Hey you! Yes, I’m talking to you. Did you know that according to the WHO one-in-four people suffer from depression at one point in their lives? In 2011 the National Institute for Mental Health found that 30% of college students reported feeling so depressed that it was “difficult to function.” That is a lot of people feeling very, very down. Whether or not you’re among the group, I can guarantee that you know someone living with depression, even if you don’t know it.
I can remember when I started to feel depressed. It wasn’t how they make it seem in books or movies, or in Lizzie McGuire (props if you know the episode I’m talking about). Depression crept into my mind and told me that I wasn’t good enough, that I would never be good enough. It lied to me, just as it lies to thousands of other people every day. Depression poisons your soul and tries to convince you that you’re worthless.
Depression doesn’t just mean sitting in your room listening to Fall Out Boy and weeping. It means feeling isolated, alone and unwanted. It means that no matter how many people say they love you and they care, you can’t feel it because you don’t feel that way about yourself. And that is the root of the problem. If you can’t love yourself, there is no way to love your friends, family or hobbies the way that you used to. Life is numb without love.
But you can change. It’s a long and slow journey, but you can beat depression. There are good days and bad, but if you take each day hour by hour, love and happiness will find a way back to you. Take a minute to learn how to love yourself and then send the message on to someone else who needs a refresher course in self-appreciation.
I don’t care if you burned a house down or stole a bar of chocolate from a convenience store. Before anyone else can forgive you, you have to forgive yourself. Remember that past mistakes are behind you. There is nothing you can do about it now. Try to learn from who you were and use it to improve who you will become.
It’s really hard to love yourself when you are full of hate. Hate consumes you, controls you and tries to fool you into thinking you need it. Let go. Whoever or whatever you hate doesn’t think about you. You are the only one suffering from hate. If you want to love yourself, you have to let go of negativity and the people bringing negativity into your life. Surround yourself with people who make you happy and feel the positive energy rub off on you.
Remind Yourself You Matter
Sometimes it can be hard to remember that you are important, too. It’s easy to feel like everyone matters more than you do. You want to take care of your friends and family, and you want to be there for them whenever they need. But to take care of someone well, you first have to take care of yourself. Remember that being kind to yourself isn’t selfish. So take a break from the woes of the world, grab a beer or glass of wine and watch your favorite movie in your PJ’s every once in awhile.
Think About It
Stop and think for a minute. Take ten minutes in the morning and think of the great opportunities a day has to offer. Even if you can only come up with one or two things, find something to look forward to and focus on it whenever you get down. Whether it’s a great date or a killer lunch, focusing on the positive can change your whole outlook. At night, take another ten minutes and think about the day. Did the things you look forward to change? What made you smile throughout the day? Slow your breathing, focus on those positive emotions and drift off to a land of good dreams.
Love You for You
You have friends and family who love you and think about you every day, whether you know it or not. They love you for a multitude of reasons, and you should love yourself just as much. Every day take a second and think of one thing you like about yourself. You have beautiful eyes. Your hair was perfect today. You studied when you wanted to party. You ate healthy. It can be anything. Start small and soon enough you will come to see yourself the way others do: wonderful and beautiful.
Spread the Love
Buddy the Elf once said, “The best way to spread Christmas Cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” The same can be said of loving yourself. The more love you spread, the more love will come back to you. Give someone a hug today, or tell her she looks nice. Say hi to the quiet kid in class, and hold the door open for someone. Little things go the longest way. When it’s so easy to make someone’s day, why not do it all the time?
None of these steps are a substitute for seeking help. If you or someone you know shows signs of a mental illness, please reach out. Talk to a trusted professor, advisor or parent. Deaths related to a troubled mind are completely preventable if you look for the signs and act on them as soon as you can. For more information please visit: Mental Health America.