Did you know? Most of our actions aren’t conscious; they’re impulses and routines. In other words, a lot of what we do comes down to habits—so when our habits aren’t helpful, they can cause us trouble, especially when depression is part of the picture.
The good news is, it’s possible to cultivate good habits to override the bad and help fuel an upward mental and emotional spiral. The old maxim of “practice, practice, practice” has some truth, but it’s not easy to stick with developing new habits. Here are a few tips to help get you started and keep going:
- Create long-term goals that are important to you. If you’re unsure where to start, try the “Best Possible Self” practice found at https://ggia.berkeley.edu. Reminding yourself of your values and goals will help your brain suppress impulses that threaten to get in the way of what you really want.
- Accept that you won’t be perfect. Creating new habits takes practice, which will likely come with mistakes. Interestingly, beating yourself up for “failing” actually makes improvement more difficult. Remember that making mistakes means that you are trying something new, which is something to be proud of!
- Reduce stress. Stress makes it easier for old habits to take over and harder for the brain to create new, healthy ones. Try exercising, practicing gratitude or mindfulness, or improving the actions and environment that affect your sleep.
- Practice self-affirmation.Reflect on good things you have done in the past, such as being considerate of another person’s feelings, and think through them in detail. This will draw your attention to your positive qualities, and help you believe you can change for the better.
- “Bonus” tips: Try being specific about the habit you want to make, avoiding/changing unhelpful environmental cues, practicing recognizing your emotions and responses, and increasing the brain chemical serotonin through getting a message or exercise.
Replacing harmful habits with healthy ones is a challenging process, but it’s well worth it. It will put other positive life changes more within your reach and give you a boost on the road to healing from depression. Come back to this list as often as you need to, and remember: “If you’re making mistakes, it means you’re out there doing something”!
Korb, A. (2015) The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time.Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.
Research and Article by: Kayla Clawson Alva