I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life. Yet, I’m still here, and I might even say thriving.
It would be a lie to say that my depression is gone, and I’m by no means perfect. That said, over the course of my life, I have developed strategies which have helped me continue living. I want to share these strategies with you, in case they might help you on your journey. These thoughts are not in order of importance, and I’m writing from a place of reflection on myself. Ultimately, each person must decide what works for their own life. Here are my strategies.
1. Find something which makes you feel significant.
Finding significance requires thought. It requires reflection on your purpose, i.e. your ultimate aim or object. Purpose provides direction. If you don’t feel like you have a purpose, you get lost. One way I find purpose for my own life is by asking myself this question: “What kind of world do you want to live in?” The answer to that question shows you what you value. For me, statements of purpose take the form “I value a world in which ______ is the case, therefore I do _____.” Your purpose(s) involves the pursuit of things you value. Establishing your orientation toward the good, and finding those key activities which will help pursue it, will provide some meaning and significance to life.
2. Try to do something that is your personal best every week, and write down the results.
This has to do with growth. Without progress, life can feel stagnant or stuck in the way it is at a particular snapshot in time. The way I like to check in with my growth goals is by having weekly snapshots of what I did that was better than before. I literally have a document where I write these things down.
What I noticed is that when you start to measure who you are compared to who you were, you start to realize that progress is definitely possible, once you start trying, and in some cases even easy. When I started recording progress, I realized that I hadn’t really gone that far at all in the directions that I wanted to go in my life. I realized, for example, that I had absolutely no understanding of how much I run or how much I go to the gym, even though I wanted to be healthy. See when you start to measure your performance, you start to focus on your performance and understand it better.
It’s worth noting how our perceptions of ourselves are not always accurate. Our memory is bad, and we can tend to remember more of the bad than the good, if we’re not careful. If we are being intellectually honest with ourselves, we must look at the facts and often we don’t. Set out progress metrics. Record and observe the results.
You don’t have to be the best in the world at this moment. You just have to be getting better.
3. Exercise and try to be healthy. Damn this one, but it’s true.
If you just sit there and waste away, it’s going to take a toll. You will become someone you don’t want to be. I did that. I wasted away in college. I never exercised, and I ate whatever I wanted. My friends would make fun. Damn, Lucas, you love going to the gas station. Dang, you’re eating out again. Dang, can you even do a pull-up? They were right, but not nice.
Exercise is one of those things that I still struggle with to this day. For me, the most important thing is to exercise in your own way, not someone else’s. Of course, if there are experts and you’re using poor form or something like that, do the right form. Don’t get injured. What I’m saying is: on a high level, choose activities that fit with what you want to do. You don’t have to do what your powerlifting friend does to be healthy. You don’t have to be Arnold Schwarzenegger. Just do the thing that you will actually commit to. Then get better at that. Progressive overload is how you get better with exercise.
4. Spend some time alone every day to think and invest in yourself.
Creativity requires space and time. If you have no time to think creatively about your life, it’s doubtful you will create the solution that’s right for you. How much time is enough? I don’t know. I think that depends on the person. For some people, meditation for 30 minutes is enough. For some people, spending time in prayer for 10 minutes. Whatever it is that you do, spend time on your goals and values. You have to have a clear vision of your life, and you have to look at it to see it. If you don’t look, you won’t see. The less you see the more you forget, and pretty soon you’ve forgotten who you were and what you wanted in the first place.
5. Fill your head with good ideas.
Spend time on your mind. It’s not enough to just nurture the body. I recommend trying to understand argumentation and logic. It’s hard to be good at reasoning about yourself, without good reasoning skills. If you aren’t sure how good you are at logical reasoning, take a test. In this world with so much information, you have to have a method for sorting out the wheat from the chaff, the good from the bad. The only tool to figure out these things is reasoning. So use it.
Additionally, classic literature is filled with good ideas and addresses deep questions of meaning. If you’re too busy to read Plato’s Republic, try starting with summaries. Brain Pickings is a good place to start. Good ideas inspire the mind and provide pleasure. Why not dwell on the good? Goodness begets goodness. Ask yourself when is the last time you came across an idea that really inspired you?
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” — Hamlet
6. Do some activity where you can make good friends. Or if you have good friends, be with them and do more together.
By “good friends”, I do not mean friends who will encourage bad behavior. I mean people you look up to, who treat you with respect and are moral individuals. There is healthy comparison, like admiration, and there is unhealthy comparison, like envy. Be with the friends that cultivate healthy attitudes, but remember that ultimately you are not out to be them, you’re you. Find joy in friendship and look to friends for support and inspiration.
I’m still figuring out my path. I hope my path can help yours. Be well my friends, and remember to take the time to reflect on your journey.
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