Exercise and Social Contact is Valuable Therapy
Part of depression is the tendency to become very introspective and to shun social contact. This feeds the vicious circle that drives mood lower; breaking out of that cycle is essential for relief from depression.
Exercise, Get Out Into the World on Foot
Exercise is also an important component of lifting mood and it can readily be combined with breaking the unhelpful behaviour of avoiding people and conversation. This is especially important if the sufferer is not working and can hide themselves away in their home.
A simple discipline that should soon reward the effort is to force yourself to walk, preferably a good distance, to the shops or a favourite coffee bar. It is usually suggested that such a trip to buy a newspaper should be beneficial. However a different purpose for the walk may be more appropriate as newspapers are full of negativity and provide little to lift the mood. The depressed or unhappy need an affirmation of life which they will not get from newspapers; they should be avoided for the reasons described in I am a Rolling News Addict. Buy a coffee, lunch or the ingredients for dinner instead.
Meet and Talk to People
However, whilst exercise is a good reason for the trip out it should not be the only justification. The walk must also be used as an opportunity for social interaction, to be part of the wider world. The hypnotherapist, Nick Brunger, encourages his clients: "to engage the people in the shop in conversation; it is not enough to just hand over the money for the goods".
The writer adopts this approach and finds it a hugely important part of his own therapy. He not only makes conversation but thinks "smile" whilst he does so. He does not force a smile, that would produce unnatural faces as one often sees with politicians, but he just thinks "smile" and it comes out in the eyes and in the voice - it works. He always makes the conversation positive - if talking about the weather when it is grey and raining it is "good for the garden" or the "reservoirs need filling up". Find a topic about which there is something encouraging to say. Above all do not let negativity prevent that human contact.
There is much to be said for making this the first task of the day and doing it early before the staff in the shops are busy so they have more time for small talk. The writer finds that pleasant breakfast in a favourite coffee shop or cafe helps gets the day off on a positive note.
Initially Hard but Worth the Effort
It may be hard to do at first but it is an essential part of breaking that unhelpful introspection that feeds the negative feelings of depression, self-pity or low self-esteem. It is hard to feel sorry for yourself when people smile when they recognise you and are pleased to see you; and your absence noted when you miss a few days. It boosts the sense of self-worth but be prepared for the conversations to spread to other regulars and to get longer; welcome it. You may just need to allow more time for your walk.