I have come to a realization after experiencing one of the darkest cycles of depression I have had in my 28 years of living. For a little over a decade, I have become very, regrettably, familiar with depression. And during these 10—LONG—years I have tried this medication, that medication, meditation, and bottles of wine. Some coping tools worked better than others, and some anti-depressants weren’t joking when they warned of “suicidal thoughts” as a possible side-effect.
I truly believe, when it comes to depression, what works for one does not work for another. It may be comforting to know there are many options to choose from, then you have to come to terms with the fact that there are MANY options to play trial and error with. We gamble with our minds when we medicate ourselves with drugs that can literally cause the one thing we are trying so hard to avoid. I am in no way anti-medication and I am not ignorant to the fact that many people are living happy and healthy lives on their prescription medications. However, I vehemently believe that psychiatric medications are only valuable to a certain degree. This is precisely why psychology is so copacetic with psychiatry.
There are many facets within our cognitive functions that we have ample government over, but this control is variable with age, experience, and from one person to another. Mental illness is far beyond interchangeable with each individual, thus making coping methods, medications, and therapy frustratingly idiosyncratic—in other words, treatment is acutely unique.
What is not unique from me to you is our basic ability to imagine. Some people are far more skilled at creating stories within their minds—also known as fantasizing. With the exception of the cognitively-challenged, everyone is capable of fantasizing. The reason I bring up something that seems so trivial, as one would think fantasizing is, is because fantasizing is actually an incredibly powerful tool. To be in one state of mind due to sadness, disappointment, heartbreak, anger, and/or the like, and then be able to create a utopia in your mind is far from futile.
Stressing only causes twice the suffering, so you can assume that the opposite of stress will cause relief. If you are like me and you over-think every single scenario then this practice may seem impossible. The good news is, like with many mental exercises, retraining your brain is possible. All you need is the will, commitment, and a little imagination.
CHANGE YOUR LIFE WITH FANTASY
- What is your dream job?
- Without limitations, restrictions, or self-doubt, picture yourself being in your dream job.
- Don’t just think about it superficially.
- Using all of your senses, manifest the feeling of being on cloud nine in your position.
- How do people treat you? Are they in awe of your work? Are they completely reliant on your expertise?
- What is your dream home?
- Picture the home that is so perfect and unique to you.
- Where is it? Who lives there with you?
- How many rooms are there? How many floors?
- Do you have an infinity pool? Do you have acres of land?
- This is your sanctuary and you can make it ANYTHING your heart desires.
- Think of this place as your escape when you’re feeling down.
- What is your perfect relationship like?
- This exercise is unique because some people are in a relationship/marriage, and others are not. Either way, this practice will work. The key is to allow your heart to feel the emotions for someone—real, or imagined. Science proves that thinking of our (romantic) loved ones releases good-feeling hormones and brain chemicals. Even without being in a romantic relationship, you can still induce these feelings with the right manifestations.
- Whether you are with this person, or not, imagine your perfect partner.
- What does he/she call you?
- What does he/she look like? What do they do for a living?
- How did you meet this perfect person? Was it love at first sight?
- How do they show you they love you?
- Who are you in your perfect world?
- What do you look like at your best?
- Are you calmer? Are you confident? Are you smarter? Are you funnier?
- Are you someone others look up to?
- It is okay to picture yourself as someone others envy. There is a vast difference between fantasizing about other people wanting to be like you, and vanity.
- Don’t mistake this practice for believing you must be anything different to be happy. This practice works best as a desire to aspire, not to criticize yourself.
- What makes you feel good?
- Picture yourself on an island, away on top of the mountains, in a cabin in the middle of the woods, or anywhere that makes you feel the most relaxed. Now visualize yourself getting a massage. Do not put emphasis on who is doing the massage, rather feel the relaxing sensations of having your body rubbed. From head to toe, your body is being worked, all of your knots are being eradicated, and the toxins are being flushed from your lymphatic system.
- Does the thought of shopping make you feel great? As weird as it may sound, picturing yourself being able to buy anything you want can release dopamine and other super chemicals.
- Does the thought of flying make you feel free? As you would in a lucid dream, close your eyes and picture yourself flying anywhere you want.
- If the thought of sex makes you feel good, then think about it! Do not restrict yourself by only thinking of certain activities.
- What makes you happy?
- Take time out of your day to meditate and discover what sets your heart on fire.
- Your mind is your playground and you can create ANY scenario that makes you feel incredible.
- Even when you are feeling depressed, remember you have absolute control over what you choose to think about. Let intrusive thoughts come and go and do not give them the energy they do not deserve.
- Think about what makes you happy and use all of your senses to make it real. Never limit your imagination and DO NOT EVER feel like you are wasting your time by daydreaming.
At the beginning of this article, I said that I came to a realization after a vicious cycle of depression. I realized when everything was going so incredibly wrong that I had nothing but one tool left, and that tool was my imagination. Without even knowing it, I was picturing myself being exactly where I wanted to be, who I wanted to be with, and how I would feel. I used these fantasies to get me through an incredibly hard time. It was when I realized, in any other circumstance I would be in an extremely dark place, and instead, I was strangely happy and content.
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