“Get a hobby” they say … But finding motivation when we’re feeling depressed or low is one of the hardest things. Keeping busy can be a positive and a negative solution, because allowing our feelings to come through and learning to process them and tolerate them, knowing they will pass, is a key part of working through issues. If we’re busy all the time we don’t allow the space to do this. But when feelings start to overwhelm us and stop us from living our day to day lives we need help to nudge us out of the darkness.
So underneath the advice is a nugget of truth. Focussing on an occupation gives us a break from the bleakness and provides us with the trust and strength to get through another day until we recover. So, it doesn’t have to be a hobby but an occupation with focus. This is a mindfulness concept. Being in the present moment gives us respite from anxiety or depression and a brief space to allow us to “just be”.
You don’t have to start collecting trainsets or join a gym, just finding a small task to perform can test the theory and might lead to other interests that give focus and relief. Even making a cup of tea can be done mindfully, focus on the sound of the kettle boiling, the smell of the tea bag, the colour of the milk as you mix it in. We do these things automatically sometimes without appreciating the sensory experience. Finding something different to do will allow us to focus consciously will increase the relief you feel.
We can do pretty much anything mindfully but here’s a list of suggestions that you might be able to manage and notice the changes you feel both as you are doing it and afterwards.
File your nails – focus on each nail and smooth the edges, feeling and looking at each one before you move onto the next one. Feel the small vibrations of the file as it moves along your nail.
Fold a piece of paper – create a folded shape with paper, it doesn’t have to be a perfect origami animal, feel the paper through your fingers as you flatten it, look at the pattern you are creating.
Clean your teeth – notice the taste and smell of the toothpaste, feel the toothbrush in your hand and as it touches your gums.
Daily tasks can become useful moments to return to the present and then you might feel able to find something different to try.
Crochet or knit a 10cm square – count the stitches, look at the needle as it moves through the yarn, feel the yarn as it moves through your fingers.
Build a model – I don’t mean a scale model of a 747, I mean the toy you find inside a Kinder egg or a child’s magazine. Using the process to do something different which will focus your mind more on what you are doing and what you are feeling (with your senses).
You get the idea – move from mundane tasks to something you wouldn’t normally do. You might find yourself visiting a craft shop for inspiration or buying a jigsaw puzzle. You don’t need skill, you need awareness of your senses; sight, sound, touch, taste and smell. Focus and you might discover the relief you need to get you through.