So simple and yet not so easy.
Why don’t we do more of what makes you happy and less of things that don’t? Now I know what you’re thinking, someone has got to put food on the table and pay the bills, but I am proposing that one should not be exclusive of the other. In fact, I think they may actually be dependent on each other for a truly full life.
What if we were taught as children and young adults to explore the world around us with a sense of curiosity so that we can discover the things that bring us joy, or give us energy and feeds our soul? Why not encourage kids to be creative when thinking of their futures and not just what is likely to be a secure career choice? I believe that one of the reasons that depression has been increasing at staggering rates is that we don’t know what makes us happy and we don’t make it a priority to find out.
I know when I was at the worst of my depression, I thought nothing I could do would make me happy. Not to say I never had fun or had good days, but I didn’t feel like it was something within my control. However, now that I am past that phase, I think it is worthwhile to figure out what makes us feel good so we can do those things intentionally. For example, if having a clean house feels good for you, make time to clean more, or recruit your family or hire someone to help. If feeling strong and healthy is a good feeling for you, make time to eat well and exercise. Sounds simple, but I know it is not always easy.
Most of us feel the need to be productive, useful, earning our way in the world. However, when we are coping with a mental health issue like depression, these goals can feel unattainable, or at least incredibly difficult. So we pour all our energy into survival and just trying to feel productive or useful again and that often means we have nothing left for all the things that make our lives enjoyable. But when we don’t have time or energy to do anything that feels like an extra, trying to recover from a deep depression becomes even more difficult and hence the slippery slope to hopelessness begins.
When I hear myself making excuses not to do things that I know I would make me feel good because I’m too tired, or I too many other things to do, or it probably wouldn’t be that fun anyway… These excuses are a signal for me now, a warning sign that something needs to change so I don’t find myself slipping further down the slope. Sometimes it is because I really am tired and I need to go to bed earlier. Other times it’s because I’ve let other peoples needs take priority over my own and I need to reorganize my time. Or maybe I need to see my doctor or therapist. The point is, by making time for things I enjoy, I can actually prevent myself from sliding too far down and even get myself back on level ground.
This is not to say that even if you feel like you can’t see your way out that you never will. I remember feeling like everything was impossible and I had every excuse and valid reason why, but I also knew I didn’t want to settle for a life like that. So I kept looking for solutions and one of those was to make time for things that made me feel good. It was challenging at the beginning as I didn’t think anything would, so I took baby steps and I tried new things.
Now I make time to paint, to take horseback riding lessons, to travel, to eat dinner with my family and many other things that bring me joy and give me energy. Ultimately I hope it will inspire my children to discover what makes them happy and to make sure they prioritize that because being productive is only a small part of living a full life.