Why am I in the dumps? How come I feel blue? I'm depressed, not in the clinical sense, but in the everyday usage of the word; you know, I'm experiencing "the blahs." Why is this happening? After asking so many questions, it's only fitting that I provide some answers. So, I'll explain why I and others feel blue, why it's an important subject, and, finally, how to get back into the pink when we're feeling blue.
No wonder I'm feeling blue, life is a roller coaster. It has its ups and downs. Do you like to go on roller coaster rides? It can be expensive, especially when you're treating the whole family. No one likes to part with their hard earned cash. It can be a painful experience to do so. Yet, isn't it worth the price of admission? Well, guess what? Life is an amusement park and pain and suffering are the price of admission. Is it worth the price? I think so.
Besides, once we realize the challenges we face are the tools which make us better and stronger, we can suffer without suffering. That is, in our suffering we can be at peace instead of in anguish. For as Henry Ward Beecher wrote, "Affliction comes to us, not to make us sad but sober; not to make us sorry but wise." Carl Jung adds, "Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity."
Four words that we need to burn into our minds are, "This, too, will pass." Feeling depressed? Do you feel stuck in a quagmire of suffering? Just remember that it will end. After all, the nature of life is change. Nothing is constant, including your suffering. As long as you persevere, you'll arrive at the light at the end of the tunnel. Remember, also, the opposite is true. If everything is going great and you're feeling wonderful, things will change. A loved one may die; a marriage may end; a job may be lost; a stock market investment may plummet. This is not to alarm or depress you. Rather, it is to remind you that change and suffering are the admission tickets to life. So if we want the pleasure and excitement offered by life, we have to be willing to pay the price.
Well, if life is all about change and I'm in the dumps today, all I have to do is wait it through, wait until the blues pass. Right? Wrong! We can't sit around waiting because that's not living; that's lingering. People are counting on us. We have to keep our level of performance. If we accept depression, we accept inertia. We can't stop living just because we're feeling gloomy. So, we need to lift ourselves up and get back on track, and we can do that by practicing the following tips.
Overcoming the blues
a) If you're feeling down, you need to get up. Up off your butt and do something. Anything. Clean a room. Vacuum a rug. Write a letter. Watching TV doesn't count as doing something, for it's too passive. You need to be actively involved in something. It'll get your mind off the blues and make you feel better after you do a needed task. Doing something will allow you to regain your control and power.
b) If you can't think of something useful to do around the house or apartment, go outside. Don't hang around and mope. Visit the library, park, or a friend. Take a long walk and get some fresh air.
c) Analyze the situation. When did it start? Why or how did it begin? What can or should you do? Begin now by taking the first small step. Analyze your thoughts. Are they rational? Are they based on reality or on supposition? Confirm where possible. Seek alternative solutions.
d) Be grateful for the good fortune you've gained and the misfortunes you have avoided. Or, as someone else wrote, "Count your gains instead of your losses; count your joys instead of your woes; count your friends instead of your foes; count your courage instead of your fears; count your health instead of your wealth."
e) Realize you're not alone. Everyone has their ups and downs. Help others by heeding the advice of poet, R. Foreman, "Why not help those who need a lift? / If you were busy being kind, / Before you knew it, you would find / You'd soon forget to think 'twas true / That someone was unkind to you. / If you were busy being glad, / And cheering people who are sad, / Although your heart might ache a bit, / You'd soon forget to notice it."
f) Use your sense of humor and make fun of yourself and life. For example, Steven Wright once said, "I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. So I said, 'Got any shoes you're not using?'" Even sacred scripture contains humor. For instance, in The Talmud it says, "If one man says to thee, 'Thou art a donkey,' pay no heed. If two speak thus, purchase a saddle." Once, when I was feeling down, a friend said, "Cheer up, things could be worse." You know what? He was right. Things soon got worse! But that's okay, as long as you laugh about it.
g) Probably the best advice you will receive is: regularly exercise. An interesting case is reported in the files of the President's Council on Fitness and Sports (USA). An overweight, middle-aged executive considered suicide and decided to jog strenuously so he would die of a heart attack. Although he experienced chest pain, he didn't die. So, he tried again the next day. And again the following day, and again. By the end of the week, his thoughts of suicide left because he was feeling so good!
h) Study and practice the "new mood therapy" so you control your emotions instead of vice versa. A good book to read is Dr. David D. Burns' Feeling Good. And an excellent companion to the book is Dr. Burns' workbook entitled, Ten Days to Self-Esteem. Both books are available at bookstores everywhere and at most libraries.
i) Also be aware of what to avoid doing when depressed. For example, don't try to comfort yourself by bingeing on food or shopping, for after gaining the extra weight or receiving the bills in the mail, you'll wind up more depressed than before. Second, if you have a failure, don't identify with it. In other words, instead of thinking, "I'm a failure," think, "I'm a person that has experienced a setback." Get up, brush yourself off, and try again. All successful people experience failures. Third, put off important decisions until you are once again sound of mind. Don't impulsively quit your job, get divorced, or get married, for you will only add to your problems. Heal yourself first.
j) Among many other things to consider are have a pet; eat nutritional meals; get enough sleep; read the lives of those who have overcome adversity and depression; and set goals so you can travel on an exciting journey. Well, instead of giving in to "depression," I decided to do something about it, so I wrote this article. And guess what? I now feel great! I hope you do too!
© Chuck Gallozzi
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