None of us can be happy all the time. In fact, we would probably drive everyone else crazy if we were – and it would be wrong, because the correct response to some life events is grief, or sadness or anger or frustration.
The thing about depression is that it supresses all feelings and emotion. When suffering from a bout of depression very often we can't feel joy or grief, anger, sadness, happiness. Well, at least I can't; everything retreats behind a six foot thick wall of dirty grey glass. I can know I should be feeling something, but at the most there is just a vague despair.
But even in that place (literally sitting on the sofa, shaking, all day) it might be possible to take some sensible decisions, based on the intellectual analysis of what makes us happy.
Turns out (unsurprisingly) that it's not the big things that make us happy. It's not a new car or a big cheque, although I'm sure we would all like to try those out, just for purely scientific experimental purposes, you understand; it's the little things.
I remember buying my very first car. When I went to pick it up what made me happy was not the car itself, but the big bunch of flowers the sales team had placed in the back seat. Well, to be honest, it's not that easy to get excited about a third hand Ford Fiesta in Beige now, is it?
A recent study by the Chicago Journal of Consumer Research of things that make us happy include sunshine, clean sheets, and conversation with family and friends. Like many studies before it concludes that happiness lies in experiences rather than possessions, but it also shows that, especially as we get older, it is ordinary experiences that contribute most to that happiness.
So, even when we are depressed and cannot feel anything, it makes sense to subject ourselves to "happy" experiences. Hopefully it's like putting money into the bank which we can draw on later.
What I remember most from my most recent bout of depression (apart from the days and days on the sofa), were moments when I dragged myself outside and sat in the sunshine, when a friend came round and brought me flowers (and put them in a vase for me too), when my twelve year old daughter would give me a gentle hug. I remember too the lovely comments from Moodscope readers as I wrote my way through that bad patch.
At the time those things happened I was numb and couldn't feel anything, but now I'm better, I'm incredibly grateful for them, they shine out in my memory like sunlit flowers (see, flowers again) in the midst of that marsh or swamp of despair.
Go on, ask a friend to bring you some flowers; you'll be glad you did. Well, unless you have an allergy to pollen, of course.
A Moodscope member.
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