Many of us suffer from depressive or low thoughts from time to time. Many of us face mental health issues or anxiety disorders during our life time. It has become more acceptable to talk about how we are feeling, how trauma affects us and how we can work through those difficulties and have a much healthier mind as a result.
Strategies are also more widely available to cope better with low moods and mild depression. Techniques like journaling prompts for depression, general journaling, mindfulness, exercise and good eating habits all help to keep out minds and bodies healthy.
This blog post is not intended for people suffering from a major depressive disorder or clinical depression which needs a medical intervention and professional help. It is intended for those people who may or may not need to see a doctor but whose symptoms are mild or episodic and don’t have a major impact on your life. In other words you are able to keep working and stay in the family.
Different types of depression
Remember, you are not your brain. Just because you think a thought doesn’t mean that it is true. Learning to deal with all our emotions, depression included, is partly a matter of learning to manage your brain. I sometimes say to myself, “Thank you brain for your contribution, you can chill out now. I’m just going to go and do X and it is perfectly ok, and I won’t die from it.”
Strategies to cope with low mood and depression
So even though we aren’t our thoughts, it’s sometimes hard to respond to the triggers from our brain in a way that we want.
Put a structure in place for yourself so that you are able to calm or encourage your nervous system when you feel negative emotions which seem to drain you of your zest for life.
One useful tool is to keep a mental health journal for yourself for times when your feelings of depression surface. Below are reasons why you may want to keep a journal and …..
The benefits of keeping a mental health journal
Keeping a journal and writing has had a huge positive impact on my life. And I am sure that it can be for you too. Sometimes if my journal isn’t to hand I just sit and write for five minutes or so and just get my thoughts out on paper. This helps me tremendously.
I would recommend a general journaling practice for you so that you are in the habit of journaling your thoughts. This alone will have a positive impact on your general mental health.
When you have periods of low moods and general depression, being able to continue your journaling practice will help hugely.
Help control negative thoughts
Journaling helps control negative thoughts. It helps you rationalise thoughts which are going round your brain and which, in the moment, you believe. It’s like journaling is a break in those moods, it acts like a fire breaker and gives you space to regroup.
Keep a bad day as just a bad day
Journaling helps you to keep a bad day in perspective. When those days come where you feel that the bottom has dropped out of your world, you need some reassurance that it is only a bad day. It will pass. Rereading previous journal entries where you have felt the same way can be very useful.
Monitoring your symptoms of depression
Your depression could by cyclical. It could be triggered by the weather, by an event in the year. Or it could be triggered by the feeling of an event that happened to you. Or it could simply be that a combination of factors where you feel that you are struggling leaves you unable to cope.
List out your coping mechanisms
You can turn to these when you have difficult days.
Help your brain by keeping to a daily routine
The little things matter
Small actions taken regularly make a great difference to your life especially when you are feeling low. Get up at the same time, exercise, have some quiet time and take a shower. Get to work on time, leave on time. Walk the dogs, go to the gym. Keeping to this regular rhythm will really help you get through the days when life seems very tough. While you may know that good times will come again, when you are feeling low those times can seem very far away.
So stick with the routine. Get through those days. And soon you will come out the other side.
How can you be happy today? Or at least how can you be content today? When symptoms are mild, it is easier to get yourself to the point where you feel you can be happy. What will bring you happiness for the day? Would it be a cup of tea and five minutes to yourself? Or a walk with a friend? Or a little retail therapy? Or would reading your book and having a lovely hour of peace and quiet in the house be enough to restore your soul? Whatever it is, try and make time for it.
List of journal prompts
Here is a list of journal prompts that you can use when you need a pick me up. You could print them out and put them at the front of your journal. In this way the next time that you need them you won’t need to go searching.
What positive affirmation will get you through the day. Yesterday I heard someone saying something like “I choose myself”. It was so beautiful. When you think of a positive affirmation, write it out. And then write a paragraph or so about how that affirmation makes you feel.
Think back to a happy time. What was it? When was it? Who were you with? Give your happy memory a title then write about it. Really relive it and bring it alive.
What is your perfect day, or what was one perfect day that you had?
Are you grieving someone or something? Acknowledge those feelings.
What emotions are you feeling today? Which is the biggest emotion? Where in your body can you feel it? Can you visualise it and release it out into the world?
Look forward to a good day. What will you do? Who will be there? Can you plan for it today and put a date in your diary?
Emotions play tricks.
Can you spot anywhere where your emotions might be incorrect? For example about a relationship or something that you have done that makes you feel bad?
Don’t trust your inner critic. What is your inner critic saying to you? Can you remove yourself from the thoughts that your inner critic is trying to throw at you?
How can you take care of yourself today?
What would your younger self say to you today?
Often with depression we feel isolated but this is rarely the case. Who are your friends? Do you have a best friend? Do you see your family? Do you have a family member who you particularly love? Make a decision to see them. Write down your intentions.
This goes hand in hand with the item above, but are you seeing your friends? Have you stopped seeing people and do you need to start seeing people again? Can you make a list of people you want to see?
Write a gentle, compassionate love letter to yourself. Or it could be a pull yourself up by your boot-straps you don’t have time to mope kind of motivational love letter. Be kind whatever tone you choose.
Be kind to yourself
Be really compassionate on yourself. You may have all sorts of thoughts going round in your head right now and I would practically guarantee that none of them are positive and encouraging. So be compassionate. Write down what compassion looks like.
Do you notice that you feel better or worse at certain times of year? Has that time come about again for you? What can you look forward to when the weather changes?
Can you still yourself and feel inner peace? Take some deep breaths. Close your eyes. What does peace feel like? If it evades you just sit still and maybe repeat an affirmation or mantra to yourself. ‘This will pass’ ‘It’s ok’ ‘I’m here and everything is fine’. Give yourself 5 minutes then write about how you feel.
Was there a trigger that started off you feeling the way that you do? Did it start yesterday? A week ago? A month ago? Is there a pattern to what triggers times of depression?
Can you be grateful? I recommend you starting a gratitude journal before you feel depressed. Write three things for which you are grateful daily and get into the habit of doing so. Then, when you feel yourself taking an emotional dive, you can keep going with the practice. The habit of it will help you get through those times and being able to be grateful, even in a small way, can really help on those hard days.
When times feel hard what do you want to remember? What do you want to remind yourself of that will encourage you?
What self care practice can you add to your routine?
What challenges are you facing? Who could help you? Reaching out might be the best thing you could do even though you really don’t want to do it.
Change your mindset. Whenever you think, ‘There’s no point’ make yourself think ‘Ill give it a go’ instead.
Feelings of worthlessness
Feelings of worthlessness are just that. feelings. They are not an event. Write out your feelings of worthlessness and then look for reasons why they aren’t true. Write those thoughts out too. Start to see that a feeling is just that. A feeling. No more than that. A feeling is not positive proof. So do some journaling around those thoughts you have.
Decide to feel better
Don’t wait to feel better. Feel better now. Feeling better is mostly a decision. Decide write now to feel better. Write about your feelings once you have decided to feel better. Feel the optimism in your emotions. Then stay in that state and enjoy your day.
If you like this blog post then you might also like:
How to manage stress with journal prompts for stress and anxiety
5 simple reasons to keep a journal that improve your mental health
How to stop negative self talk with journaling