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Simple Things by Allen
Posted by SANE
7th Sep 2018

When in the midst of a particularly bad episode of depression, having simple things to lift your spirits is vital.  Anyone who suffers from anxiety and depression will understand that, sometimes, there are no ‘simple’ tasks.  Therein lies the rub; simple is such a subjective concept, that it does help to work out what works for you.

For me, it is a combination of things; some of these things have become habits, while others are one-offs.  I break these down into categories of longevity; there are things that I can do almost instantaneously for a mood boost (for example, you can fuss a pet, or listen to your favourite song).  I often find myself visiting YouTube to find a motivational video or footage of, say, a sporting victory. Post-it notes are also a great way to have an uplifting message easily visible to you, whether that be in your bedroom, kitchen or even work space. No-one knows this, but I have a box in my bedroom which contains reminders which make me grateful. These include photographs of happy memories, a copy of the best man speech I gave at a wedding, ticket stubs from gigs or events - there is even a handwritten note in there that simply says “Ahoy”.  Practising gratitude is a big help; experience has taught me that it isn’t always easy when you feel like the whole world is falling apart, but if you can try and think of one thing that you are grateful for each day, your mood will start to improve.  All of these things help me, but sometimes simply eating a chocolate bar can help - although I’m not sure if I should have admitted that!

Simple things that you can do long term are equally as important. These past few months I have made several commitments to myself, one of which is to meditate daily.  This could be done as a short term goal, but I have made it a daily practice, even if some days I don’t get as much out of it as I have the day before. I am particularly fond of a concept called the “Lion mind”; through daily practice, this seven minute meditation has helped to alleviate my anxieties and improve my attention skills. If I have a particularly stressful event coming up, I’ll often put on this meditation as it really quietens my mind.  I also use this same concept if I am somewhere where I am unable to meditate - I just stop for a second and mentally say to myself the words “Lion mind”, which allows me to refocus.

You’ll be surprised that these “simple” changes, applied consistently over a period of time, can create good habits. Like most people, I spend too much time engaged with technology - particularly my mobile phone - so I have decided to change my mindset towards technology.  I believe that technology was intended to help us, not trap us, so I have reduced my social media usage.  I only use Instagram and I have started to follow people who inspire me, who challenge me in terms of my thinking.  I follow photographers, people who have the ability to capture stunning shots of nature. The mobile phone apps I use are now designed solely to help me and they are all located on my home screen, so even if I forget to do something for myself, they are at hand to remind me.  My favourite app is Habit-Bull; this free app allows users to list up to five habits of which they want to track. My five are exercise, 5 a day, reading, meditation and an upper body workout. The app helps me keep track of the things that are important to both my physical and mental health, and, more importantly, having a record of this keeps me on track. I think anything that helps you track your progress is essential.  It doesn’t have to be an app; even a journal/diary of what is important to you can help. The important thing is that this helps people to learn more about themselves and start to do things regularly which are important - whatever that may be - and sooner rather than later, you realise that you are important, and you yourself are a project that is worth your own time and energy.  It has almost inadvertently given me back some of the control I lose during depressive episodes, and I have come to appreciate my role in my own happiness, health and future going forward. With this control over my own thoughts and experiences, I have found acceptance in the things that I cannot change - and the knowledge that this is okay.

I’d like to finish by saying that these “simple” changes are simple; they aren’t easy and sometimes I do still struggle to do them.  The catch 22 here is that the simple things to do are also simple not to do, but if you stick with them in the knowledge that you will feel better once you do them, you will feel better in the short term, and this pays dividends in the long term.  These simple changes that I have in my own life have reduced what felt like an insurmountable task just three months ago to something which now feels within touching distance. and for that I am grateful.

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