Remind yourself how to be happy - feelya

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8 min read

The first thing to acknowledge is you are not alone.

How are you feeling today?

If the truth is that you are feeling miserable or depressed, well the first thing to acknowledge is that you are not alone. Millions of people right now are experiencing varying degrees of depression; from feeling they just can’t cope, to being constantly unhappy, to an intense sensation of gloom that requires an effort just to get out of bed.

People who are depressed sometimes actively stop doing things that they enjoy, or things that will help them. Being depressed can drain you of energy and the instinct to enjoy life. Hiding under the duvet may seem the best option.

But burrowing under the bed covers really isn’t really the solution if you want to conquer depression – and yes, so many people succeed in leaving it behind completely.

You need to remind your brain what being happy is like. And keep doing it!

You know that. You have switched on the computer and you are looking at a site where you can get help. That is a positive step in itself. Give yourself a little pat on the back. You are on your way.

A psychiatric nurse told me recently that he had known many people – some with crippling long-term depression who had been hospitalised many times – whom he had seen beat depression, without the help of medication.

He explained how depression had stopped them doing things they have always enjoyed, be it going out with friends, taking pride in their appearance or going to the gym. Just surviving the day became a victory for them. They lived in a world that made them more depressed, where they just plodded through life carrying this terrible weight, avoiding social interaction and forgetting what it was like to have fun.

He told them to do the exact opposite. If staring at a pile of dirty dishes was making them more depressed, he told them to force themselves to do them. Ditto with tidying up and picking those clothes off the floor. If they had stopped going out with their friends, he told them to forced themselves to pick up the phone and make a date to meet.

None of this was easy. In fact it felt like a Promethean task at first, requiring monumental effort and will power. But it worked. Soon it became easier and easier, until it was second nature and they were doing it without thinking. Without realising it, they had reformed positive habits and remembered how to enjoy themselves.

Why not try it for a week or two? Remind yourself what used to make you happy, and revisit those places. Pause to note those sensations of happiness and pleasure

It might be hard at first, so start small.

Scribble down a list of the things you used to enjoy the most. Going for a walk or bike ride counts, so does seeing friends, watching a football match or Wimbledon in a cafe or pub, playing squash, visiting your mum, window shopping, going to the hairdresser or getting a massage or manicure. If reading was your thing, pop into a book shop and browse the shelves for a new book. Have you lost touch with friends you value? Pick up the phone or ping them a text. They will be pleased to hear from you. Yes they will!

If you used to like eating out, invite a friend or colleague to go and have a bite to eat. If you are alone, who cares? Bring a book or a laptop for company. Just enjoy having someone cook you a delicious meal. Did you used to enjoy pottering about in the garden, or planting flowers or window boxes? Pick up a trowel. How about going to the movies? Go and buy a ticket and get yourself a big box of popcorn while you are at it.

A little pleasure can go a long way. Stop and appreciate the great outfit you are wearing, your tidy home. Smile! Just going through the motions of smiling can create a comforting, pleasurable sensation.

And repeat, repeat, repeat. Keep doing the things you enjoy and guess what, you might wake up one morning, not wanting to hide beneath the duvet at all, but looking forward to the day, and the many small pleasures it may bring.