If you’ve seen a doctor or therapist about your depression there has probably come a point when he or she mentions getting active — something along the lines of, “How much exercise are you getting?” If you experience depression, the very act of doing something, as opposed to sitting or lying in bed, can feel like an enormous hurdle. You may rebel against it. You may even upset others through their attempts to encourage you. But the alternative is that you prolong your own misery.
At some point, maybe for just a few moments, you may find yourself open to the idea of getting up and doing something. But what is that “something”? The idea of socialising or getting involved with group activities is likely to be off-putting.
In any case, you might be the kind of person who is self-contained and unlikely to participate in organized activities. It really doesn’t matter. What does matter is getting started on something, and fortunately some of the simplest ideas are probably right under your nose.
The brain needs stimulation. Movement activates the senses and so the simplest or most mundane of tasks can help to ease depression. As you make more progress you’ll seek more complex activities. You’ll want to spend more time on them and you’ll feel the benefits accordingly.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Here are a handful of ideas to consider.
Gardening: Not everyone enjoys gardening but most people get something from plants. There’s nothing especially taxing about tending a few plants, but the rewards can be generous. The smells, the textures, the sense of nurturing and responsibility that comes with tending a few potted plants, or a space much bigger, is well recognised. Whether you’ve let your garden lapse, or the pots by the window need a little TLC, spend a few moments tending them.
Cooking: I know you’ve been eating, but no doubt every mouthful has been pushed in and there’s been little pleasure involved. If you previously enjoyed cooking, why not try something new? Perhaps something small that represents a bit of a challenge and gets the cogs turning. It doesn’t even have to be for you. You could bake something for friends, relatives, or a neighbor . Once those aromas start wafting around the kitchen, you’ll feel your spirits start to lift.
Housework: I can hear the groans! Seriously though, clearing out a cupboard or dusting a few objects can be oddly satisfying. These tiny little steps may seem trivial, but in the long run they build up and in so doing you’ll begin to feel more in control. Vacuuming the carpet may not appeal. Organizing your music or sorting out that drawer might be easier. One step leads to another.
Hobbies: What has happened to those interests you had? If you used to golf, maybe it’s time to check the kit and clean the clubs. Did you knit, sew, read, fix the car? The things that give us pleasure are often the first to go and the last to return during depression. You don’t have to throw yourself back into your hobbies; just remind yourself of what it was about them that appealed to you, and the rest will come naturally.
Volunteering: This is a step up from those previously listed. I’ve included it because many people are their own worst enemies when it comes to health, but they’ll step up when it comes helping others. The great thing about volunteering is it gives a real sense of purpose. So many organizations cry out for help. You don’t need to be a people person, either. Animal charities, parks, libraries, galleries and the like are always looking for assistance. Check out volunteer opportunities in your own area.
Once you embark on activities to ease depression you’ll progress towards recovery. You may experience a few bad days but that’s because recovery isn’t a smooth path. Setbacks should be expected and, in fact, you don’t even need to be fully well before returning to work after depression.
See more helpful articles:
Jerry Kennard, Ph.D., is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. Jerry’s clinical background is in mental health and, most recently, higher education. He is the author of various self-help books and is co-founder of positivityguides.net.