I’ve struggled with depression most of my life. Despite its challenges, I am stronger than the darkness. I wrote openly about my situation for those that find themselves either dealing with depression themselves or loving someone who does, because right now I’m going to share with you my techniques for overcoming the darkness in just three simple steps.
It may not be easy, but it’s simple and you can do it!
Note that this is not a substitute for professional help. If you suffer from depression, consult with a professional.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve wrestled with depression. The mild start of self-doubt and darkened solitude as a kid grew into self-hatred and frequent and overwhelming feelings of pointlessness as a teen.
Depression has hovered throughout my life, sometimes as a dark figure waiting in the wings and sometimes as a soul-crushing force trying to squeeze the life out of me.
But despite all that gloom and overcast, I find myself overcoming the darkness. Whether writing several books or reading hundreds of them. Whether losing 70 pounds or gaining the admiration of thousands who I’ve helped through public speaking. Whether writing over 1,200 blog posts or reading the positive reviews of my app and books, I have moved forward using these techniques to make it through even on the darkest days.
You can too. Here’s how.
Make It Positive
Overcoming the darkness requires that you remove as much darkness and add as much light as you can. One of the most important ways to do this is by replacing the negative with positive.
Use positive language almost exclusively. Instead of saying “I don’t exercise enough,” say, “I would like to exercise more.” Instead of saying “I ate too much junk yesterday,” talk about the bright spots, “I resisted that hamburger and ate the vegetable plate.”
Focus on what you do right. It’s amazing that when we start looking at where we succeed, then we succeed more often.
Keep focusing on the positive and on successes. This will help you stay motivated and energized.
Build the Habit
The next thing you want to do is to build habits that will help you achieve your goals regardless of whether you feel like it or not.
This is a powerful tool and requires a lot of focus. It’s the most crucial piece that may seem insurmountable, but I’m going to show you that it’s not as hard as it seems when you break it down.
Make It Simple
You’ve probably heard the saying, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!” It’s great advice. Overcoming the darkness requires momentum. The good news is that it doesn’t require much.
Most people think that they have to go from being a couch potato to a marathoner to change their life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most people can change their life with little changes over time.
The Couch to 5K plan is an example. You don’t go from not running to running a 5K overnight. You simply start out with little walks. Then you add intermittent jogging. Before you know it you can easily run a 5K.
It’s not how much you do, it’s that you do it. Consistently. Every day. Whether enshrouded in darkness or not. It’s much better to run in place 1 minute a day than take a 15 minute run once a week. Why? Because you’re building a habit and once the habit is in place it becomes part of who you are. Over time that habit will grow.
I am just finishing off my home gym and I have quite a collection of weights. There is probably a thousand dollars worth of equipment in weights alone.
But I didn’t just go out and spend $1,000. When I bought my first set of weights I simply bought the bars and weights I needed. When I needed more weight, I went and bought them. This collection has grown over several years, and just recently I bought racks to hold it all even though I just added a little at a time.
For years I’ve been doing daily weight lifting. It’s just about 3-5 minutes a day, but I’ve been doing it every day for years. I started out just doing cardio for years. Then I added one simple set of ten reps each day. Over time it became a few reps of a few different exercises daily and it’s still easy to get myself to do it.
Here’s the thing: I’ve been doing ab workouts for years, but you couldn’t tell. Over time as I’ve been slowly getting more and more fit it’s become more obvious. Finally, after several years, I’ve brought my weight down to a level where you can begin to see the definition.
It’s not that I’m totally ripped, but it does show how things change over time. At one point I was obese at about 240 pounds. Then I became healthy, but still heavy. Then I gained muscle, but still had a layer of fat that made it hard to see. Now I’m trim and fit with some definition. It may well be that in a couple years my muscles are even more defined, if that’s where I wish to keep going.
How I look in the next five years, however, is not the point. It’s that it’s not about becoming super strong overnight. It’s about taking simple steps daily to meet your goals, just like Roald Admundsen, the leader of one of two teams that raced to be the first to the South Pole. His team consistently made progress daily. They set a distance to cover each day. When things were good, they easily hit the goal. When things were bad, they struggled, but still consistently made the goal.
The other team made great strides on good days and less distance or no distance at all on bad days. Sadly, not only did Admundsen’s team beat them out, team two never survived the journey. Consistent progress, even on dark days, builds the habits that are crucial for overcoming the darkness and being successful. It’s not about how much you do; it’s about building the habits every day.
Find Bright Spots
Finally, find bright spots that energize you. Add them to your day. Remember that life isn’t just about doing.
Every day think of 5 things you are thankful for. I like to do this both in the morning and again at night. There is something about being thankful that makes us realize how much we have.
Get rest. Make sure you take time for yourself. Make sure you get a full night’s sleep. Make sure you take breaks, and take time away. Enjoy life. Enjoy the little things.
Find ways to reward yourself. Give yourself little things that encourage and energize you with each day and bigger things to look forward to at regular intervals. The more bright spots you have to look forward to, the easier it is to move forward.
Overcoming the Darkness
Overcoming the darkness isn’t easy, but it is simple when you do these three things:
- Make It Positive – Making positivity part of your approach to life not only makes it easier to deal with tough things, it gives you a better frame of mind to find solutions over problems.
- Build the Habit – It’s more important to create a habit than it is to make things happen because habits grow over time and consistency makes doing the work an ingrained part of who you are. Building the habit requires three steps:
- Make It Simple – Habits are much easier to build when they are something we can do without freaking out. Make the task so simple that you can easily do it each day.
- Be Patient – Habits grow over time. Trying to go from couch potato to marathoner doesn’t happen in a day. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Consistent Progress – Just like the first team to make it to the South Pole, doing the work each day is much more important than big bursts of energy. It’s okay to do extra some days, but it’s much more important to consistently do something every day.
- Find Bright Spots – All work and no play leads to burnout. Trust me, I know. Find things to get excited about. Have rewards to look forward to. Take breaks. Rest. Have downtime. You are not a robot. It’s good to treat yourself like a human with needs.
If you struggle with depression like I do, then these simple steps will help you in overcoming the darkness and making progress despite it.
Additionally, if you struggle or know someone who does, pick up my book The Man in the Pit to help not only those dealing with depression better wrestle with their complex needs, but those who care about them better understand them.
You can overcome the darkness. You are stronger than it. Find out who you truly are despite it.