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How I Overcame Depression and Became the Happy Nomad

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I have a confession to make. I get depressed sometimes.

It's not a huge admission. I think everyone gets a bit depressed sometimes. Though I have dealt with depression in the past, it largely plays no role in my life now. Part of taking the plunge was really getting to know myself better, maximizing the things I like most in life and minimizing or eliminating what I don't like. This basically eliminated all causes of my depression, which I think was mostly caused by my brain guiding my life in the opposite direction that my heart wanted to go in.

Still, there have been days on The Happy Nomad Tour where I just wake up and things aren't right. It could be one thing after another going wrong, illness, or just waking up on the wrong side of the bed, but on rare occasions I most certainly face some mild depression.

The difference now is that it's always temporary, never severe, and isn't harmful. I still don't know what causes these bad days to occur once every few months, but I do know myself much better. Below are the ways in which I conquer or overcome these mild bouts of depression.

  • I don't deny it what I'm feeling. Just the opposite, actually. I confidently embrace it.
  • Acknowledging that depression is there automatically gives me the upper hand in going back to my normal, happy self. Denial just drags it on, for some indefinitely.
  • I don't fear what I'm feeling. I know it's only temporary -- a temporary illness in my mind similar to a temporary illness in my body. You don't get a cold or diarrhea and think, "Well, it's been a fun ride. Time to say my goodbyes." No, you say, "This sucks, but in a few days I'll be back to 100 percent." See the difference in attitude?
  • I don't hide or isolate myself. As an introvert it's always a decision to mix with others. As time has gone on, I've become less and less introverted and more and more comfortable in a crowd -- sometimes even being the center of attention. Still, in these moments I go back to being more introverted and I know that forcing myself to socialize helps -- even if it's just a walk outside.
  • Being in nature helps as well -- connecting to mother nature and her awesomeness awakens parts of me I can't explain.
  • I make myself smile. It could be watching something funny on YouTube, listening to a comedian podcaster, etc. When down it sometimes feels like a force several times your body weight is keeping you down. It's impractical to try and lift all that off you, but smiling seems to be a kryptonite against these dark forces.
  • Making others smile is an even stronger form of kryptonite as you will be repelling the dark forces of others as well as your own.
  • I listen to upbeat music. In fact, a few months ago I sat down to look at the music that has accumulated on my iPod, and it's all positive. I didn't do this on purpose. Rather, it reflects the new me. In the past, my iPod would have been littered with sappy love songs reminding me what a loser in the girl department I am.
  • I am patient, knowing that "this too shall pass."
  • Finally, I see this whole process like bicycling up a steep hill. It can be tough at times, hell even. But if you keep at it, you'll reach the top. Once you do, the cool breeze and sense of accomplishment fill you with joy and unstoppable momentum. Let that momentum carry you back down the hill and toward the next one.

I guess depression is becoming less and less of a taboo subject. Still, I consider it a part of life. Life is about balance, and I think one cannot know happiness until one experiences depression, just as one cannot know what it feels like to be healthy if we aren't periodically interrupted by illness. In my case, the tiny bouts of depression just serve as reminders for how great my life is otherwise, or at least that's how I choose to see them.

In studying Eastern philosophy a bit, some of the first things you come to understand are that the mind and body are separate. Once you accept this, you can clearly see that depression is rooted in the mind, because on a day-to-day basis your heart and soul remain the same (hopefully positive and giving!). It's not easy, but sometimes we have to be patient with our feeble minds, realizing that they are imperfect machines. Cars and planes are amazing feats of ingenuity, but both require maintenance and sometimes break, then requiring repair. For me, that is depression -- the mind breaking in some way (or getting sick) and requiring repair. There is no shame in that.

This article first appeared on Happiness Plunge.

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