Lately, (since about late 2017), I’ve been very depressed, extremely unmotivated and, quite frankly, just miserable. This very long episode has been a wild ride but it has also been a period of my life where I’ve done the most growth. I have been lucky enough to have access to free top of the line psychiatric care, excellent mental health professionals and various forms of therapy (thanks OHIP🇨🇦)!
I took part in a DBT group therapy setting and I loved it. I gotta say, I’m not suuuuper into people so I was very reluctant to join but it was one of the best experiences I’ve had. It taught me so many useful skills for managing emotions. The only downside? There are SO MANY skills, it’s impossible to remember to practice all of then. I need a refresher. So, the skills that I’m going over in this post are dedicated to increasing moments of happiness in your life.
I’m gonna be looking at a few different skills and approaches. Most of these skills are from the Emotional Regulation section of my binder. This blog is for people who are looking to make some small, manageable changes to increase happiness. I’m people. And I need this blog, leggooo!😎
Mental health symptoms are often made worse when we neglect our physical health. So, this “skill” is really an acronym (kind of a stretch, tbh) to remember take care of your body so that you can take care of your mental health. That’s what got published. I didn’t make it up. I’m sorry about the “PL”.”
Marijuana is a mood-altering drug but, right now, it’s altering my negative, unmotivated mood into one that can write blogs! I don’t drink often. I do drink socially, not enough for it to impact my mood although when I do drink too much, the next day I feel very (very) low mood. So in regards to avoiding mood-altering substances, I would say to use in moderation. If you know you can’t use in moderation, maybe don’t…
Accumulating Positives: Long-Term
This skill is all about creating a life that is worth living—something that very much appeals to my hopeful, but pessimistic brain. I’ve briefly gone over this skills in my blog about Managing Depression. There are two variations of this skill—long-term and short-term. In my depression blog, I briefly went over accumulating short-term positives. If distressing emotions are running really high and you need quick relief, definitely check out the short-term accumulating positives! I’ve even got a worksheet there for you.
The best way to make big changes in your life is to start small. Make smaller, more attainable goals. In fact, I am using this skill actively this week and for the next weeks to come to increase happy moments in my life. So…
Step 1: Stop avoiding. You have to get started now. If you were looking for a sign to start getting back to yourself, consider this it. Commit to following the next steps.
Step 2: Make a list of your values. Since the start of this latest depressive episode, I have neglected my skin care routine. One of my values is getting back on track with that. I also want to be more disciplined in my blogging routine and I want to restart practicing meditation.
Step 3: Pick one value from your list to work on. Now. For me, the easiest thing to do first (to get the ball rolling, ya know?) is to start my skin routine again. (Tip: It’s easier because it’s not really making a change… it’s more like adding something that brings me happiness that also takes only 10 mins to start my day. It’s a small first step.)
Step 4: Make a few goals related to your chosen value. So, I had to think, “what goals can I make so that it’s easier for me to implement this new change?” The goal I chose was to organize my bathroom and my toiletries to make it easier to get my morning going. This is a fairly simple change, so, I only really needed the one goal. But some harder changes will absolutely require you to break down goals.
Step 5: Pick one of your goals and work on it… now.
Step 6: Make an action step towards your goal! For me, a small action step was to get a basket to organize my toiletries.
Do work on one value a week. Pick one to work on—for a week—so that it’s manageable. Each week, you can figure out the goals and action steps to take for your list of values. I’m taking it real slow but it’s gonna make some real positive change. Next week, I’ll work on changing my work routine (that might take two weeks to get fully down) then, I’ll work on adding meditating back into my routine. I will make a blog about how the changes go!
Step 1: Plan at least one thing to do every day so you can have a sense of accomplishment. Just one is fine. Do as many as you want, really.
Step 2: It should be a little bit challenging but must be entirely possible. When you’re depressed, this plan can be to brush your teeth or have a shower because that is difficult. It can also be an activity from the Pleasant Activities List. Right now, for me, I try to get work done for my blog everyday. Whether it be focusing on engaging my socials, writing, taking pictures, planning posts or making posters and graphics. Today, I planned on working on my blog at the greenhouse and I did!
Cheating the winter by getting my nature in a hot, humid greenhouse… hell yeah.
Step 3: Increase the difficulty after a few days or a week. Gradually is key. Honestly, it’s just about what feels right to you. Everyone has a different pace.
Step 4: Look for a challenge. If your task is too easy, increase the difficulty a little (or a lot).
I love being able to wear a t-shirt! I think long-sleeves are so uncomfy!
