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How I Make Happiness a Choice, Even When It Isn't

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There are some days I have to actively remind myself (sometimes every 10 minutes) it’s going to be OK. Most people do this. Most people need this. There are also some days I have to actively remind myself life is worth living, it has merit and there’s joy in the midst of the struggle. Most people need this, too. This is human. This is also OK.
In the midst of depression, that cold, cruel cloud that still hangs over so many bright mornings and lively evenings, I still choose happiness. It’s possible to choose it even when you seem to have an inherent disadvantage.
 I know what it feels like when you physically don’t have the strength to move and you mentally don’t have the strength to try. I know what it feels like to have everything in front of you and still feel a tangible emptiness. I know what it feels like to cry for hours about nothing. And I know the shame that accompanies that. I know it well.
But, in spite of all that, this is how I choose happiness every day, even when I feel I can’t:
1. I keep my circle small. 
The people I do choose to spend time with are tried-and-true friends who encourage me and envelop me in love and support. Toxicity and those who prescribe to toxic behaviors are not permitted into my innermost circle, though I will treat them with love and respect. Just at a distance.
2. I indulge.
I take long, lavender baths. I get my hair done. I eat the cookie. I go to the gym and I buy pretty, superfluous undergarments. I don”t force myself into a overly disciplined, unexciting life. I have a balance of discipline and appropriate indulgence.
3. I (try to) focus outwardly, rather than inwardly.
One major struggle of depression is it can cause you to be inwardly focused and, in turn, self-absorbed. Your pain is valid and very real. But it does not mean your life is your pain or that others must be constantly aware of it. Don’t repress, don’t hide. But don’t make your struggle your identity, and don’t let yourself fall prey to the temptation of being a victim. Give to others. Don’t focus so much on the hard things. There must be a balance or self-love and acceptance can turn into self-absorption. Cry. But don’t cry forever. Get mad. But don’t stay that way. Always say thank you to those who pour out love and support to you in the dark times.
And always remember, you’re stronger than you realize. 

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page. 

If you need support right now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Image via Thinkstock.

Originally published: July 18, 2016
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