When You’re Feeling Down
“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” – Henry David Thoreau
Seems as though it’s easy to get down these days. While the reasons are legion, the story is pretty much the same: try as you may, being up, on top, all the time can be a chore. When that happens–and for most of us, it does–here are some things you may want to consider.
Consider the immediate source. That word, immediate, is important because the factors that trigger these negative episodes are often symptomatic rather than causal–a disagreement with a friend or loved one, a minor setback, a physical problem, or simply a disturbing story in the newspaper or on television. At the first sign that you’re feeling down, you may want to ask yourself two questions: (1) what was the immediate triggering event that provoked this feeling?, and (2) to what might this event be connected? As you think about the second question, you may discover that what is really bothering you is not the immediate issue, but something more distant, remote, or less obvious. Simply being aware of this deeper aspect of the problem is a beginning step towards resolving the underlying cause.
Consider your dominant tense–past, future, or present. If you were to analyze the content of your thoughts during any 24-hour period, what percentage of the time would you say your mind is occupied with the past? the future? the present? One study concluded that 80 to 90% of our thought content pertains to the past or future rather than the present. Let’s take this a step further. Consider what you think about from the past or the future. Would you say it is predominantly positive? If you’re experiencing more than occasional depression, I would guess it is not. Along with depression comes that subtle nagging pressure to relive the past and see what you did wrong or agonize about the future in terms of what MIGHT happen. To these two demons of the mind, there are two responses: (1) the past is not real; it is simply a memory, and (2) the future is highly dependent upon the attitudes and actions you hold and take in the present. A good first step in digging out from depression is to stay in the present. Think, speak, and act only in present terms. If you haven’t tried it, you may find this to be a tall order, but can be a very powerful antidote.
Consider the role of gratitude. You may say … Well, I don’t have much to be grateful about. I doubt that. You’re alive (if you’re reading this) and you can learn, feel, think, and grow. When I was a child, my mother used to tell me to be grateful for small blessings. I never really understood it until decades later. Gratitude is like a seed. Plant it, nurture it, and it grows. A dear friend of many years ago wrote a poem about gratitude that began: A grateful heart a garden is… Her point (one of them) was that gratitude is the garden in which the blessings we receive are planted. To be truly grateful for what you have and are is to be fitted to receive more