Thought Catalog

Homework For Sad People (6 Tiny Tasks That Will Make You Happier)

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I have no idea if you are depressed or not. However, I know I have been depressed before. I have also been sad and sometimes I have just been feeling a little weird or out of it.

At times I have handled these moments of not being happy terribly. I’ve run away from people that wanted to help me, I slept through hours which would have served my to-do lists quite well and I drank and smoked away troubles that never failed to come back.

I have also had times when I have handled my sadness beautifully. Those were the times when crises ended up becoming events that I was ultimately thankful for. Some of the worst moments in my life were transformed into the real life version of an 80’s prom girl movie montage. Living became sumptuous and gratifying again.

There is no secret to clearing the fog, but I have found tried and true ways that work. I know they work, because when I don’t do them I continue to be sad, but when I do put them into practice I am happy again. Maybe they will bring you some happiness too.

Homework

While I could make this homework very general, I’m choosing to pick out just a few activities and offer you a very specific curriculum so that you don’t have to think too much about each activity. This is a regimen I’ve given myself before at a time when I felt at rock bottom. Afterwards I could only faintly remember both my sadness and what I was even sad about in the first place.

Going through an Emotional loss? Give up More Stuff.

Emotional loss can feel like getting over an addiction and countless studies have proven that love is basically a drug. One way I have found to “let go” of people, places and situations is to give up something I am physically addicted to. If you don’t have something like this, then lucky you, but the rest of us might benefit by letting go of our crutches. For instance you could give up caffeine or sugar. It’s easy to remind yourself that physical withdrawal only lasts a short while. It’s much harder to imagine that you would ever get over the pain of losing someone you love. However, as each day passes and you notice your physical withdrawal symptoms lessening and your need for caffeine (or insert choice item here) becoming weaker, you can remind yourself that your heart is healing as well and that eventually your body and emotions will go back to feeling neutral again. Commit to giving up something for one month. You probably won’t even want it again after that amount of time has passed. You also may feel happy again by then.

Simple task you can do today: Skip your morning coffee, afternoon snack or dessert (and try to do the same tomorrow).

Quit Worrying.

It will be impossible to feel happy again if you are constantly in a state of worry. Zen Buddhism speaks of the benefits of conquering worry, as do medical professionals in the West. While I am no expert on worry, Dale Carnegie is- you might remember him from “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” If you are seriously bummed out, anxious or worried; read “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. Or, if you have a hyperactive brain like I do, you can listen to the whole book on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C2pRKGRbsZQ) while you play games on your Iphone. This homework assignment will take you well over 10 hours to complete, but it might just change your life.

Simple task you can do today: Listen to part one of “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living.”

Change Your Visual Stimulation.

Update your desktop wallpaper, clear out all the pictures from your computer and iphone, update your iphone background and update your wardrobe. Pay attention to the colors that you are drawn to and roll with them. I was never a firm believer in color therapy until I gave myself the freedom to experiment with it. Changing my outfits with my moods (sometimes a few times a day), redecorating my space with visually satisfying objects and stimulating my visual sense with new imagery that inspires me has definitely helped me feel happier. It might take you out of your comfort zone, but spend one day this week pushing the refresh button on your visual world.

Simple task you can do today: Change your Iphone background or computer wallpaper.

Ignore People That Don’t Lift You Up.

Block phone numbers, delete them off of Facebook and don’t waste your precious little brain thinking about them. Who? Anyone who doesn’t lift you up despite your effort and willingness to work on boundaries and whatever relationship you have with them. Ignore them if and only if you’ve given your relationship with them your best shot- no matter if they are your boss, friend, neighbor or lover. If you aren’t surrounded by loving people that nurture you, it will be incredibly difficult for you to see through the fog. You need people that light you up and lift you up. If you don’t have them yet, focus on yourself and put yourself out there so you can build your happiness crew.

Simple task you can do today: Clear out your twitter feed.

Listen to Yogis.

I really do not subscribe to any one ideology and I certainly do not have dogma to preach, but sometimes I love to let myself get lost in a pre-established way of thinking. One thought-master that I love is Sri Swami Satchidananda, who has many videos of himself speaking on Youtube. One video to watch is his talk on having a balanced mind. The video literally starts with him describing the cause of depression. There are many other videos of his that don’t directly address depression, but are uplifting nonetheless. I recommend watching them all. When I was feeling pretty down I would listen to one of his very short videos every morning after yoga.

Simple task you can do today: Watch this video on having a balanced mind.

Push Upward Visualization.

Finally remember that if you are truly at rock bottom, which I have definitely felt before and may feel again one day, you really can only go up. A visual metaphor I like to use is that of two swimmers jumping into a 12 feet deep pool. Swimmer one jumps into the pool very casually and swims below the surface to just 11 feet deep, her feet graze the pool’s floor before she swims slowly back up to catch a gasp of air. She swims so slowly that she nearly runs out of breath.

Swimmer two dives into the pool and rushes quickly towards the very bottom of the pool. This swimmer decides to touch both of her feet against the very bottom of the pool and to use them to thrust her quickly up through the water. She gains so much momentum that not only does she reach the surface, but she also lifts out of the water much higher than swimmer number one. However, she could only do so because she had to push up against the pool’s floor. She had to touch rock bottom in order to rise up.

Which swimmer would you prefer to be? Embrace the transformative power that crises and great changes can offer you and don’t be afraid to meet resistance with strength. Strength is vital in curing your blues. TC mark

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