The great thing about practicing gratitude is that it doesn’t require you to follow a bunch of steps! 😏 I don’t know about you, but I find it’s really easy to focus on the negative things. Did you know that’s honestly really bad for your health?
Robert Emmons is the expert gratitude researcher. He has conducted studies to see how practicing gratitude affects health physically and psychologically. He has a great article here about the benefits of gratitude and it’s even got a video.
Essentially, his research shows that people who consistently wrote in gratitude journals experienced more positive emotions, joy, pleasure, happiness and optimism. They also reported feeling more alert and refreshed after sleep and that they were unbothered by their joint aches. It can also strengthen your immune system and lower blood pressure!
Gratitude just shifts the focus to focusing on the positives. It’s about noticing the small things and increasing gratefulness.
I present to you a scenario: you and a friend are going out to watch a movie. You realize that you left your wallet at home. You friend says “no worries, I got you” and pays for your ticket. How do you feel?
I, personally, would feel immensely guilty, stupid, ashamed and I’d be instantly thinking about how to make up to the person. All those negatives that we’re so used to focusing on serves to make us feel bad about ourselves. And OBVIOUSLY feeling bad about ourselves will not make us happy. Instead, we should feel grateful that our friend was kind enough to do that.
So how do you practice gratitude? It’s simple really. Set aside five mins each morning or night to write in a journal. If you’re using a real in-life-in-person book, dedicate this book to only positive things. This is your Gratitude Journal. (That way when you’re sad, you an open it up and remind yourself of all the nice things.) Reflect on your day, think about things that you’re grateful for or things that make you happy.
Personally, as a “beginner,” I like to use apps. I think it’s a super quick way to journal about gratitude. Many apps will often prompt you different questions to get your brain thinking about other positives and it’s a great way to really learn gratitude. I’ve listed a couple apps below! The more your practice gratitude, they more it will build as a reflex. You will start to notice more things in life that you can express gratitude for and increase more happiness.
This week, I tested out a few gratitude journalling apps and landed on 4 great free ones. I’m gonna share a few things I liked and disliked about them. I have an iPhone so I can only really test out iPhone apps but I did check the Play Store and found two of my suggestions in there!
This is, visually, a cute app. I asked my boyfriend to switch his app for this week just to test it out with me. Because in this app, you can create “pods” and have your friends join in on practicing gratitude. You can’t see what each other type; your journal stays private. But you can encourage each other in app with emojis. The app opens requires you to sign up. After signup, it asks three questions about what you’re grateful for that day. If this gets boring, there’s a little green “hint” button that offers some writing prompts. You can add pictures and emojis to posts and it’s all very user friendly. You can set custom time for the app to remind you to practice gratitude, which is great if you’re like me…forgetful. If you used it every day, it would be a very nicely designed feed of positive thoughts.
I have been using this app the longest. There is no sign up involved but the settings do offer backup to google drive. (iCloud, but if you pay for premium). It offers a dark mode and two sections: journal and affirmations. You can create as many affirmations as you want. This would be really nice on a day that you’re feeling down… read through some positive shit, read through some empowering inspirations. What I also like about this app, is that it reminds you of your affirmations. It also has a widget feature which I love. It shows your the quote of the day, but if you click to make it bigger, you can scroll through your affirmations super easily! It’s a very simple look but it’s not unappealing.
This app is a quite simple look. It is a CBT-based apps that also has a function to challenge your inner critic, which I found to be a very good tool. I may keep this app on my phone specifically for that! It checks in with you at what ever time you set it to remind you and asks you a few questions about your day. It does have a passcode feature so you can keep this journal locked.
You can find it here for iPhone.
This app has a very open simple but welcoming feel to it. There are a limited number of prompts for the journal entries, though, compared to the others. So I think that it would start to get repetitive after a while of journaling in this app. It does however come with a passcode option and a widget. The widget reminds you of what you’ve written down. There is no sign up with this app but it does offer backup to dropbox and iCloud.
You can find it here for iPhone.
I have been practicing gratitude (emphasis on the practicing) for about a year and a half off and on, to be perfectly honest. During the times that I actively practiced I did feel a positive shift on my mood. So, it’s one of my values that I’m going to add. After writing this, it might be a higher priority too. Yes! The blog is working for me! 👩⚕️
If anyone wants a more in depth of how to even learn how to practice gratitude (because that was me), I can write a more in depth blog. I have all my beginner notes. Just leave me a note in the comments! If you like it, pin it!