As a follow on from my last blog about my experience with depression, I thought it might be helpful if I shared the toolkit that I developed to help me recover.
Can I please stress that if you are suffering from depression, then please seek professional medical advice?
Please be aware that I am not medically trained in any way to provide advice, so I make no claims that any of these will work for you, I only know that the following tools helped me.
I would highly recommend that you create a list of your own personal ‘rescue tools’. Keep them in a place that is instantly available. You may also find it helpful to keep a shortened version on your mobile phone.
Tool 7 is one I continue to use to keep me motivated in my personal self-development. These days I have one especially for Concordia’s World of course.
Please excuse my use of the f word. It’s not a word I ever use, except when dealing with depression.
Mary-Ann’s Happiness Toolkit
1. Learn to recognise the Ugly Thoughts Gremlin – get REALLY ANGRY with her, she is robbing you of a happy, fulfilling life.
Don’t become her VICTIM (the victim mindset is really dangerous, it saps all your energy). Remember her thoughts are pure evil, they are not your normal rational thoughts, they are not real and neither is she!
ANGER will become your best friend, use it against her, not against yourself. When she enters your head, tell her to f-off! You’ve better, nicer things to be getting on with. Each time you do this, you are reinforcing the ‘good’ electric pathways in your brain, which breaks the bad depressive pathways that have developed.
DO something with the anger energy too, like making a batch of pizza dough. Punch hell out of it, pretend it’s her! I take my anger out on all the housework that I normally hate doing.
2. Practice simply OBSERVING your thoughts as they arrive in your head. You have a CHOICE, you don’t have to emotionally engage with the thought. Observe the thought arriving then disappearing like watching a cloud drift though your mind. This really takes practice but the more you do it, the easier it gets. After a while I found myself automatically doing this when dog walking. It must be something to do with the rhythm of walking that feels a bit like meditation.
The other good thing about this idea is that you’ll find yourself actually looking up to watch real clouds. This immediately improves your posture, something that suffers quite badly during depression.
3. Create a play list of music that makes you feel upbeat and energetic. Add it to your phone and other sound systems so you can listen to them whenever you’re feeling low to help break the mood.
4. Likewise make a short list of memories that make you feel really good and that make you smile just by thinking about them. For example, just thinking about phoning an old friend who makes me laugh whenever we talk, is enough to put a big smile on my face. If you have a feel-good photo, make it your screen-saver and put a copy by the kettle, your mirror etc, anywhere that it will serve as a constant reminder.
5. Write a short list of daily affirmations first thing every morning. It will fill you with positive energy to start the day. I was a huge sceptic before I began doing this, but it really does work. Your brain BELIEVES what you tell it. So if you constantly allow the Ugly Thoughts Gremlin to fill your head with horrible ideas then it will believe those thoughts to be true. Writing good strong affirmations reinforces the ‘good pathways’ in your brain. Its even more powerful if you say them out loud in a good strong voice (i.e. say them like you mean them), particularly in front of the mirror. Yes I know it makes you feel slightly ridiculous, but it works.
6. Write some of your most powerful affirmations on paper/card and stick them on your mirror, fridge etc, anywhere that you look at often, to provide more constant reminders. Don’t be embarrassed about doing this. If others truly care about your wellbeing then they will respect you for using tools that help you. You may find they help your house/flat mates too. My personal favourite is ‘I treat myself with love and respect and encourage others to do the same’. A simple one my daughter uses is ‘I am gaining my degree’.
7. Make a mood board for your goals and dreams. Don’t try to do it all at once, just create something simple. I’d recommend using a pin board or an A2 size sheet of paper. Add words, pictures etc that are meaningful to you.
This is the mood board example I gave to my daughter: Goal – Finish my degree! Add a picture that’s symbolic of the STUDIO you want to own, the HOME you eventually want to own/build etc. These are the REASONS you want to achieve your degree.
Every time the Ugly Thoughts Gremlin attacks, look at this mood board, or remember it (so take a photo of it to add to your rescue prompts on your mobile).
This should also help you to make progress with your projects and assignments as the mood board tells you why you are doing them. It should provide you with some encouragement and enthusiasm.
8. Finally, once you’ve made your list then PLEASE don’t let these tools sit forgotten, as something else to get around to. They are your life-savers, so use them!
I want you to have a wonderful, joy-filled life. You deserve it! So kick that f***ing Ugly Thoughts Gremlin out of of your head!!!!