What can I do on a regular basis to prevent myself from falling into depression?
Dear Wanting Happiness,
Here are some suggestions for you to help prevent depression.
- Be aware of negative thinking, which is common in depression. Notice or write down the thoughts that are running through your mind that you have come to believe. They are likely be negatively-tinged ideas about your self-worth, your capabilities, other people, and situations you encounter that make you feel hopeless and despairing. Know that these are distorted and essentially untrue. Remember that what you feed is what will grow. Your attention is like fertilizer in that where you place your attention determines what flourishes. If you feed negative thoughts with your attention by thinking them a lot and believing them, the result will be more negative thoughts. Allow for bountiful crops by consciously placing your attention on that which brings you happiness, joy, relaxation, ease, laughter, satisfaction, and fulfillment. Consider people in your life, your work, how you spend your leisure time, activities you engage in, the rhythm of your daily life. How can your inner and outer life feed those experiences that are more true and life-affirming?
- Allow yourself to feel good about all accomplishments you make throughout the day, no matter how small. The depressive mind easily negates our successes. Lift the veil of depressive thinking, and see that enjoyment and satisfaction are already there.
- Listen to your inner voice, that soft whisper that tells you what is true for you. It will guide you toward what you love, what brings you happiness. When we forget to listen, we tend to feel ungrounded and alienated from ourselves. Stay in touch with yourself by continually asking: What is true for me? What makes me happy? What am I being guided to do?
- Sometimes we indulge in the story of depression, so much so that it takes on a life of its own. We believe it is who we are. Freedom from depression comes from gently and tenderly knowing your inner experience. The key is to become familiar with your depression, rather than running from it or trying to fix it. Set aside some time every day to sit quietly. Take some breaths, and find the inside of your body. Use your awareness like a candle in the darkness to gently see the subtle belief systems, bodily sensations, and emotions that underlie the story of depression. Don’t accept the story as true. Rather, see in your own experience what is actually real. As the identity of depression is brought out of hiding, it is no longer assumed to be true. It loses its power when it is seen and cannot grab you with quite the same intensity. The book, “The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness” might be a support for you in this process.
- Don’t hesitate to seek out support. Many people with depression would benefit from working with a guide to help them discover the rigid beliefs that are undermining their happiness.
I once worked with someone who came to me saying he had been depressed for many years. I invited him to begin noticing his inner experience. He quickly saw that there had been a commentary of negative thoughts running through his mind, like an endless loop, that he had never before seen. Really, that’s all it took. Depression continued to show up from time to time, but never again with the same persistence.