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14 Things to Help You Find Your Smile When Depression Sets In

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Some days, smiling seems as though it is simply not possible. No amount of cheeriness will “cheer” me up, no amount of jokes will make me laugh and positive quotes about “choosing happiness” make me want to scream at something sooner than suddenly be cured of the doldrums. And do you know what? That is OK. We all go through days like this, the ones where you just need to exist — days when depression or anxiety take hold. Take care of yourself, and be thankful and proud of yourself when you reach the end.

But I wanted to share my go-to list of things to do on the days when I don’t feel a sense of joy. These are the things that help me to find my smile when I lose it. Silly things, little things, free things and things that do not cost much. These things give me something to focus on, other than the often irrational thoughts that can visit when depression or anxiety sets in, or when the pain is high.

The list (in no particular order):

1. Look up anti-motivational quotes for a chuckle.

Motivational quotes make me furious on the bad days. Do people seriously think we “choose” depression over happiness? There is something about black humor or sarcasm that truly appeals on the dark days — anti-motivational quotes are awesome!

2. Curl up with a cup of tea, a soft blanket and a good book (or movie).

A soft mink blanket, or something you can stroke your fingers across or rub your feet on can be really soothing, and getting lost in the pages of your favorite book (or movie) is a great way to practice some healthy escapism. And tea, well… tea fixes everything, doesn’t it?

3. Make a list of at least three things you can look forward to in the future.

Stick it on your fridge door so you can see it. We all need things to look forward too, but I know on the bad days it can be really hard for me to think of anything. Helpful tip… it is perfectly OK if you write down “lunch,” “chocolate” or “ice-cream.” No judgment here.

4. Watch YouTube movies of goats in pajamas.

Oh please, if you have not seen goats in pajamas, then you have not seen cuteness.

5. Go on Pinterest and look at baby animal pictures.

While you are online, Pinterest is fantastic for finding the cutest of cute images of baby animals doing sweet things. Nawwww. 

6. Wash away your worries.

Have a long bath or shower with your favorite body wash. Peppermint helps me clear my head, and the warmth usually helps my sore muscles and joints. If I’m in the shower, I imagine myself washing away the day, starting fresh.

7. Hug your dog, cat, cow or any other type of furkid you may have in your life.

Hugging your pet not only makes them feel loved, but that gratefulness and affection they show can rub off a little on us too, giving us something to live for, something to smile about. Oh and yep, I have cows as pets! They amuse me!

8. Put on some music and silly dance.

The sillier, the better. Kids love this. If you are feeling like a bad parent, put on some music and silly dance for a few minutes with your little ones. Or just do it alone if you don’t have miniature humans in the house.

9. Take a nap, do some gentle stretching, put on a meditation tape or do some deep breathing.

Granted, you might not feel like doing any of these things, but taking five minutes to do something for your soul is normally well worth it in the end.

10. Get creative.

Draw, take photos, paint, journal, craft — anything that inspires you. For me, it is drawing, journaling and getting creative with my camera, but lots of people find coloring, crafting and painting to be very soothing. Whatever works for you.

11. Do something unexpected for someone else.

Write an old-fashioned letter or make a care package for a friend and post it, or do some simple random acts of kindness for strangers. Smiles are infectious and doing something kind for others can help us put our own feelings aside or into perspective, which can also help you feel better!

12. Look through old photo albums.

I’ve spent years of my life behind a camera, but shamefully admit I don’t spend nearly enough time going back and reflecting on the images that have been captured. It can be so cheering to look through photos and remember the fun times you have had, holidays you have been on, pets you have owned. Sure it can be bittersweet, but nostalgia has its place.

13. Go somewhere that makes your soul feel peaceful.

Maybe it is the beach, laying on the warm sand, breathing in the salty breeze. Or the forest? The rustling of the leaves in the trees, the sound of birds, the smell of earth? If you can’t get up and go out, maybe do some mindfulness and imagine yourself there.

14. Read your favorite comics.

My absolute favorites are The Awkward Yeti, Beth Draws Things, and Gemma Correll. They really know how to find the humor in everyday situations faced by those who battle mental health issues, be it depression, social anxiety, general anxiety and a range of other foibles. The feeling of being “understood” always helps me when I’m feeling blue.

So that is a few of the things on my list; sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t, but anything is worth a try at least once. Do you have a list of your own? What would you add? Feel free to comment — I really would love to know what others find effective mood boosters for the “doldrum days.”

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Originally published: March 10, 2017
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