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How to find a small smile when coping with depression - what to do when you are depressed to take your mind off things

Updated on November 3, 2012

What to do when you are feeling depressed

I am not a doctor or at all trained in the mental health field, but I know better than anyone just how *low* those lows can be. Why? Because I have depression, and have suffered with this miserable illness for over a decade with little relief from anti-depressant medication or psychotherapy.

Treatment resistant depression is a cruel master to be forced to serve and a harsh manner in which to have to become accustomed to living with.

Even though we might tell ourselves we can't be lifted even the slightest bit in the darkest times when we feel our very souls slipping to such horrific depths, there are little things that we can do to spark at the very least a momentary ounce of comfort or distraction.

Nothing much works for me besides distraction... I often turn to methods of escapism to rid myself of the thoughts that burden my heart. As any individual suffering the worst of the 'Black Dog' will know, it can feel like a physical weight on one's very heart... almost like a dragging down. It's a sensation that those who only think of depression as mere sadness will never be able to fully comprehend.

Clinical depression is a much deeper and more complex creature... but one which can be tamed, even if only for a few hours...

... - here are some of the things that I try to force myself to do when I'm feeling so down that it seems as if nothing will cheer me up. Even if it seems as if I've got no motivation left inside me *anywhere*, these things will often find it for me...

  • Get out your most treasured childhood favorite movie and take your mind back to old times.
  • Put on a current DVD that you can get lost in - period dramas are fantastic for 'escapism'.
  • Make your favorite sandwich - you'll feel at least a bit better for it.
  • Play some 'old classic' songs that remind you of your teenage years or just your most-loved era of music.
  • Watch a cooking video on YouTube or on TV - there's nothing like good ol' food to take your mind off more 'important' matters or even those trivial worries.
  • Run yourself a bubble bath, or use your favorite bath bomb or candle to lift your mood - I sometimes find the hot water soaks away at least a few of the negative thoughts.
  • Write a poem. If you're not into poetry, pen some song lyrics or get out some paints or pencils and 'draw your feelings'. It sometimes makes them seem less daunting if they're out there on paper in any form; written or pictorial.
  • Don't want to use your imagination? If you're more of an energetic person, go for a walk in the dark just for the hell of it, or run out your worries, you'll be too busy focusing on your exercise and where you're going to focus on your feelings.
  • Go see a movie, even if it's by yourself. I often enjoy going to the movies alone, just to think, reflect and relax whilst being entertained. Choose a light-hearted flick and just enjoy it and forget that there's life going on outside the darkened walls of the cinema.
  • Have a picnic or even just buy an ice cream or some take-out and go sit in a nice quiet spot in the park, or even your garden or backyard if it's a pleasant day.
  • Play your music really loud and sing your heart out (or dance like a maniac!) just for the heck of it! Rock anthems are excellent for this, I have often done this when I feel overloaded and just want to scream at the world!
  • Make a smoothie, milkshake or your favorite drink in the whole world. I often find that any kind of cooking relieves at least a small amount of my stress and lifts my mood while I focus my attention on eating it as well.
  • Make a 'vision board'. Google it if you don't know what it is and how it can be useful in sorting out and improving your life.
  • Try something you've never tried before or do something you've never done before - whether it be seeing a play, eating at a place you've never eaten at before, sampling a flavour of ice cream or cake you've never had before or just going out of your comfort zone in some way - eg: as stated before, going to a movie on your own.
  • Buy yourself a relaxation CD such as rainforest sounds and such. Plan to listen to it every night before bed or even better, as you fall asleep. A lot of people who find it difficult to get to sleep enjoy the comforting, peaceful earthy sounds as they attempt to drop off. I used to suffer from insomnia and found these type of CDs a great help for insomnia.
  • Bathe your pet if you have one. Focusing on the wellbeing of another for even a little while is a welcome rest for our own issues. Lay your own thoughts and problems aside for as long as it takes to treat your dog to a bath or a grooming session. Research has continually shown the positive mental health effects of patting an animal. I always find it very calming to just sit with my dogs and brush their fur. It is unconditional love and attention after all - soak it up!
  • Do some craft, if that's your thing.
  • Play some video games, or a game on the computer. Or if you're more into reading, grab a book you've been meaning to read and just start!... or if you don't have any new books, re-read some old classic fiction from the shelf that you haven't touched for years.
  • Have a YouTube Marathon - find a series that you think you'll enjoy (perhaps search for something you've been meaning to watch or look one up on IMDb and hope that it's been uploaded on YouTube) ... there are literally hundreds of thousands on there to choose from, sometimes it's easier to search under 'Playlists' where people have ordered the parts of a film or television series for easy watching one after the other. It's highly likely that if it's popular, it will have been uploaded, there's some great old classics on there now too. If you're more into comedians, search under comedy and treat yourself to a marathon of 'related videos'. YouTube Marathons are very distracting, and that's helpful in times of extremely low mood.
  • Start a journal. It may not seem helpful now, but it can be beneficial to look back on to study your moods and see if you've made any improvement or gotten worse. It's amazing the things you think you'll remember but slip away as months go by.
  • Do something nice for someone else, even if it's something small like shouting someone coffee or taking a friend or family member out to dinner... as selfish as it sounds, you do get that nice warm fuzzy feeling and/or pride at least for a little while after you've helped someone out or treated someone you care for.

And last but not least, don't expect too much from yourself when you're feeling at your very worst. If you need to switch off completely for a bit, take a nap or sleep a long time if you have to... often when we wake our minds have somehow processed so many of our negative thoughts for us and consequently we wake up with our minds freed up somewhat.

Hopefully this has provided you with a few things to do to help your mind and body when you are feeling sick with depression and don't know what to do. Even just little things can work to remind you that you *can* in fact cope and that all is not lost in your journey to fight depression. Remember to care for both your mind and body when treating your depression, because they work together to determine your mood and wellbeing.


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    • scarletquill99 profile image

      scarletquill99 6 years ago from Australia

      Thanks, I'll have to check it out!

    • firerie profile image

      firerie 6 years ago from Taos, NM

      Thoroughly enjoyed your hub and will return to use it at as a reference when needed. If you're a YouTube fan and have esoteric interests a series that cracks me up without fail is the 'Puppetji' videos. Try at least one when you need a smile :)

    • Sweetsusieg profile image

      Sweetsusieg 6 years ago from Michigan

      Very good ideas!! I did suffer at one time from clinical depression, I couldn't stand the smell in my nose from the meds (garbage). So I got out of the house, got a part time job. Very different from your depression I know, but it was foreign to me.

      I'm not sure what I have going on at this point but I feel a little like Howard Hughes.... Never wanting to leave my domicile. Too bad I'm not rich like he was!!

    • scarletquill99 profile image

      scarletquill99 7 years ago from Australia

      That's a great idea! I like lists and charts! They're extremely helpful for monitoring mood changes.

    • Donna Janelle profile image

      Donna Janelle 7 years ago from Oklahoma

      These are some great ideas! My favorites are watching a favorite childhood movie, and listening to songs from different eras of your life. Doing that actually does cheer me up! Thanks for posting these great suggestions.

    • Enlydia Listener profile image

      Enlydia Listener 7 years ago from trailer in the country

      Some very good ideas....I am sure that each one of them is useful at different times....just trying them is an adventure....I would like to add one more to your list...make a chart, and while trying out each of these suggestions, rate how you feel before and after, on a scale of one to ten. Not only would you be doing research for yourself, but it is a good way to evaluate where you are at. Blessings and rated up.