5 Tips to Turn a Rainy Day Sunny: Overcoming Feelings of Depression
We all have those days when we wake up and it just feels like darkness is all around us. Some have those days quite often. Still others may feel like it’s been months since they’ve glimpsed of the sun.When feelings of depression set in, your whole world and future can feel negative, dark, and clouded. In fact, by definition, depression is a negative view of yourself, the future, and the world. And that’s pretty depressing.
I’ve struggled with depression on and off throughout my life–postpartum depression, and several depressive episodes that lasted for months at a time. I also have days when I wake up and just know that the clouds have socked me in (thank you, hormones!). And I know how hard it can be to overcome the feelings of depression–feelings like frustration, fear, sadness, anxiety, self-disparagement, and isolation. I know it can feel like those emotions have become your identity–like you actually are the depressive feelings.
But let me just tell you–you’re not. Think of it this way. Our emotions are like the weather. We wake up each morning, open the blinds, and find either sunshine, clouds, rain, wind, or snow. Since our emotions are a product of our experiences, our body’s biochemistry, and our thoughts (click here for more on this), we often have little control over the emotions that come our way. Emotions can feel powerful, but, like the weather, can sometimes be impossible to alter. But, also like the weather, we have a choice as to how we deal with the emotions that pop up. If it’s rainy outside, I can choose to stay in and sulk about it, or I can work to put on my galoshes, grab an umbrella, and get out for a while. And who knows? “Getting out” just might lead to a sunnier day.
Overcoming Feelings of Depression:
So how can we turn a rainy day sunny? Here are a four tips to help you get started.
- Remind yourself that depressive emotions are a state, not a trait (just like the weather). The definition of emotion is “a state of feeling”. This is hopeful news, for it reminds us that: 1) our emotions are temporary, 2) they can be changed, and 3) that the emotions we feel do not equal who we are. In fact, since emotion is so easily influenced by temporary states like fatigue, stress, and hormone shifts, many of the depressive feelings don’t really mean what they appear to mean. Thoughts can cause feelings too. So start by changing your thoughts to remind yourself, “My emotions are not me.“
- Accept how you feel. Accepting “what is” is a simple yet powerful tool. If you’re feeling fearful, accept the fear. If you’re feeling hurt, accept the hurt. If you’re feeling depressed, accept the depression. Label it, call it what it is, and do whatever you can to stop pretending it isn’t there. This helps identify what’s really happening and externalizes it from who you are. Remember that “accepting “ how you feel does not mean you “agree” with or “like” it. Just let go of the fight for what isn’t by accepting what is.
- Feel the emotions that come. Sometimes fighting depressive feelings or trying to “not feel depressed” is what’s making things worse. Instead, let yourself take the time to feel what is really there. When you’re able to sit with a powerful emotion and really feel it, you’re then working on releasing its power over you. Sit still, focus on the emotion, and let it fill your body. Breathe deeply as you allow the emotion to rise and speak. Notice that you are not the emotion but rather, you’re behind the emotion, observing it. It can help to do this with a trusted friend or partner who can sit and feel it with you. You can also put a time limit on feeling the emotion if it’s very powerful. Even in small doses, the process of experiencing the emotion can help it begin to let go.
- Focus on the present moment—right here, right now. We are often caught up in the future or the past and this leads to greater suffering. In the present moment, you will usually find that you’re OK. Practice noticing the present and all the good it holds. Use all 5 senses to take in the sights, tastes, smells, sensations, and sounds around you. Focus on nature or your family to remind you of what matters most to you. If you find yourself drifting back to depressive emotions, take a deep breath and use your 5 senses again. After all, life is only lived and loved in the present–you don’t want to let the rain make you miss it!
- Get your body moving. Physical activity is one of the best ways to feelings of depression. Cardiovascular exercise, like walking or running, is particularly good for overcoming fatigue, low energy, and stress, while weight lifting is great for anxiety, tension and self-disparagement. Getting your body moving not only improves your body, it distracts you from the emotions and also generates positive chemicals called endorphins that can make you feel much sunnier. The next time the “rain” sets in, get out for a walk or bike ride, try kickboxing, go hit some golf balls, or hit the weights at the gym. Your body will benefit, and so will your mood!
Do you ever have days that feel “socked in” with rain or snow? What do you do to help you bring the sun? We’d love to hear about your experiences with overcoming depressive feelings, so leave us a comment below!