world health organization

The big black dog (OR things that really help)

Another video for you today – I hadn’t intended on two videos in a row but well, I really liked this one I saw the other day.  It reminded me of the things I know (and often do, when I remember) that really help my depression.  I suspect that you also know the things that help you, even if its only deep down in the back of your brain, but I hope that this encourages you to bring them back to the front and perhaps put them in place when you’re feeling the “black dog” get bigger again.

I was lying in bed thinking about this and well, I guess I should preface all this by saying that while I am anti happy pills, I am not trying to discourage anyone from taking the steps that help them. I just prefer to manage and have been using a natural approach for many many years.  If it’s all new to you then take your time to figure out what helps you best.

So, some of the things that help me:

1. SLEEP!!!  Tiredness makes everything worse.  ALWAYS.  I’m a former insomniac but I’ve stopped resisting sleep and now embrace it in a big way (having little kids definitely helps you appreciate any sleep you can get!). I could go on (there’s probably a whole blog post worth of sleep tips I could share) but simply put – aim to get enough QUALITY sleep every night. Enough depends on you but listen to your body and just do it (for me, if it’s a quality sleep then I’m good with around 6 hours but if it’s a restless night then 8 or more is what I need!)

2. EXERCISE!!! Ugh. I hate the word. BUT some form of physical activity will help…even if you just go outside for a walk for a few minutes (preferaby in the sunlight – more on this later).   WHY?  Nature’s own happy pills, that’s why, in the form of a seratonin (and other good stuff – very technical I am) boost. Actually, if you’re having trouble sleeping, exercise usually helps with that – at least I know that it helps me sleep better! 10 0r 15 minutes is usually enough.  I’m sure you could squeeze that into your daily routine – just make it a priority for feeling good. (Before you say anything, I know that this is HARD.  Who wants to exercise when depressed, right? I know all about that – I’m just at a point at my life now where I schedule it in and also have the ability to listen to my body.  It, in no uncertain terms, tells me that I’ve been neglecting myself and I go do the things I know I MUST to make it better.  Mind over depression, as it were.)

3. Get some SUNLIGHT – I know, it’s hard, especially in the winter months (hence my recent daylight lamp purchase) but sunlight also boosts your seratonin.  No excuses here, get yourself some form of sunlight, stat. (Besides which, our bodies need it to produce Vitamin D – necessary for many things but it also boosts your immune system so if you get sick often then sunlight is the key.  Or eating more fish for Vitamin D – I’ve been observing those Scandinavians and they know all about this stuff but I digress.)

4. Remembering the good stuff.  Things that really make you smile.  If this is hard, take a moment to sit down and write some of these down.  Dig deep and look for them.  Truly happy events.  I’m lucky – I have some pretty BIG ones in the form of the birth of my two kids…just writing this takes me back there and the joy is indescribable.  My wedding day is also pretty high up there and I’ve been lucky to have had two wonderful loves of my life BUT if I go further back before these things happened there are still happy memories.  Like the day I got my dog for my 12th birthday…he was so tiny he fit on the palm of my hand…it was such a beautiful moment.  Go back to your childhood if you have to, before all of “this” started (I don’t know about you but I was always very happy until puberty hit) and find some happy memories to pull up when you need them.

5. Massage.  Or anything else that pampers you.  I like getting a massage.  For some reason it makes me happy.  Literally. Go get one. you deserve it after all that exercise!!!

6. Eat right.  Another blog post I think about the effects of food on my mood.  But simply put, step away from the sugar (including those white carbs) & stimulants to “help” you.  They don’t.  It’s a viscious circle.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my morning coffee and never say no to chocolate but it’s about moderation rather than extremism.  Too much of anything can be a bad thing.  So, be aware of what you’re putting in your mouth. Keep a food/mood diary for a while where you log what you eat and how you feel – the results just might surprise you!  (Like, I have observed that I am a b*tch when I have my post sugar dip – truly awful…”keep away people” type of nasty!  Eek.)

7. A meditative practice.  No, I don’t mean that you need to ohm your way to happiness or anything, what I really mean is stopping to look inward and listen to what your body is telling you. This has helped me recognise early when my depression starts to take hold (it happens in waves for me and comes and goes) so I can put in place all the things that I know help minimise it.  It has also helped me separate my depression from me.  I am not depressed, I just have a chemical imbalance that makes me feel depressed. I have chosen yoga because I like it, it helps me center my thoughts and it’s exercise and kind of a form of massage (I like to be efficient and it ticks a few boxes!), but this really could be anything…art, baking etc … find something you can focus on that centers you.

8. Last, but definitely not least, cuddles.  Yes, that’s right, cuddles.  I’m blessed to have to little cuddlers at my disposal on a daily basis.  Even if they don’t hug me, I generally steal  a few cuddles every day.  I have become quite a hugger and every friend I meet gets one on meeting and one on departure.  Do not underestimate the benefit of a hug. Physical contact helps. I also used to find that patting my dog helped me feel better – perhaps cuddling your pet might also help, now that I think about it.  But, try to get a hug or two into your day. I think it’s OK to say “I’m feeling a bit down today, may I have a hug?”.  The thing is, most people secretly love hugs and are likely to give you one (I’m not suggesting that you ask strangers or anything – let’s just start with folk you know first!) – for some reason we’ve just all got a bit weird about it. And when you hug them, close your eyes and really experience it.

I know you’re probably laughing right now but hey, that’s also a good thing, right?!

Well, I think I have waffled on enough this morning.

Are there any things that you do to help lift your mood and make the big black dog smaller?

With love,