6 Ways to Feel Better Instantly
The last time I felt clinically depressed was after my dad died in 2016. We had been estranged for over two years, and I never got a chance to say goodbye. I was already feeling incredibly low because of this, when an ex shoved me hard in the chest during an argument in the street five days later.
After that, I didn't want to be awake, so I took an extra pill each night that blurred out everything but the heaviness and numbness. I lay in bed for two weeks feeling sad and listless and empty. Life made no sense. Everything seemed too difficult.
But I was lucky enough to have a bright and beautiful five-year-old daughter (who is now seven), and that meant I had everything to live for, everything to fight for. So I picked myself up, with a great effort, and I haven't looked back since.
If you're feeling really low, you probably need medication and therapy. I was lucky enough to already be on some amazing meds. But here are some other things that helped and still help me - and hopefully they might help you too.
When you feel down, it helps to:
1. Remember How Amazing Life Is
Whatever happened with my dad, he got to live for 78 years, and because of him, I get to be alive. That's incredible. Just read the first chapter of Richard Dawkins' brilliant Unweaving the Rainbow, The Anaesthetic of Familiarity (To Live at All is Miracle Enough):
"We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia."
As the chapter and this Business Insider article about a swimming turtle explain, the odds against us existing are absolutely staggering. We owe it to ourselves and to humanity to make the most of our lives.
2. Forgive Yourself
If you're feeling guilty about something - and with depression, we often turn on ourselves - then you've suffered enough. Suffering for longer won't make anything better, so it's time to start healing and forgiving yourself now. Sure, I hurt my dad, and I'm sad we didn't get to say goodbye - and as I'm an atheist, I believe we never will. But I know that he loved me, and he knew I loved him. Life is tough, people do and say stuff they regret. Learning from that and moving on from it is the only healthy way forward. That doesn't mean you don't feel sad and regretful at times - it just means that you don't build your life around that sadness.
3. Get Inspired By Others
I have a secret Instagram account where I follow life coaches, motivational speakers and happiness and wellness teachers who inspire me. I don't agree with everything they say by any means - some of it is bunkum - but their posts make me think. I save all the best stuff and look at it when I feel tired or lazy, and it gives me a kick up the arse. It encourages me to throw myself into life, to take action and work hard and be awesome. There are people in this world who have been through worse than I have, and they have still come out fighting. That gives me hope.
4. Make a List of Ways to Improve Your Life
I love lists. Making a list, even a healthy shopping list, is creating a blueprint for making life better. Every day, I make a To Do list of things that will move life forward for me. Items on this week's list include: contact people to send a proof copy of my new book on therapy to; do X things for work; fill three bags to take to charity shop; write blogs (of course); write a chapter of my work-in-progress YA novel each day. I even write an itemised schedule of what I'm going to eat when, which you might think is crazy, but it helps with my compulsive binging.
And you know what? I don't always succeed in sticking to the list. But making it helps keep you on track with what you want to achieve - I promise.
5. Surround Yourself with Happy People
Everyone has met at least one person who is relentlessly sunny and upbeat. Mine is my friend John, who I call John Bon Jovial because he's so cheery. I call him whenever I feel down, and he makes very silly jokes about everything, and then I feel better. Make it a policy to hang out with happy people when you feel down, and let them lift you up.
6. Get Up and Take Action
I absolutely can't stress this enough: the busier you are and the fuller your life is, the better you feel. Fill your life with lovely, positive things to do: new experiences, different forms of exercise, work tasks, meet-ups with great people, ways to make your home more stylish and your body healthier. Life is short and it can and should be full of beauty. You have the power to make your life better - and I bet that if you ask yourself how, you'll find the answers.