. Therefore, everyone suffering from depression goes through their own personal hell. The solution to these issues cannot be applied across the board.

Is depression caused by a chemical imbalance?

From the information I’ve gathered, I believe the message is that our behaviour and reaction to acute stress is responsible for causing chemical changes in our brains, thus, leading to depression. Perhaps, you have taken a different view. Let me know what you think.

Conclusion

There are many people suffering from depression in our world today. As I’ve said before, the stresses of life can weigh on people in unimaginable ways. How you react to an issue is not the same way someone else will react to it. Just because a problem seems easy to you does not mean that your friend, brother, mother, sister, father, cousin or neighbour will respond the same way. It can be overwhelming at times. Some people, even strong men, break down and cry. That’s what life does to you sometimes.

In the point of despair or an inability to react positively to negative situations, depression takes hold and turns our world upside down. It is a great battle. A formidable foe. There are some of you who know someone who is depressed. One of you, perhaps, suspects that someone they know is depressed. As always, I urge you to reach out and stand with that person. Listen to them and try to get them some help.

If there is anything you have learnt from this post, I hope it is this: Get informed on the real facts about depression and mental health. There are people who have selfish motives and they are relying on you to not know the truth. It’s only money that is important to them. But we know better. What value can you place on a life? How much money can replace the pain of losing a loved one or a friend to depression?

Get informed and spread the word!

Interesting Quotes on Mental Health

As one of you pointed out recently when I posted the quotes on life and suicide, I did not mention mental health and highlight its importance. Many people are suffering silently in our world. The major stresses such as work, relationships, and access to basic needs, have pushed many into depression. But there is a more sinister threat, though, one that is rarely mentioned when people turn to suicide to alleviate their suffering: Mental health.

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Here are some quotes on mental health:

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.

World Health Organization

Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all.”

Bill Clinton

The problem with the stigma around mental health is really about the stories that we tell ourselves as a society. What is normal? That’s just a story that we tell ourselves.

Matthew Quick

Mental health needs a great deal of attention. It’s the final taboo and it needs to be faced and dealt with.

Adam Ant

Self-esteem is as important to our well-being as legs are to a table. It is essential for physical and mental health and for happiness.

Louise Hart

If you look at suicides, most of them are connected to depression. And the mental health system just fails them. It’s so sad. We know what to do. We just don’t do it.

Rosalynn Carter

We take our kids for physical vaccinations, dental exams, eye checkups. When do we think to take our – our son or daughter for a mental health check-up?

Gordon Smith

Mental health is often missing from public health debates even though it’s critical to wellbeing.

Diane Abbott

I was one of those people who put too much emphasis on work and career and material possessions, and it took its toll on all my relationships, on my physical health, my emotional and mental health.

Tony Shalhoub

There are so many clichés associated with mental health – such as the ‘fine line between lunacy and genius’ – which are, on the whole, a load of rubbish.

Jo Brand

“About a third of my cases are suffering from no clinically definable neurosis, but from the senselessness and emptiness of their lives. This can be defined as the general neurosis of our times.”
C.G. Jung

Here is an unlikely one from Shakespeare’s book:

“Macbeth: How does your patient, doctor?

Doctor: Not so sick, my lord, as she is troubled with thick-coming fancies that keep her from rest.
Macbeth: Cure her of that! Canst thou not minister to a mind diseased, pluck from the memory a rooted sorrow, raze out the written troubles of the brain, and with some sweet oblivious antidote cleanse the stuffed bosom of that perilous stuff which weighs upon her heart.
Doctor: Therein the patient must minister to himself.”
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

“What does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but it empties today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil; it makes you unfit to cope with it if it comes.”

Raymond Cramer

I have long recognized a link between fitness and mental health and I think we need to encourage young people to take part in sports and team activities because we know it has such positive results.

Tipper Gore

The last two quotes give a call to action and highlight what role we can play (very important):

“It’s up to you today to start making healthy choices. Not choices that are just healthy for your body, but healthy for your mind.”

Steve Maraboli

I’m convinced that we can shape a different future for this country as it relates to mental health and as it relates to suicide.

David Satcher

Feel free to add any quote on mental health that has touched you in some way. And please don’t shy away from asking someone close to you whether they are okay and if there is anything you can do to help. Sometimes people feel like nobody cares and they have no one to share their problems with. Be that person. A few minutes may help someone get the help they need. It may be a word of encouragement that changes their lives for the better. Or they may really need to go to the hospital to see a specialist. Trust me, getting all the money in the world will not feel as rewarding as saving someone’s life.

You are all welcome to comment on and share this post.

Sources

https://www.brainyquote.com

https://www.goodreads.com

http://www.quotegarden.com/

http://www.searchquotes.com/

http://www.changingthepresent.org/mental_health/quotes