Going towards the light when feeling down: a mindfulness strategy
Updated: Mar 23
Once upon a time, in a far and away country, I was a depressed woman who felt lonely and helpless. I was also deeply creative in my quest to feel better and I had the idea that I could make a list of things to do to keep myself busy during my dark hours. So, in spite of a judgy comment someone made because they felt my undertaking was trivial and childish ("You really need a list to know what to do???"), I followed through on my idea and wrote what I called my What-to-do-when-I-feel-lonely list. It did feel a bit like a kindergarten exercise but in hindsight it was a very helpful tool.
When you are in the dark hours, you are often confused, your concentration level is low, you lack energy, and just thinking about stepping out of this zone is unbearable -- let alone brainstorming on how to get out of it. Having a relief list to go to, helps you catch yourself before you go too far down, and it allows you to focus on something else. You could call it a mindfulness strategy.
So I started my list with the easy, obvious things. I walked around starting with the kitchen and moved through each room, taking note of things that needed repair, things that annoyed me, places that needed some TLC. I did not care if I the things on the list would ever get done, the intent was not to create pressure, the intent was to have a go-to list where I could pick up something and step out of the blues.
Clean, sort out and reorganise my spices jars
Go through my clutter drawer and throw away anything I don’t need
Clean out my cosmetics and throw out old mascara, etc.
Kondo my clothes (everything pink together, shirts together, etc)
Change the picture in a frame
Sort out pictures
Get rid of books I will never read again
Unsubscribe from email newsletters I have no use for
Screw this electricity plate that I have never bothered doing, the loose door knob, etc
I realise a lot was about sorting, cleaning, reorganising... Well, subconsciously, I needed to make space in my life, to reorganise it and metaphorically this is what came first.
When you are not well, when you are recovering, there are days where blowdrying your hair is the event of the day and it makes you feel proud. This list kept becoming longer and it almost became a game, it gave me a sense of accomplishment, helped me rewire my brain and stop acting as a victim. They were tiny, tiny baby steps, but, as with anything, it contributed to a whole ecosystem of healing.
Then I thought about more things I could do. Reading was too much, I could not concentrate, I missed it but I just could not read a whole page. So I added:
Go for a walk
Listen to music
Take a bath with salts and oil (that was my favorite - I always ended up doing this one…)
Call a friend
Make a fancy smoothie
Look at a recipe book
Do an online yoga session
And the list got to be 2 pages long. Nothing fancy, nothing expensive, nothing too social media-based, but, I must say, I used it, enhanced it, added to it as I went along and it really did help get my mind to move onto something else and get a sense of accomplishment.
When you are down the drain, sometimes, the very little thing you do is like the shadow of a burgeon, it is filled with hope.
I don’t own such a list anymore but if I had to, I would do it again, because at the end of the day, whatever works works, and taking responsibility for our own well being is a phenomenal way to grow self confidence, day by day, week by week, month by month…
Janylène Turcotte, Certified Hypnotherapist
CRHA, ACC, C. Hyp, RTT