What do you do? Who do you turn to?
When my husband, Dana, and I tied the knot two weeks after my college graduation he was still in school and working at a deli. I’d just been hired as a reporter, which was great. The problem was: we never saw each other.
Spending most my time alone in a tiny Topsham apartment far from friends, I grew depressed. One day I drew a line down the center of a piece of paper.
“Things that make my feel sad,” I wrote on the left. “Things that make me feel happy,” I wrote opposite. Then I listed everything I could from “watching TV” and “eating too much” on the sad side to “taking a walk” and “reading a book” on the other. Whenever I started to feel down, I picked something I knew would make me feel better.
Two decades later, I’ve simplified my approach to three activities that make me feel better if I do them daily. It’s a practice I’m reestablishing to take care of myself after recently losing my mom. Here they are:
- Exercise – outside if possible. Don’t put a time-limit on it. Don’t punish yourself or even sweat if you don’t want to. Taking a restorative walk, ice-skating at a local pond or jogging at the gym when it’s too cold outside nearly always improves my mood. Studies back it up, showing that physical activity helps prevent mild depression.
- Talk to a friend – in person is best; but if that doesn’t work, call someone. Invite a neighbor for tea. Plan a weekend get-together. Whatever it takes, connect – particularly if you work alone as I do. Again, medical science concurs, showing people with strong social networks (the in person kind!) live longer and feel healthier.
- Pray. Working from home while raising five kids, it’s easy to let a day or two slip by without setting apart time to talk to God and read my Bible. Not an on-the-run kind of prayer, but a quiet, deep listening. Yet here’s what I know. The things that hurt me? The challenges I face? The needs I experience? God has the answers to them all. And he cares. Studies show prayer alleviates stress, and I personally know it works.
When my mom was sick, a doctor prescribed a pill for a painful condition they couldn’t identify. I felt led to pray. That night, she called to say the pain was nearly gone. The next day it was.
“But you took the pill, right?” I asked.
“No,” she said. “I didn’t have to. You prayed, and God healed me.”
I was shocked – even though I was the one who’d prayed!
Treatment for serious medical conditions and chronic depression requires professional care. But if you simply need a daily boost, like me, I hope these activities will bless you. Do I make it through my list every day? Not quite, but it’s a helpful goal.
What helps you feel better?