Did you know October is Mental Health Month? If you’re an ABC watcher, like me, you’ll know they are filling their channels with Mental As content, and you’ll probably see all sorts of other stuff from places like the Black Dog Institute popping up on your Facebook feed.
Why is this important to me and what does it have to do with Everyday Gratitude? Well, I struggle with the black dog on a daily basis, and have done for a number of years. Thankfully, these days I know how to bring him to heel a lot quicker than I used to. I don’t panic when there’s a dip in my mood, I just try to be calm and start doing the things I know that work to make my mood stabilise. Those are not limited to, but include:
- Moving my body
A bit of exercise does wonders, even though that might feel impossible at the time. And by ‘a bit’, I really mean just a bit; you don’t have to go to the gym for an hour or run around the block to get the mental health benefits (unless you want to!). An app I find really useful is Yoga Studio, which has a really simple interface and lots of great ‘classes’ to choose from that guide you through 15, 30 or 60 minute yoga routines. Even if I feel like I can’t do anything else, just half an hour of relaxation yoga usually makes me feel a zillion times better.
- Feeding my mind
I usually need to reduce the noise (closing social media, news websites and the like) and read something edifying. For me that is often the Psalms, beautiful poetic words that don’t diminish pain and suffering, and let me know it’s alright to cry out to God, but bring me back to reassure me that he is there and understands. That might not be your thing, but I recommend creating a stash of go-to books that you know will nourish your mind and heart as you read. Currently Brené Brown’s new book, Rising Strong, is one of my go-tos.
- Looking around
And of course, writing down or ‘drawnelling’ the things I am grateful for helps lift my mind out of whatever hole it’s stumbled into. It helps me to see (even a little) through the fog at the wonderful things and people around me, it helps me to value and appreciate the good, instead of focusing on the things that aren’t going the way I want them to. It reframes everything. Check out this article from Psychology Today with some of the research into how practising gratitude helps with depression and overall health – it’s fascinating!
All of these things take a little bit of discipline, it’s true. When you’re feeling terrible, often you just give into whatever is easiest, which might be hiding out under your bedclothes or lying on the couch, unable to concentrate on anything more than inane television (if that). The last thing you want to think about is Self Improvement – that seems like something that’s reserved for perennially optimistic, bouncy people with shiny hair and unlimited energy. Don’t worry, I get it. I’ve been there many times. And even though I know those steps above are magic for my type of depression, sometimes I still forget to kick them into gear when I need them.
That’s why setting up the habits and routines of these things are good to do when you’re in a good place. That’s why people do things like first aid training, right? So when an emergency happens they know what to do and can snap into action. Getting into the habit of moving your body, feeding your mind and practising gratitude every day will mean that if you find yourself going into a dark place, you already have the tools handy to bring light and help you find a way out.