I work with many clients who struggle with feeling anxious and depressed. As their clinical therapist, I ask clients what contributing factors are occurring to increase their depression and/or anxiety, and then I help provide possible coping mechanisms to help manage their depression. I recently read an article from The New York Times that touched on this very topic, “How to be happy” by author Tara Parker-Pope.
Below are Tara’s key recommendations on how to be happy.
- Acknowledge the negative thoughts. Many times, people are feeling unhappy related to the thoughts they are having. Instead of running away from your negative thoughts, practice acknowledging them. As running from the negative thoughts will only make them continue to cycle back into your mind. For example, you can say to yourself, “I am having a thought that I am worried about my upcoming presentation.”
- Be your own friend. Sometimes it’s easier to be kind to others than ourselves. When having a negative thought cycle, attempt to treat yourself like you would treat your friend. Maybe say something to yourself like, “it’s okay that you are feeling this way.”
- Challenge your negative thoughts. Many times, people feel depressed related to the negative narrative they are saying to themselves. It can be helpful to write down all of your negative narratives and challenge each of them. For example, many clients will tell me that they feel the need to be perfect. I encourage them to challenge that narrative by writing down, “I’m doing the best I can and I am good enough today.”
- Breathing techniques. Research has proven that through meditation and/or breathing techniques, that it can reduce symptoms of anxiety, create more clarity, and increase happiness. I personally start each day with a guided meditation on an App where I focus on my breathing, and I have personally noticed positive changes in my life!
- Create new narratives. I often encourage clients to try to create new narratives about themselves. Many times, they view themselves in a negative light based on thought distortions, possible misinterpretations with others, and irrational thoughts. Creating new narratives can be done by journaling your own narrative and then re-reading it as if you are reading something a friend wrote. Through reading it as a friend’s perspective it will then create more of a neutral perspective. Most times it also allows for a healthier narrative to develop.
- Body Movement. A ton of research has shown that by moving our body, whether it is through running, weight lifting, walking, or yoga, it can decrease depression and increase happiness. This could simply look like taking a ten- minute stretching break each hour while working. When people move around, they tend to feel happier.
- Positive thinking. Again, thoughts can create feelings. Practicing thinking about happy things will likely make you feel happier. Optimistic people tend to feel happier than pessimistic people. This does not mean to disregard the discomfort and unhappy feelings you may be having on a tough day. Given the circumstances of the unprecedent time we are all facing, it does not help to invalidate the sadness we are experiencing. However, an optimist will acknowledge and challenge the situation in a more hopeful way by stating something like, “This is not easy, but what opportunities does it give to me today?” It is also helpful to surround yourself by like-minded optimistic people as it can be quite infectious!
If you are currently struggling with depression, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors in Chicago at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.