Posted on November 2, 2020
I struggled with depression during high school and early college. I developed a few main tactics to fight my depression and ended up on top. For anyone reading who is currently anywhere on the depression spectrum, know that it WILL get better. But the fight might really suck before that point. If you want to talk to someone who may have been where you are, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can have a casual convo. I’m serious, don’t be afraid to reach out.
This isn’t a tactic I used directly during high school or college – rather, it’s a boiled down game-like derivative of a couple tactics I had. I call it the “distract the fuck out of yourself” game.
It’s a mental exercise you can use to salvage happiness (or neutrality) from a negative mood swing.
Again, I don’t know if this applies directly to depressive episodes – after all, we’re all different, and something that works for me might not work for you. However, this is something I’ve been trying more lately, and it does work with abating negative mood swings. I’m not saying depression is just negative mood swings – it’s a lot worse than that. But you could experience negative mood swings while you are in a depression, and this may be able to help with that. Ok, enough hedging, let’s get to it.
3 Steps – 3 Fights
In order to stop a negative mood swing, you must be willing to fight. There are 3 total steps, and each step requires a fight. If you win the fight in a step, you can move on to the next one. If you lose the fight at any point, you descend into a bad mood.
Step 1: identify the negative mood swing analytically
The fight in Step 1 is actually catching that your mood has changed. You need to know your body’s signals – how does your gut feel when you start to slip into a bad mood? Does your brain start thinking in different patterns?
Once you realize your mood has changed, you must stop this train of thought that you’re in (which is difficult) and retrace your mental steps back to what you THINK is negatively affecting your mood.
After a few rounds of this identification, you get better at identifying what sets you off. My negative mood swings almost always start when I think about something that affects me in a negative way. Maybe it’s that I have to do work later and I won’t be able to have the freedom I want. Maybe it’s because someone said something to me using a tone I didn’t like. No matter how it happens, the first fight is identifying that your mood has begun to swing and retracing the mental path back towards that point.
Step 2: fully decide that you want to NOT be in that negative mood, then analyze your path
Once your brain gets the idea that it “wants” to be in a negative mood, the next fight is against itself. Once you start to fight against the mood, you may end up feeling “robbed”. You may feel as though you are missing out on something. You need to fully commit yourself to fighting the bad mood swing, and you need to ensure that it is not what you want to think about right now.
Then, after you’ve committed to the path towards good, you need to analyze WHY your mood has worsened. Try to analyze WHY what happened puts you in a bad mood:
- Why did thinking about that make me unhappy?
- Which of my main influences caused me to feel this way?
- Why do I get upset about this specific stimulus?
Note: you don’t need to find a concrete answer here. Just toss out a couple suggestions to yourself then move on to Step 3. After all, you’ve won the fight in Step 2 just by getting this far.
Step 3: distract the fuck out of yourself
You’ve identified your mood swing catalyst and done a tiny bit of self analysis. Now is the time to NOT DWELL ON IT! Change your mental path to something entirely unrelated. Spending too much time on self analysis can actually make the problem worse through overthinking. And the best way to not dwell on something is distracting the fuck out of yourself.
Distracting the fuck out of yourself is the best way to not dwell on something that makes you unhappy. There are a TON of different ways you can achieve this; you’ll have to find the ones that work best for you. Here are a few of mine to help you start brainstorming:
- You’re a human and you live in this weird universe and isn’t the concept of space cool? I wonder what’s happening on Mars right now. Or Pluto.
- Think about a cool movie you liked as a kid. I like to think about the Incredibles.
- Think about what you want to eat this weekend. Oddly specific.
- Literally anything else.
No matter what you end up thinking about, you have to start being careful again. At this point, you are exiting the game; you need to be ready to jump back to Step 1 if you happen to stumble upon another bad mood catalyst.
This is not a catch-all solution
Negative moods can get deep within you very quickly before you catch them and begin Step 1. Sometimes, some of that negative mood lingers (just hanging out in your body) and you can’t really do anything about it. This is why I said this game may just result in neutrality instead of happiness. But if you’ve gotten through Step 3, then you can go on with your life assured that your mood is more relatively positive than it would’ve been without playing this game. But always be ready to play the game, because you never know when it’ll come up next.