After living with depression or anxiety for an extended period of time, it’s hard to remember what it feels like to be happy and full of energy. What in your life is guaranteed to make you happy? If you’re struggling right now with your mental health, that is a tough question to answer. When you are having a good day, try this exercise: write an encouraging letter to yourself. Make note of the things that make everyday life a joy. Refer back to the letter when you need a pick me up, or bookmark this webpage for easy reference. Knowing what brings you joy when you’re mentally healthy won’t help you will yourself out of a deep depression; the chemical imbalance in your brain that causes the depressed state won’t respond to wishful thinking. However, although happiness doesn’t come easily, you can still make an effort to recognize the positive things around you in everyday life. Over time, you can cultivate a healthy habit of positive thinking that gives you hope even when you are feeling low.
- Being around friends, family and co-workers. Sure, there’s always going to be one or two people who irk you at the office, but for the most part, when you’re mentally healthy you should find joy in being around the people you see on a daily basis.Be sure that the people who surround you in everyday life are not “toxic” to your health. In other words, you may need to spend less time around people who make you feel bad about yourself, are manipulative or are verbally, emotionally or physically abusive. Creating a truly supportive environment for yourself will help you turn to others for help when you need it. Without social supports, you may tend to isolate yourself or withdraw socially, which won’t help you recover any faster.
- Helping others to feel happy. When you’re in a good state of mind, you want to share your happiness. You can recognize when a loved one is feeling gloomy, and you feel capable of lending your support. You are also happy to volunteer your time or donate items you don’t use.Even when you don’t feel happy, sometimes it is much easier to give another person a pep talk. Try to listen to your own words and take your own advice.
- Laughing and smiling. Do you like to sing songs in the shower or on your way to work? Do you do a little dance around the kitchen when you’re putting together your favorite snack? Sometimes joy just radiates out of us because we feel so You’ll find yourself genuinely smiling, laughing and joking. You might even crack yourself up when there is no one else around!Laughter is contagious, and it helps to surround yourself with friends who are in a good mood even if you are feeling down yourself. Laughing helps to release endorphins, the chemicals responsible for good feelings. Make a habit of watching comedies to get yourself chuckling on a regular basis.
- Accepting other people’s differences. In a healthy state of mind, other people’s differences don’t seem threatening. It doesn’t cross your mind to criticize someone for their appearance or choices. In fact, you might consciously celebrate the differences that make each of us unique or pay a compliment to a stranger.When suffering from depression, it’s easy to be very hard on yourself. Sometimes this translates to being hard on other people, too. If you find yourself thinking critically of someone for a rather petty reason, stop and think of a compliment too.
- Being active and busy. Mentally healthy people have plenty of energy for taking on life’s daily tasks. From getting ready in the morning to conquering a problem at work to loading up the dishwasher at night, nothing seems insurmountable. In fact, there is a fantastic sense of accomplishment that goes along with a productive day.On the other hand, when we are mentally fatigued, rolling out of bed in the morning takes considerable effort, work tasks may seem overwhelming, and we are grateful to simply just get back home and rest. This is a draining, unfulfilling way to live life, and is just one of many excellent reasons seek help for your mental health concerns.
Try to start each day by reminding yourself that you are a good person who is loved. Review things that you are proud of or that you are particularly happy about; these could be personal achievements or personal characteristics, such as a propensity for kindness. Then think about something you are looking forward to that day. Are there cookies in your pantry? Will you get a chance to talk to your favorite co-worker over lunch? Are you jazzed about watching a movie later? When you are lacking motivation to even get out of bed, sometimes knowing that the day has good things in store is enough to get you going. Our memory sometimes fails us when we need it most. If you are trying to think of positive things and are coming up empty, that’s a sign that you need to write things down. Some people like to create word collages on their walls, ceilings or mirrors. Others like to keep a notebook filled with happy memories and thoughts. Others send themselves voicemails or postcards. Do whatever you need to do to remind yourself of the joy present in everyday life, and soon it will be committed to your long-term memory, and keeping a positive train of thought will become a habit. This won’t prevent you from experiencing depression, anxiety or other mental health problems, but it will make them easier to bear. By Cathy Habas