Depression, for me, looks and feels like an incredibly intensified bout of laziness at times.
I know that the way I feel when I am depressed is not laziness. I know that the numbness, the lack of motivation, and the general lack of movement is a biological and cognitive predicament, not a character flaw. However, depression does inhibit me, causing resistance in even the smallest to-do list items.
So I’ve been forced to make an arsenal of morning habits that, for the lack of a better word, lazy-proof my day. I find that the way I start my day has incredible sway on the productivity level of the following hours. Here are some habits I find helpful. (Note: I sometimes totally fail to do these habits, and that’s okay. If you don’t do these things, or can’t do these things, don’t feel bad! If able to do these tasks, they will simply help you set a positive tone for the rest of your day.)
Habit One: Make Your Bed
Getting out of bed (much less making it) is a huge accomplishment for people who have lived experience with depression. If possible, go ahead and try to make the bed – even if company isn’t visiting. Here are a few of the benefits:
- Bed-makers are happier than non-bed-makers, according to Psychology Today. Gretchen Rubin, #1 New York Times best-selling author of the Happiness Project, in her research, states that “people cite the modest ‘make your bed'” as the biggest difference in happiness levels.
- Bed-makers have jobs at a higher percentage, stay active, and consistently feel more rested than non-bed-makers. They also sleep better, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
- Bed-makers have a greater sense of accomplishment and pride.
Why is making the bed so powerful? Perhaps a more organized environment equates to a better mental state. It is known as a “keystone” habit, a simple habit or routine that spills into more good habits throughout the day. Making your bed may be the catalyst that causes the rest of your daily habits to flourish.
Little things matter. William McCraven, former Navy Seal, thinks making the bed is a crucial habit to build:
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task, and another, and another. And by the end of the day that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”
You can watch his commencement speech here.
Habit Two: Start The Day With Your Most Challenging Task
It is easy to put off the most difficult or dreaded task until the very last minute – as evidenced by the many stop-procrastinating-now articles swimming around the internet. Strike the most unpleasant item off of your list first things first. As Mark Twain famously said,
Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.
The feel-good-feels that occur after accomplishing your hardest task will motivate you right through the rest of the items on your to-do list. Do you dread doing the dishes? Start your chores as soon as you are finished getting ready for the day. They’ll be done before you know it.
Again, I know that this can be difficult or verging on impossible for some, so please remember to simply do the best you can and feel proud at even your “smallest” accomplishments!
Habit Three: Make a Tomorrow List
This strategy may not be a solution for those with night anxiety, but it really helps me because my anxiety is worst in the morning.
The “tomorrow list” involves consulting your phone or planner before you crawl in bed for the night and making a list of things that need to be done the next day. List the three biggest things you would like to accomplish. If you list too many items, you may start to be limited by the bad kind of stress. Nobody needs any more bad stress!
If you have trouble focusing in the morning, having a prioritized list ready to go may help you get a quick start on the day.
Habit Four: Add Kindness to Your To-Do List
In short, it is difficult to feel down when you are creating colorful schemes to bring joy to others.
Depression can cause normally outpouring, lively individuals to feel numb and isolated. It may help to fight the illness with a dose of kindness. Finding something “good” to do will lace your day with a brighter outlook.
Habit Five: Create a Self-Care Routine
This is especially challenging for me, but I find that if I can start my day by taking care of myself, it helps me stay healthy.
Don’t sleep in too much. Shower. Wash your face. Brush your teeth. Get dressed. Get moving. The movement may help you push past whatever may be weighing you down.
I know how difficult this can be, particularly if you are struggling with mental illness, general fatigue, or a physical ailment. It’s important not to beat yourself up if you just can’t on some days. DON’T BEAT YOURSELF UP. However, taking care of yourself is good medicine if you are able. You may be surprised by how refreshed and positive you feel after an action as simple as changing clothes.
Try picking up one or two of these habits to “lazy-proof” your day – one little moment at a time.