Therapy and sometimes medication are invaluable in treating clinical depression. Thankfully, there are also activities, actions and habits you can try on your own. Getting restful sleep. Moving your body. Practicing breathing techniques and loving-kindness meditation. Eating nutrient-rich foods. Hanging out with loved ones. Attending support groups.
And there’s another habit that we might not think about, and yet can be invaluable, too: reconnecting to our creativity. Yesterday, I shared ideas for using poetry to cope with depression. Below, you’ll find an assortment of additional ideas.
- Draw your mood every day. Maybe you use emojis or stick figures. Maybe you find images from old magazines that resonate with you.
- Imagine that someone you love most in this world is having a really difficult day with their depression. Write a compassionate, hope-filled letter to that person. After you’re done, change the name after “Dear” to your name. When you’re really struggling, reread your letter.
- Describe your depression as if it were a character in a book. Write anywhere from a paragraph to 10 pages, whatever feels complete to you.
- Buy a coloring book at the Dollar Store (a book that younger you would’ve absolutely loved). Doing some mindless coloring, in a kids’ coloring book, can feel silly and frivolous and lighthearted, which can help to balance the heaviness of this illness.
- Draw something, anything like a child. Interpret that in any way you like.
- Write about what you’d like everyone everywhere to know about depression, and what it feels like to experience depression.
- Start writing a short story about a person who has depression but is able to get better. What helps them? What obstacles do they face? How do they successfully navigate them?
- Use your smartphone to snap photos of yourself every day. Or sketch your daily self-portraits. This is a powerful way to see ourselves, to be seen.
- Go anywhere in nature—a park, a beach, a botanical garden—and sketch what you see.
- Write about your favorite scent (and taste, and sight and sound). Describe it in such detail that another person could instantly savor it. Or simply make a list of your favorites.
- Think about something you’d like to create, a skill you’d like to learn. Then think about the smallest, tiniest step you can take, and take it today, or right now.
“Writing can help keep you whole,” writes Elizabeth Maynard Schaefer in her beautiful bookWriting Through the Darkness: Easing Your Depression with Paper and Pen. “If you feel shattered or dented in your mind, your heart, or your spirit, it will help you rassemble and smooth yourself…If you have been depressed—depressed where your heart feels dead and the world meaningless—writing can help you find signs of life again.”
I think any creative practice can do the same. The key is to give yourself the opportunities to practice, and to keep practicing.
Depression is a difficult, sometimes stubborn, illness. Which is why it’s so important to fill your toolkit with powerful strategies, such as strategies that tap into your infinite and incredible imagination.