Do More "Something" - But Not Just "Anything!"
Robert Sullivan, MHC
Feeling blue or depressed? Have you been experiencing a lack of motivation and general feelings of tiredness? You may have been given the advice: “Just do something!” Although it could be helpful when struggling with those symptoms to engage in more activity, it may not be that simple.
When it comes to adding more activity to promote wellbeing, the what, why, and how of what you choose to do are all important factors in increasing positive feelings or decrease negative ones.
Consider these two main checkpoints when selecting activities to combat your depression: Intention and Engagement.
Intention is about asking ourselves: “Why are we doing this?” and “Why this specific activity?” If you are completing an activity with the intention of avoiding something else, the energy attached may be negative or resentful and will likely be reinforcing negative cycles of thoughts, feelings, or beliefs. If we engage in activity with the balanced intention of nourishing our body/mind/spirit, the activity will naturally have a more positive energy.
To address the “what” of intentionality, ask yourself if the activity you are choosing to do feels like it serves your higher goal. For example, if you want to increase social interaction and then choose to do something solitary, the misalignment there is likely going to leave you feeling dissatisfied. In that case, a bonding activity with friends would be more suitable.
Engagement is about being truly present for the activity. The less we are present in an experience, the less likely we are to feel the positivity or receive benefit from it. Whether this means choosing a specific activity that gets you more fully engaged, or setting it up so that there are minimal distractions (like shutting off technology or allowing yourself a break from stressful thoughts), being fully present will have a profound impact on the outcome.
Here are a few ideas for increasing activity in a more engaged and intentional way:
1. Intentional self-care activity: This may be indulging in your favorite food, Netflix show, or book. Maybe it’s getting a massage or pampering yourself in some other way. The only rules are that it has to be intentional and it has to be for YOU.
2. Mindful activity: Connecting with nature is a great way to be mindful and reduce distraction. Nature settings engage our senses and ground us more to the present moment. If that doesn’t vibe with you, anything can be turned into a mindful activity if we increase awareness and decrease distraction.
3. Social engagement activity: These could be helpful for those who recharge their batteries from being around others, or those who want to cultivate deeper connections in their life. They can be bigger group activities or smaller more intimate ones. Remember to assess your higher goal!
4. Physical activity: Movement, exercise, and body awareness all have major potential health benefits (both physically and mentally). These activities can range from intense workouts to a light walk to dancing to just being aware of sensations in your body. Yoga is a personal favorite of mine. Do what works for you!
The main message here is that it doesn’t have to be a certain activity that you “should” do, nor should it be just anything. As long as you are reflecting on your intentions and level of engagement, you are taking the space to do something to promote your wellbeing. That in itself is a powerful tool for transformation and growth.