Depression is a clinical term used to label a group of behaviors and internal experiences associated with a depressed mood. It is also a clinical diagnosis. Depression is different than being sad. Sadness is a normal part of life and, as long as you are not feeling it all the time, it is actually a healthy thing for you to feel. It is important to realize that learning how to be happy again after depression looks slightly different for everyone.
Sometimes, we battle our way through a bad bout of depression and come out on the other side, only to find ourselves still feeling sad. While this can be a frustrating and disappointing reality about life “after” depression, it is important to acknowledge that feeling sadness can be an indicator of positive progress. Depression often leaves us unable to feel anything at all, let alone sad. It may not be your first pick for your team, but sadness truly has its hidden virtues.
The truth is that “after depression” just isn’t a reality for many people. Depression is actually a lifelong challenge that we learn to live and work with, more and more effectively. So, it’s understandable that knowing how to be happy again after depression may seem far-fetched or unattainable to many. And if you’re depressed, you should not be ashamed about that experience or of asking for help. If you are in that “after-depression” space, it can take a bit to get back to regular habits.
Here are some tips to help you get back on track.
1. Give yourself time to be sad: If you are still feeling sad the most important thing you can do is give yourself space to feel that way. Be deliberate. Sit on the couch for an hour and let yourself be sad. Then, get up and get moving.
2. Start slow: Often times depression leads to inactivity which can push us out of the healthy habits that we might have at other points in our life. Don’t expect to jump straight back into all your activities. Give yourself lots of time to slowly bring things back. It is good to push yourself, but don’t push too hard.
3. Make it easy: Sometimes what was a small step for us when feeling better is a huge step after being depressed for awhile. The smaller and easier you can make your new activities, the more likely you are to succeed. Give yourself that chance.
4. Acknowledge your progress: It can be easy to be critical of your abilities and your progress, especially if you have an anxiety disorder that exacerbates this behavior. It is vital that you acknowledge each new and beneficial thing you add to your life. You just ran an emotional marathon and now you are showing up at the gym. This is no small thing.
5. Choose the lesser of two evils: Our perspective gets skewed when we are depressed. We lose sight of what is good for us. When you are recovering from depression, you might feel as though you are choosing between something that is not so good and something that is worse. Try and choose the easier or slightly better option.
6. Take a day off: Yes you want to get back on track, but if you give yourself a moment to breathe, it may help you get where you want to go faster in the end.
7. Stick with it: You did not get to where you are in one day. You won’t get to where you want to be in one day either. Keep making efforts and you will see results, even if it takes time. You’ve got this.
Mental illness isn’t something you can just will to go away, but there are treatments that can help you deal with your depression.
If you’re still feeling sad after your depression, I hope these actionable tips help you. Life is a continuous journey and it usually isn’t a smooth one, especially if you’re learning how to be happy again after depression. Whether you suffer from depression or not, the best thing you can do for yourself is build up these life skills and techniques so that you can put them into place when you’re able. My LifeWork Community program is a great way to help you build practices that will support your wellbeing. Click here to learn more.
I have to be honest about how I typically deal with my distaste for winter – I get the heck out and go somewhere warm! While I will be making some trips to warmer climates this winter, I still try to find ways to be happier and more at peace when I find myself wishing I had three jackets on instead of only one. This – and any situation that makes us uncomfortable – is a great chance to reflect on how to find happiness with what IS rather than seeking to change our situation.
Of course, when we have the power to change our circumstances for the better, I believe we should take it (i.e. hit the beach in some tropical destinations for some fun and sun). But, sometimes what we are experiencing in life is beyond our control –just like the weather. When that is the case, the only thing that we have control over is ourselves – our thoughts, emotions and actions. Here are 5 ways to cultivate happiness in your day to day life, no matter what comes your way.
1. Start Positive – The first few moments of your day make a real imprint on how the rest of it goes. Start with a moment to be quiet, an affirmation, journaling or any other way that helps you start your day centered and focused.
2. Look For It – What you focus on gets bigger. Unfortunately, we often focus on what makes us unhappy rather than the things that make our day better. Make an effort to recognize what is going well and what you do enjoy.
3. Be Clear On What Makes You Happy – This may seem like a no brainer but it is actually something that we overlook. What most brings you pleasure and happiness? Alone time or social time? A good home cooked meal or enjoying take out and a movie? Becoming conscious of the things you most enjoy means that you will choose them more often.
4. Say “Thank You” – Whether it be to yourself, your partner, your child or a co-worker. Express your gratitude for what is working as often as possible. Expressing your appreciation will immediately make you and the other person feel more positive. It also reinforces the liked behavior so that you are more likely to see more of it.
5. Slow Down – Slow down and savor the good parts of your life. Pay attention when you are eating something delicious or really listen when talking to a friend. Or take the time to notice what is around you on your daily walk or drive. The more you can be present with your 5 senses and what you are experiencing, the better.
Life is always a mix of things. No matter how bad a day seems, there is always something there that is positive as well. Using the list above will help you to collect the good out the simple, daily events of your life and can drastically increase your happiness.
What to hear more on this topic? Join Dr. Kate on her weekly radio show Real Answers, Thursdays at 12pm EST. This week she will be further discussing how to find (and stay!) happy in the day to day.