The beauty of feeling like shit
Often, the focus of feeling bad is on how to feel better and how to suppress those negative feelings, and with good reason: depression and mood swings can lead to lack of productivity and concentration, negative world views, physical problems like stomach aches, headaches, lowered resistance to diseases, tiredness and much more. But then comes the but: with the bad also comes a great amount of good. I write this for situations like when it is that time of the month, but also for the more severe cases of being down, like depression.
Now please, bear in mind that I am not saying this will magically cure your depression (not that you would believe me if I did), but I hope it can help you to not look at it like a weakness and more like a neutral thing, or even that it has it’s perks. However, if you do have those feelings, please please please visit your local GP or a psychologist directly. Depression is not something to hold to yourself, although it might feel like the best thing to do. It can seriously be dangerous, and even if it’s not in your case, it really sucks, so why make it even harder on yourself? No need to be ashamed (as I hope to show you with this article), it’s just a disease that is in need for a cure.
This article is an ode to cherish feeling down, since it can give you a renewed view on the good things in life later on and it can learn you a lot. It will also provide you with tips on how to use your sadness for good. This works in two skills-focused ways: seeking beauty whilst being down and enjoying being happy more afterwards. Another thing is that (a tendency towards) depression can also have it’s perks on itself.
Why depression might be a force for good
There is actually a theory by various evolutionary psychologists that says depression might have originated out of a need for critical thinkers. When you look at the rise of depression in our current society, something else is rising as well: the need for problem solvers on a strategical level. We don’t need to be physically active all the time anymore to survive; in the current economy it is more important to solve problems quickly and efficiently.
An important skill in good problem solving is actually to be a little negative: with every solution you think of, you need to be able to realistically access the consequences it will have. Think for instance about the problem of the lack of housing. A solution seems obvious: just build more houses. But the negative thinker will be the person that brings up the risks of the houses collapsing because the ground is not strong enough because of all the drilling, the costs that you now can’t allocate to other causes anymore and the devastating effects on the environment. Without this negative attitude, you would have build houses that might have ruined a lot of lives. Therefore, the rise of depression might be a way of nature to adjust to the way we live now – to make the human race survive. So just realize, if you are this person, although your personal situation is terrible, you are invaluable to the rest of humanity. Aren’t you kind of proud of yourself now?
Seeking happiness when you’re down
Although it is one of the hardest things to do when you can’t see the light at the end at the tunnel, you need to motivate yourself to seek out the things that make you feel better.
In some cases, this can be easy, like giving in to the urge to binge on that bar of chocolate, but it is double as important to really focus on the eating then. Don’t just snack it away whilst watching Netflix, but really take a moment to appreciate the flavor and the way it gives your body a sugar fueled rush. By being mindful of this, you will get much more out of it, which can lift your mood, but it also stops you from worrying about other things during that moment, which can give you that little push into a little bit of relaxation (which can do wonders for your mood).
Sometimes however, it can be harder to enjoy the finer things in life when you feel like shit. Every color seems just that little bit more grey and the perspective of being around people suddenly seems daunting. These situations are the real challenge, but can be so valuable later on in life. In this state of mind, seeking beauty is something to pursue actively. I know you don’t feel like going out of your house, but you really need to. A first thing is that moving will help stimulate your body to make all kinds of ‘happy hormones’ like GABA and endorphins. Now, I am not going to ask you to exercise every day, because that will probably feel like an impossible task. Instead, just walking for half an hour per day can already stimulate these hormones, so just take the dog for a longer walk or walk to the supermarket. Of course, when you feel up to it, exercising once or twice a week is a really good idea as well, so maybe you can find a sport you like. A teamsport can really help in this, since the peer pressure can force you to go in difficult moments – in the moments that you need it even more.
An even better way to incorporate walking into you fighting strategy is to take my camera on a walk. Photography can force you to seek the extraordinary in the ordinary things. It forces you to see the beautiful smile of a person or the bright colors of the flower that is growing next to the sidewalk. Next to training yourself to seek for positive, beautiful things (which is an important skill to have!), it will also make you more active and afterwards, you can be proud of yourself for the beautiful pictures you made. This feeling of pride can also stimulate happy feelings and a sense of purpose, which is often lacking in people with depression.
