In Vancouver, during the winter, even the thickest emotional armour of the most unwavering Pollyanna can be pierced.
Symptoms of Depression – When I think of depression and how it feels to be depressed then all the antonyms for happiness come up. Therefore, I am going to conclude that to overcome depression one needs to be happy. This is easily said but how to do it is quite another matter, especially if just getting out of bed is a challenge.
It is my belief that regardless of the extent or depth of the depression small steps, sometimes tiny steps, can be taken by the afflicted and thus move out of the sticky mire.
All the tips recommended for getting happy apply to overcoming depression. So what do you have to lose? You need do nothing differently. If you are on medication, then continue taking it. If you are in therapy then continue with that as well. All I ask is that you add one, just one of the suggestions listed here. Or better still, start with one and then try to do two … None of these tips require much time. They do not require a financial investment. All they require is a small effort and all of my experiences have had positive results. I invite you to read below; go for it and be happy!
What is Happiness? The dictionary gives us a definition with synonyms, almost too many of them but in a nutshell all the words represent a good feeling and feeling good is the natural quest in life. But how to arrive there or better still how to be in that state of feeling good, more or less continuously?
We associate happiness with when … then. When I have what I want then I will be happy. What I want may be drawn from the well of careers, finances, relationships or more specifically that particular job, or income or mate … and yet those who have attained what they desire find that the resulting happiness is very short lived or eludes them completely. And then the cycle begins again. Furthermore, to quote Srikumar Rao, whatever it is that we can get we can also “un-get” making the source of our happiness very precarious.
Practices Leading to Happiness – there are many roads to happiness and some more personal than others. Nevertheless they are there for each and every one of us.
First Tip is to learn the practice of deep breathing. Fill your lungs with oxygen by slowly counting to four as you breathe in and then in a controlled manner breathe out counting at least to five or six. Initially this may be a challenge but the more that you practice it the easier it will become. Oxygen is an amazing drug and your lungs, the organ that processes the oxygen, has receptors connected to the brain that trigger different “emotions”. For example, the top third of the lung is designed to trigger flight or fright; so if you breathe in a very shallow manner then the oxygen only fills the top part of your lung. This means that the receptors will send messages to the brain telling you to get ready for a fight or to run for your life. So breathe deeply and enjoy the calming effect. It is pretty difficult to be happy if you are in flight mode, if you are not calm.
Second Tip is to move. Movement makes energy flow. We are energy and when we are not happy then the flow of energy is not vibrating at a very high level. Go for a walk, even if it means getting off the bus a couple of stops before your destination or parking the car at the furthest corner of the parking lot. Walk with enthusiasm, throwing back your shoulders and swinging your arms. Go to a yoga class. Go to an exercise class or go for a swim and smile while you are moving your body.
Third Tip is to smile. It may be difficult initially. It may feel like your face is frozen into a grimace but please try it. Put a smile on your face. Eventually your muscles will begin to relax. Make eye contact with the person that passes you and flash them a smile. You will be amazed by the response. And it will also have magical effects on you. It will fill your heart and make you glow. A smile releases endorphins and therefore, like oxygen, is a powerful drug. Smiles also dispel energy vampires, a phrase coined by Jon Gordon in his blog and it is so very true. It is not possible to be happy with a frown on the face.
Fourth Tip is music. Music is a universal language. Some very interesting studies have been done with the effect that music has on the human brain. Play the kind of music that makes you want to move and then do it. Move with wild abandon. Remember that with movement there is a rise in energy.
Fifth Tip is to spend at least ten minutes each day just sitting quietly. At first the quietly will be a challenge but do not beat yourself up, just smile and breathe in a deep controlled manner. Tell yourself that these black thoughts will move out of your head like images on a screen and with time and practice these images will be replaced by colorful joyous ones. Meditating conjures up all kinds of images of contorted positions and demanding thoughts to vanish which in itself is thinking. But if you sit quietly, especially when you have that feeling of unhappiness; close your eyes and simply focus on your breath. Count as the air goes into your lungs and also as it comes out. Do this for ten minutes, no more. At first you can set a timer and you will be amazed how quickly you relax. Relaxing is one of the easiest steps that lead to a state of happiness.
Last Tip is to invest or focus on the process, as explained by Srikumar Rao. Another way of saying this is to focus on the journey and not on the destination. Make it a practice to start each day with an inspiring message. I often find myself waking up feeling rather flat, perhaps because here in Vancouver we are in a season of much rain and little sunshine but by the time that I am finished watching Enjoy the Ride my spirits have notched up several degrees. Make use of aids such as this video or music or whatever it is that makes your heart sing and puts a smile on your face, even if you have to fake that smile!
Happiness is here for each and every one of us. Try any one of the above suggestions or try several. They do not require equipment or a financial investment or even an investment in a great deal of time. You can multi-task. Breathe deeply while you are walking down the hall at work. Smile while you are facing a wall and waiting for the elevator. Have energizing music in your car or your iPod, rather than depressing news. Meditate while sitting on the bus. Set your intention with a small investment of effort. Once these practices become a habit, a way of being for you they will become automatic. You will breathe more deeply, you will smile, you will walk with a more deliberate stride and you will suddenly come to the realization that you are not stressed. Better still you are not depressed. You are HAPPY.