How you recover from depression depends largely on whether you can redirect your thinking, a process more curative than any drug. To harness your thoughts and deploy them in a way that combats negativity, try the following off-brand strategies:
1. Find that spot at home or in the office you’ve never been to before and stand there.
We typically follow the same patterns at work and around the house, tracing our footsteps repeatedly. Disrupt the monotony and find that dreary space you once thought uninhabitable. Stand in the basement, the stairwell, the cluttered storeroom you forgot existed. It is here that you will be less prone to distraction and come to understand new things about yourself. For instance, that you’re unique—unique for having ventured forth into areas unknown—and that this makes you stronger than most.
2. Read an article about some unexplained phenomena in astrophysics.
The universe is larger than you are, more consequential, and exposing yourself to this truth helps alleviate some of the pressure suffered under everyday circumstances. Read an article on one of the following unassailable topics—multiverse theory, dark matter, the fourth dimension—and allow your worries to fade at the prospect of a much larger, meaningful truth. What are you worries compared to that of the universe? Release your guilt knowing that the results of your negative actions matter little in the long run.
3. Stay up for a full 24 hours.
Rare is it for us to expose ourselves—our bodies and our minds—to a full 24-hour rotation around the sun, and doing so consciously can be exhilarating. Force yourself to stay conscious for the long haul and see how the symmetry found in a 24-hour lifecycle can be absolutely awe-inspiring. Have fun during what oddly feels like a purposeful journey and save reflections for the day-after. Feel renewed for your appreciation of art and nature, and for the world which you’ve been gifted!
4. Get in your car and drive north.
Traveling north orients us in mysterious ways—perhaps drawing resonance from the Earth’s magnetic field or the impact of cooler climates—and as such you should consider taking a break and heading northwards. The isolated comfort of a vehicle is just what you’ll need to detach and consider exactly why the negativity you’ve been experiencing is fleeting and not worth your energy. Using the highway as your guide, fill up your gas tank and take a trip towards the unknown.
5. Put a paper bag over your head.
The goal behind this creative exercise is to de-stimulate your senses so that your mind can operate freely. You’d be surprised at how clearly you think when it’s harder to see and hear the world around you. Keep your eyes open and spend as much as fifteen minutes afloat in your own thoughts. Pursue your deepest secrets and try not to laugh at yourself. The situation is funny, yet your dedication to finding clarity among the clouds is no laughing matter.
6. Find an elevated spot to perch in.
Stationing yourself high above the fray enables you to view life’s operations as they actually exist—that is, as an unimpeded flow of chaotic events. What we don’t realize when mentally hobbled is that the world is far more random than we give it credit for. Locate the top floor of your building and, from a window, focus on the streets below. Note how disordered the world looks, and use this observation as a platform for reframing. The lesson should be that lives seem deliberate until viewed from an objective distance, and that in the end everyone is the same—just souls scrambling for a way through.
7. Write a 10-minute comedy sketch.
Laughing releases pleasure chemicals into the brain, and pleasure is something that will induce feelings of positivity and release. Write a 10-minute comedy sketch commenting on a situation you’ve been struggling with. Be unsparing in your approach, and make sure to have fun while doing it. Be dark if you have to. Record yourself delivering the script and ask friends for feedback. This strategy is effective as it allows you to confront your issues in a safe space free of consequences.
8. Choose something symbolic of your negativity and bury it.
Find something emblematic of your depression and carry yourself through the act of burying it. When finished, understand that you’ve covered the first leg in a long journey and that, more practically, you’ve started a treatment plan that is less likely to be forgotten about now that you’ve invested time and energy towards it.
9. Disrupt your sleep routine and stay up late/wake up early.
Like our daily routines, negative thoughts tend to form trends around our sleeping patterns. Reroute your mind’s circuitry by changing up the way you sleep. Stay up late or, if you’re more nocturnal, wake up early. Doing this will disrupt your negative thought flow and allow you to recast things in a different light.
10. Watch a film about a tragic time in history.
This one is a classic. Find a film highlighting a tragic event and, as you become emotionally smitten, start to draw comparisons. Realize your life is full of opportunities others lacked, and use this understanding as a ramp-up to positive feelings. Remember that gratitude is a powerful emotion that will aid you in your quest towards self-healing.
11. Enjoy a pair of noise-cancelling headphones.
Assuming you aren’t hearing-impaired, noise-cancelling headphones can offer a unique experience that when taken seriously will induce feelings of high perception. Without stepping foot in a sensory deprivation chamber, you can channel your inner voice by sealing yourself in a dark room and applying a pair of headphones. Steer your mind towards a single question—for example, “Why does X event continually lead to a set of irrational feelings?”—and do not relent until you’ve derived an answer. Being without your senses will speed you through the process, as your mind now has less distraction to worry about.
12. Interview yourself.
There is no better person with whom to work through challenges than—you guessed it—yourself. Write down a list of interview-like questions and host a conversation with yourself. Focus on why you might be feeling the way you do and take your responses seriously. Record everything out loud in real time and resist the temptation to share with friends. Give your inner voice a chance to flourish and be mindful of the truths it unveils.
13. Get naked.
Many feel uncomfortable without the shielding effect (both mental and physical) of their outer layers. If you find yourself among this group, then skin-shedding might be the right strategy for you. Find a safe space and strip down to your barest without a mirror present. Focus less on the physical sensation of being naked and more on the strange mental awareness this activity generates. Use this awareness to help unlock the truth about what has got you feeling negative. Afterwards, tell yourself that you have just done something courageous, and that you’re now among the lucky few who possess such a special attribute.
14. Think of what your pet likes to do best and take it to the extreme.
A person who doesn’t love their pet cannot call themselves a person. Not only do they deserve it, but giving your dog or cat that recreational activity they enjoy will make you feel fun and charitable, two necessary ingredients to a satisfying life. Taking that activity to the extreme will further help reshape what might be a stale routine. It will make you feel different and force you to appreciate life at its simplest, regardless of your negativity. You can thank your hamster later.