I am Rashmi Kartik, a 30 year old chartered accountant working in a multinational company. Since the past 2 years, I have phases when I am feeling very low. They stay for a period ranging from hours to 2 days and then remit. This time is very bad for me as I am very depressed and lethargic and do not want to do any work. I do not want to use medicines to lift my moods. Please advise on some techniques to lift my mood.
Sadness is a state that people generally put a lot of effort into shaking. Sometimes sadness is a reflective retreat from life’s busy pursuits leaving us in a suspended state to mull over the meaning of life, make psychological adjustments and new plans that allow our lives to continue. The most common strategy to combat the mood blues which people have used and which has most of the time failed is to simply stay alone. More often than not, this has only added a sense of loneliness and isolation to the sadness. Indeed one of the main determinants of whether a depressed mood will persist or lift is the degree to which people ruminate. Worrying about what makes you depressed makes the depression all the more intense and prolonged. You may justify this kind of rumination by feeling that you are trying to understand yourself better. In fact, you are priming your feelings of sadness without taking any steps that might actually lift your mood. A passive immersion in sadness simply makes it worst. You may learn to challenge the thoughts at the center of the rumination – to question their validity and think of alternatives. Crying is the first effective mood lifter. While crying can break a spell of sadness, it can also leave you still obsessing about the reason for despair. The idea of a good cry is misleading; sometimes crying that reinforces rumination only prolongs the misery. Distractions like reading, television and movies, sleeping, exciting sports events, daydreaming, and fantasying can also help. It causes a shift from the sadness and often because of the distractions you may forget why you were sad. You have to be careful to choose a distraction that is upbeat and not seek a tear-jerker movie or a tragic novel that will drag your mood down. Aerobic exercises are also one of the effective ways of dealing with depression. Exercise changes the physiological state of the body – depression is a low arousal state and aerobics pitches the body into high arousal. Relaxation techniques work for anxiety and restlessness when the body is transformed from a high arousal state to a low arousal state. This pitches the body into a level of activity incompatible with the emotional state that has had it in its grip. Cheering oneself through treats and sensual pleasures is also a fairly popular antidote. Hot baths, eating favorite foods, listening to music, having sex, buying a gift, or shopping in general (even window shopping) can have a soothing effect. Overeating or drinking too much can backfire and cause regret. A more constructive approach is engineering a small triumph or easy success; tackling some long-delayed chore around the house or getting to some other duty you have wanted to finish. Another effective mood lifter is to help others in need. Since depression feeds on ruminations and preoccupations with the self, helping others lifts you out of the preoccupations as you empathize with the people in pain of their own. Throwing yourself into voluntary work is a powerful mood changer. Praying and religion is also helpful. Another new age method is called cognitive reframing. It is natural to bemoan the cause of the depression or wallow in self-pity. The thoughts only serve to increase the sense of despair. However, stepping back and thinking about the ways that were wrong, seeing the loss differently, in a more positive light can help. Such comparisons can be surprisingly cheering; suddenly what had seemed quite dispiriting does not look all that bad.
Having enumerated all these methods, however, I must caution against taking your depression too lightly. Your mood swings could be a precursor to a full-blown mood disorder that may take a long time to cure. It is advisable to seek advice regarding the nature of your depression. It may be useful to take treatment for a while and ameliorate the symptoms altogether.