How Do You Get Out of a Funk?
Laughter is the Best Medicine
Do you get depressed? I know I do.
There are times when your awareness of everything that is going on from the stupidest triviality to geopolitical world events just makes you sad and despondent. There was this time from September 12th, 2001 to January 20th, 2009 that I just was in a crappy mood. I had very real reasons for being in this mood. My job was quite oppressive. I had a terrible forty mile commute to New York City. I had trouble sleeping. And my neighbors were parking in our parking space.
There was something else, but I’m sure I’ll think of it later.
My wife would regularly tell me of my negative attitude and I needed to do something about it. I did not want to turn to drugs. I knew that eating to feel better was not the right solution. There just didn’t seem to be anything that would lift my mood.
Then I stumbled upon it.
I vaguely recalled an old co-worker telling me about the BBC series, Jeeves and Wooster starring Hugh Laurie and Steven Fry. I bought one of the seasons on DVD and it was hilarious. What’s more, I felt better. I felt so good that I bought the rest of the seasons.
Jeeves and Wooster were based on the stories written by P.G. Wodehouse about Bertie Wooster and his amazingly brilliant butler, Jeeves. Wooster is a rich wastrel who is at the mercy of his aunts and his close friends at the Drones Club (full of wastrels). He lives by two simple rules (known as The Wooster Code): He will always go out of his way to help a chum and he will never wrong a woman; should she actually propose to him, he must accept.
Essentially, every Jeeves and Wooster story is one where Bertie gets himself into an impossibly hilarious problems and it’s up to Jeeves to get him out. The books are fantastic and the Fry and Laurie version of the show is a masterpiece.
More importantly, no matter how many times I watch the show, I always feel better. It’s better than Prozac.
I offer my humble recommendations for shows or books almost guaranteed to make you feel better.
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Series
Within the last few years the BBC has made television adaptations of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld stories. While I usually go for the audio books, the adaptations are serviceable. Ideally, it’s good to read the books.
The premise of the series is that there is a world that is set on a spinning disk on the back of four giant elephants on the back of a colossal turtle, swimming through space. The physical world runs on magic, not science. The main characters are witches, wizards, guardsmen, and a host of other characters.
Pratchett’s writing style and observations regarding the way mundane things in life work is a piece of genius. And when you find that Death is an interactive character in the series it only makes it funnier.
Terry Pratchett has written thirty-nine Discworld novels and the fortieth is due later this year. All of the stories are a great cure for depression.
Father Ted was an Irish sitcom about three priests punished to stay at a rectory on Craggy Island in Ireland. The series protagonist is Father Ted Crilly, whose misadventures in priesthood (usually caused by his fellow dim witted priest Dougal MaGuire or by the perpetually drunk and demented senior priest, Father Jack Hackett).
My description of the show does not do it justice. All I can really tell you is that it is funny in a classical demented tradition with off the wall humor that is hard to equal.
All the Works of Douglas Adams
Whether you’ve read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or the Dirk Gently novels, you have to agree that the late Douglas Adams was ahead of his time.
Adams, who passed away in May of 2001, was a talented writer and wit who wrote not only comedies based in science fiction but was a naturalist as well. His Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series which started as a radio comedy became a cultural icon and made “Don’t Panic!” a cultural lexicon.
Although he is best known for his HGttG, his book, Last Chance to See, was a semiserious look at some of the animals that are on the endangered species list. He traveled the world to catch on film these creatures before the die out.
I recommend any of Adams’ fiction or non-fiction works to anyone looking for a clever laugh.
While I love watching television and movies, it only accounts for one way of getting your soul replenished. A while back one of my managers turned me onto the African/Carribean music of Fela Kuti.
It is such a smooth work of just cool awesomeness when you mainline this music into your skull. The percussion of strings and horns brought with that perfect Caribbean rhythm and that raw African sound drills into your mind. The monotonous beating of those drums is something you can get yourself lost in when you need to either focus or just lose yourself in the music.
I find that the music is a great meditative device. This is because most of the time people find themselves depressed when their minds keep going over the same problems over and over.
If you’re looking to sample some Fela Kuti, you can check out some of his tunes on YouTube or buy a good sampling of his music with The Best of Fela Kuti.
What makes you feel best when you're depressed?
I hate depression. It’s just tiring.
When depression pokes around with its ugly head, it becomes almost impossible to concentrate on anything let alone enjoy what you already have. And that’s the funny thing about depression and stress, whether it’s real or imagined, it will affect you just the same.
So, what do we do?
You need to take yourself out of the equation. If you have real stress and depression, you need to understand the severity of it or if there’s anything you can do about the problems you currently have. If you can take care of your problems and if you’re physically and mentally able to deal with them, you should do so. If you have the resources but your head is a mess, you need to take yourself out of the situation.
Continue working when you can think again. The answer may come to you when you relax and think of nothing.
I say this because my mother is a notorious worrier. She worries about everyone. And if you have the strength and inclinations and do worry about people, you may think it’s your lot in life to do this. I disagree, though. While it does show a certain amount of compassion to be concerned with the lives of others, you will make yourself crazy thinking about these things. After this weekend, she looked tired from shouldering the problems of other people.
She’s not a young woman.
If you’re in similar circumstances, you need to take time out and find that sacred space of your own to rejuvenate yourself. Some people do this through meditation, others do it through exercise, and others like me do it through a combination of escapism and laughter. What I can tell you about that is that it works for me… at least for a few hours.