Double the effects when you’re happy
But I just said I was not going to focus on resolving the depression, so why did I just do that? Because these three simple things can teach you skills that you would have otherwise never learned, which might make you see depression as a source of gained experience and knowledge, instead of a flaw or weakness.
The first thing I needed to learn was how to take a step back and depression actually forced me to do exactly that. It came with a side order of panic attacks for me, which literally could paralyze me for sometimes an hour, but also without those it forced me to stay at home sometimes, because I was to tired to even come out of my bed. This learned me that nothing bad would happen if I just stayed home for a day or two, which was actually pretty useful at later times when the feelings of stress creeped up again. Since at that point, hiding it becomes more difficult as well, it also learned me to be a bit more open about how I was feeling, which was something that is essential for recovery as well. I don’t think I would’ve already learned this if my depression never happend.
Another thing is that going to the gym when you feel like exercising is no skill, persevering when everything inside of you is holding you back is. By battling through the hard times, you can show yourself that you are much more resilient than you might think and when the bad feelings finally pass, the harder chores will seem just that much easier. And even better: the feelings didn’t just pass, you battled them and won! This can be a source of pride, since you accomplished something many people couldn’t, but also a source of hope. Unfortunately, the chances of you getting another depression increase with each time it happens again, which can seem like a daunting future, but at least now you know how to fight it and you have won now, so you can again in the future. During future times, this might give you just that little spark of hope you need to keep on fighting, not only in this struggle but in other aspects of your life as well. You will become a star at fighting through struggles and challenges, making you a desired employee to have in your company.
I also mentioned photography. A skill I learned through photography is to force myself to see the best in the world instead of the worst, which can really be a buffer against developing another episode. Photography in beautiful idyllic towns in a mediterranean country is not that hard, but chances are that you don’t live there and making beautiful pictures takes a lot of training to look for beauty in the ordinary world. This skill is also very nice to have when you are mentally healthy, since it will keep you on the right track and will help you also to seek out the best solutions to problems, since you also realistically see the negatives as well. Balance is key in problem-solving, and you already have it! This, whereas it is well-known that ‘normal’ people often have a bias towards optimism, causing them to overlook or underestimate risks. So who wants to be normal if you can be this amazing?
If you are familiar with the concept of ying-yang, you will know why depression can actually offer you the world. Ying-yang teaches us that there is no rainbow without a little rain, you can’t know the real feeling of happiness if you know her evil twin sisters: sadness, anger and despair. I can now honestly say that I wouldn’t want to live without my past with depression, since I developed a entire new realm of happiness. When I am truly happy nowadays, I am not only happy for the direct reason like a good grade or the sun on my face, but also for the realization that I need to enjoy this now, since it can all go away again. This gives me a new depth of happiness I have never felt before and although it is now a few years ago I was depressed, the happy upside sticked with me, making me extra happy, even on the more neutral days.
This also increases the enjoyment in the skills I learned: the conscious enjoyment of the adrenalin rush when exercising, the conscious enjoyment of food and the appreciation for everything around me; from beautiful architecture to the bright colors of nature. This increased awareness is multiplied by the lack of feeling like shit like back then, which makes me an extremely content person now. It even makes negative emotions feel better, since at least now I don’t feel numb anymore. I can now actually be happy about being mad, which decreases the negative feelings that naturally come with anger. This also makes me nicer to be around, since I became much better at either holding it in when it is not realistic, because hormones, or at communicating the source of my anger in a helpful way.
Obviously, depression, for lack of a better word, sucks horribly and I would not wish it upon anyone, but I do think that by also seeing the upside, it can help you in getting a new perspective. You are not weak, depression is not this huge mountain of problems only and it is not something that you should be ashamed of. You can also just see it as an inflammation: your body is telling you something is wrong by giving you this ‘uncomfortable’ feeling, so now you now you have to find a way to fix it. The next step is then to find out what is wrong (is it physically or psychologically or is it something in the environment?) in order to fix it. And as your body will produce antibodies to fight inflammation, it also gives you the option to use the skills mentioned above to fight the issue and depression.
If you are experiencing (or know someone who is experiencing) similar feeling, I would again really urge you to find a doctor or a psychologist, because there is no need to fight this alone (you wouldn’t only send one soldier to fight a war, right?). I hope you will find your way out of it!
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Thank you for reading and much love!
Lots of love,
LisaHome » All posts »