If you’re unemployed, have a job that’s less than satisfying, or experiencing difficulty finding new work, you’re likely to feel down for periods of time. Bouts of mild depression are predictable and normal responses to these difficult situations.
However, it’s important to recognize the difference between sporadic experiences of feeling down that can be linked to difficult life events and clinical depression that lasts more than a few weeks and is accompanied by a sense of overall hopelessness. Clinical depression should be taken seriously and requires professional attention from a doctor or therapist in order to assess the severity and recognize your options for healing.
Even though it's natural to be in periodic slumps during stressful or frustrating work-related experiences, you’ve probably sought relief in some way. But, finding ways to lift your spirits that do not involve compulsive or addictive behaviors can be challenging.
The research of Anne Wilson Schaef and Juliet Shor, show that many Americans are caught in addictive behaviors that keep them in patterns of self-destruction and depression. Whether the pattern is eating too much, compulsive shopping, overworking or substance abuse, these behaviors momentarily shift a mood, but make matters worse in the long run.
Instead of risking your overall well being in an attempt to get a momentary reprieve from feeling down, consider these two very simple, yet proven strategies to lift your spirits.
- Surround yourself with beauty. The options for this strategy are limitless and depend on your interests and taste. From a flower garden or park to a walk on the beach, the natural world provides free and endless possibilities to experience beauty. Irish poet, author and theologian John O'Donohue who wrote the book "Beauty", explains our need for beauty and all the subtle ways it affects us. O'Donohue states that being intentional about creating and finding beauty in our lives is more than "something nice to do". Rather, he notes that beauty is healing and a necessary aspect of living a full life.
- Be grateful. There is compelling research that shows actual, positive physiological changes in the functions of the heart, blood pressure and brain when you shift your thinking from a negative focus to thoughts of gratitude. This strategy only takes minutes by simply making a mental note of those people and life circumstances for which you are grateful. Additionally, you could invest more time and attention on a daily basis by writing your thoughts in a "gratitude journal".
You might experiment with either or both of these strategies for a week and note the effect. At the very least, you could discover a new place to visit or feel calmer and more at peace for a period of time.
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