We have been talking a lot about thoughts and emotions. But an even simpler way of thinking about mental health is to think about the behaviours we do every day.
Doing things that are enjoyable, social, or give us a sense of achievement is where feelings of wellbeing come from. So instead of asking why do I feel down? Ask yourself Why would I feel good if I’m *not* doing things that feel good. This is one of the most useful and empowering ways of thinking of depression.
What do you find enjoyable
What social things do you enjoy?
What gives you a sense of enjoyment?
And how many of those things have you planned for today?
BUT, I hear you say, what if I don’t feel motivated?
Motivation is overrated. Occasionally we feel very motivated but we can't rely on it because it often isn't there. Instead start small - very small - and build habits. With habits you don't have to negotiate with yourself every day - you just do. Try out a mix of things that are enjoyable, social, or give you a sense of achievement.
Building habits is hard but you can use some tricks to get yourself started. Our favourite is commitment devices. A commitment device is a decision you take now that affects your behaviour in the future. In other words, present you tricks future you into doing something. Here are some examples:
Arrange to meet someone in the morning for a walk. Social commitment devices are great because we don’t want to let other people down.
Don’t have junk food in the house (I know that if I do I will definitely eat it)
Automatically send a portion of your paycheque to a savings account
Go out without your phone so you don’t spend all your time scrolling through Instagram and Facebook
Exercise is one of the best treatments for depression. And it prevents depression. Everyone is different, everyone has a different body type, and everyone enjoys different exercise. Find what works for you: walking the dog, commuting by bike, yoga, boxing. I believe everyone can find something they love.
For stress and anxiety try activities that slow things down. Long leisurely walks, a long bath, meditation. When we focus on breathing and relaxing we counteract the body's stress response.
Next week we will be talking more about breathing, relaxation and mindfulness.