I was depressed and looking for the cure when someone said, “Just be Happy!” All I heard was, “you’re stupid, you suck and you’re a failure.” But in my life-long search to find the cure for depression, guided by the ‘just be happy’ saying, I stumbled upon some tools that, to this day, I find incredibly useful.
Firstly I want to pause to say, this is not the cure for depression. My article today is not the magic trick you’re searching for but the words that follow here are small things that, over the years of trying techniques and getting better at implementing them, have helped me through troublesome times. I hope they bring you the same or similar everyday joys.
It’s all in my head.
That’s a pretty bold statement but for me, it forms a rock solid base to my mental health journey. Someone probably said it to me at some stage and I no doubt took it to heart but like a good punch to the face, at some stage, it stopped me in my tracks. If it’s all in my head, I thought, doesn’t that mean I can change it? If it’s just the way I’m thinking, can’t I just think differently?
My mind, if I can separate it for a moment, is working against me most of the time. Quite often I’ll be living my life when for no apparent reason, I’ll tell myself some rubbish and I’ll spiral out of control. Diving fast into a deep depression, I’ve convinced myself I’m worthless. Why? Apparently for absolutely no reason at all. This is a crucial fact in my search for the cure for depression. One of those small details in thriller movies that when the final scenes unravel, it all makes sense. Simple things that could’ve easily changed the way things played out.
Strength-testing my thoughts. If it’s all in my head & my mind is working against me, let’s test it. Not in a “I challenge you to a pull-up contest” but let’s question everything. Where did that thought come from? Why did that thought come about? Can I combat it with a different thought? Is my opinion set in concrete or can I change that opinion? Perhaps if there’s no reason, will it all just pass with time with an equally invisible cause?
Removing negative words
Do my thoughts have any power if I remove as many negative words from my vocabulary as possible? What if I can no longer say I’m struggling? How does that affect me? Does changing the words I say to myself really have that much impact on me? Maybe instead of saying, “I’m struggling with depression,” I can choose to now say, “I’m fighting a depression battle.” For making such a small change in my daily habits, I started to see a huge difference. Well then, how can I expand on that?
What happens if I change where I’m standing, metaphorically speaking? Everything I see is from my perspective, right so, can I see things from another point of view? This isn’t easy but I think it’s incredibly helpful. I was finding myself in thought circles going round & round in a negative whirlwind. It was inwardly focussed and crushing my soul.
Creating a different point of view
Creating a character in my head and trying to experience the world through their eyes for a moment is one of the best tricks I play on myself. The character has the exact opposite perspective to me so I can begin to see – or imagine – another way to look at my world. A key point to this is not trying to compare myself to someone else or see that I am better off or not. I am not saying, “things could be worse” or, “at least I’m not that.” My task is to create another side to what it is I see. Sometimes, more often than not, I’ll take the time to create multiple characters for many different points of view.
Just being happy was starting to make a little bit more sense by this stage. Through years of daily practice, I was beginning to see how I could use this previously offensive comment to my advantage. My depressions are all in my head, a head that is working against me. F^ck that, I’m fighting back! For every negative thought I would have, I’d challenge myself to find the opposite, positive thought.
If not the exact opposite, how could I say the same thing but with a positive spin? Instead of, “That’s too hard,” I’d say to myself, “This sounds like a good challenge!” As I’m writing this I can’t help but remember my first few months in small business. Business was incredibly slow and customers would ask how it was going. I had the choice to respond with, “things are slow and I’m struggling,” or I could say, “There’s always so much to do. Right now I’m working on the behind the scenes stuff. It’s awesome.” Both comments describe my truths but one is a more positive spin, yeah?
I’m no longer searching for the cure for depression
As I said earlier, this isn’t the cure for depression. In fact, I am no longer searching to cure my depressions or anxieties. But the process of all this helps in my everyday battles. It takes work and lots of it. And to add, throughout these battles I have discovered that so much of who I am & who I want to be is a direct response to the battles I’ve fought. So I asked myself, over & over & over again, “why would I want to cure my depressions?” What if I could use my depressions & anxieties to create more, find bigger joys & to highlight where & how I could improve my world? To use my own battles & experiences to build more of what makes me just happy.
While “just being happy” isn’t the simple answer or even the best thing to say to someone, perhaps it can open the dialogue and ask, how can a positive perspective improve this?
Has any of this resonated with you or even made sense?
How can you support your friends? Can you help find the cure for depression?
Telling someone to ‘just be happy’ can do more harm than good. While it often comes from a place of support, encouragement and kindness, it typically misses the mark and sounds insensitive. The battles of the mind are more complex than a mere ‘just be happy’ comment can repair but that doesn’t mean it cannot be explored. Let’s look at other options, other ways you can support your friends going through a mind battle.
Listen. Most people want to be heard, feel secure and appreciated. This is probably at the root of why telling someone to ‘just be happy’ often falls short of actually helping. It can brush a problem aside and minimises it into a meaningless quick quote. Instead, listening to a friend speak, hearing their troubles and letting them fumble over words as they try to piece together their thoughts is going to do so much more good. Be patient with them at this point because trying to make sense during a battle is more difficult than you’d imagine.
Steer clear of offering advice or trying to ‘fix’ their depression. Please avoid saying, you just need to do this, or go work out, or “just relax.” Ok, so this post is kind of offering advice but, when you’re listening to someone’s story, it’s probably best not to offer your advice. If they ask for your thoughts, answer with kindness. You may have noticed that throughout this article, I asked a lot of questions. Questions make me think. Tending to steer clear of questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no help prompt deeper, or different thoughts.
Depression is not a failure. As much as it can seem like it, depression is certainly not failing at life so if you’re chatting with someone who is fighting the grips of a mind challenge, do your best not to make them feel like they’re not succeeding. Many people are already replaying every negative scene in their heads so why bother pointing out more things they can add to that list? Instead, help them look for the positives in each situation, like we spoke about before.
Need help finding the cure for depression
If you can’t or don’t want to call a friend, please try these organisations. There’s heaps of information available on the following websites to get a better grasp on what’s going on within the mind.
LifeLine: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 22 4636
Power, Strength & Vulnerability: This has some really good info. Check these guys out.